In what has to be one of the most bizarre stories of the year so far, a woman claims that the Ukrainian girl she and her husband was really a grown woman posing as a child. The allegations were made in response to charges that Kristine Barnett is facing for apparently abandoning their daughter to move to Canada when she was only 9. But wait—it gets weirder from there.
Kristine claims she and her then-husband Michael were the victims of fraud. Barnett, who’s a published author of several books about raising special needs children, adopted Natalia Grace in May 2010 believing that she was a 6-year-old child with dwarfism. However, Barnett claims that Natalia was actually much older and was trying to con the family.
Natalia allegedly got violent when Kristine began questioning her age. After undergoing a bone density test in June 2010, it was determined that Natalia’s age was 9. However, this could have been due to the fact that Natalia has spondyloepimetaphyseal dysplasia, a bone disorder that causes you to be extremely short, among other issues. Further tests then put her age at 14 or older, though the opinion on Natalia’s real age tended to differ depending on who you asked. According to the Daily Mail, Natalia then began “smearing bodily fluid on walls, making death threats and hearing voices as her mental health broke down.” She also allegedly poured bleach in Kristine’s coffee, pushed her into an electric fence, and threatened to kill her.
A month after the adoption, Kristine moved the family to Canada. Dumping Natalia in an apartment in Indiana, Kristine moved with Michael and their autistic son Jake so that he could attend a specialized school. That’s where the problem begins. According to official documents, Natalia was only about 11 at the time, meaning that the couple is guilty of child abandonment. However, in 2012, Kristine managed to convince a court to have her birth certificate changed to say that she was an adult, supposedly so that she could get the help she needed.
Many believe that Natalia is indeed an adult. Letters from the Barnett’s family physician was concerned that Natalia had been “making a career” out of pretending to be a child. She was also committed to a psychiatric institution by Kristine after she started to get violent, and staff at the facility shared those concerns.
Kristine insists that she helped support Natalia and didn’t leave her in the lurch. She says that before the family left for Canada, she helped Natalia get food stamps, a social security number, an ID, and other government benefits to help her get on her feet. Kristine also says that she helped Natalia find a place to live and paid her rent when she was evicted from her previous residence, so they didn’t abandon her in any way (despite the fact that they believe she’s an adult).
Natalia could be scamming another family. It’s unclear how old Natalia is now (or is claiming to be), but she’s supposedly living with another family who unsuccessfully tried to adopt her after Kristine, Michael, and Jake left for Canada. “I had found a little pink dress in her closet and a little pink bicycle parked beside her house,” Kristine told the Daily Mail, adding that Natalia stopped taking her medication and ceased contact with her shortly before moving in with the new family.
No one knows how old Natalia is or how this situation will resolve. So far, Natalia’s specific whereabouts are unknown and it’s unclear what will become of this case. Are Kristine and Michael guilty of abandoning a child, or is Natalia truly an adult posing as a child to scam families? The world may never know…
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