An Indiana couple who allegedly adopted a disabled 8-year-old girl from Ukraine— only to abandon her years later and move to Canada—was criminally charged on Wednesday.
Kristine and Michael Barnett, 45 and 43, are facing neglect of a dependent charges for allegedly leaving their adopted daughter in a rented Lafayette apartment in July 2013. The Lafayette Journal & Courier reported that the couple adopted Natalia—who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED)—in 2010, two years after she moved to the U.S. from Ukraine through an adoption program.
An affidavit alleged that the Barnetts rented the apartment for Natalia and changed to her age to 22. Hospital records stated that doctors estimated her age to be 8 in 2010 and 11 in 2012, according to The Purdue Exponent.
The family was said to have moved to Canada without Natalia, though Michael Barnett reportedly claimed they continued to pay for her rent but not her other living expenses. He also admitted that he had the girl’s age changed in 2012 and instructed her to tell people she was 22 and that she just looked young, the news outlet reported.
Natalia first talked to Tippecanoe County police in 2014. It’s unclear when the Barnetts returned to the country.
A law enforcement source told WLFI that the girl was left to fend for herself but neighbors “took her under their wing” and are cooperating in the criminal investigation against her adopted parents.
Court documents indicated Natalia left Tippecanoe County in 2016, with an officer telling the news outlet that she’s enrolled in a program that provides adults the opportunity to earn their high school diploma, certifications, and college credit.
Referring to the case, the officer commented, “This is going to end up on a TV show.”
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