A Ukranian adoptee whose adoptive parents accused her of being a violent, deceptive adult will give her side of the story on Thursday’s episode of “Dr. Phil.”
Natalia Barnett—who is either 16 or 33 depending on who is asked—tearfully denied allegations that she was masquerading as a child during her first television appearance. In the brief clip below, Dr. Phil is heard questioning her about the allegation that she, as a child, survived alone in an Indiana apartment for a year.
Her adoptive parents, Kristine and Michael Barnett, 45 and 43, were charged in September with neglect of a dependent for allegedly abandoning her in a rented Lafayette apartment and fleeing to Canada in July 2013. Natalia Barnett reportedly has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SED), and doctors reportedly estimated her to be eight years old in 2010.
Kristine and Michael Barnett adopted Natalia in 2010, two years after she immigrated to the U.S. through an adoption program. Despite her estimated age, they are accused of having her age legally changed to 22 before allegedly leaving the country without her.
Kristine Barnett previously told the Daily Mail that suspicions arose after they found their adopted daughter’s bloody clothes in the garbage, suggesting she was menstruating. She claimed she took her to the doctor, who conducted a bone density test which indicated that she was at least 14.
Further, Kristine Barnett claimed that by 2011, Natalia Barnett was smearing her bodily fluids on walls, making death threats, and had tried to kill her on two instances. Adding to the confusion is that in 2012, authorities were reportedly investigating whether immigration fraud transpired before the couple became involved with the Ukranian orphan.
Natalia Barnett’s “Dr. Phil” appearance comes days after Pastor Steven Thomas Lee, who is close to her and her new family, told Dr. Oz she appears to be in her mid- to late 20s. He based his estimation on her communication skills and her appearance, but noted that she also functions well in his church’s youth group.
“You know, no one openly spoke of any questioning about her age, because she was so involved, very engaging, just a sweet spirit. If anyone had any questions, they really kept it private,” Pastor Lee commented.
Last month, an Indiana judge issued a gag order which bars Michael and Kristine Barnett from making public statements regarding their adopted daughter’s medical history, mental health, educational records, and her character or credibility. The existing order reportedly does not prohibit them from making general comments regarding the pending case or their innocence.
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[Featured image: Natalia Barnett/YouTube video screengrab]