Ukrainian Orphan Accused of Being an Adult Took Adult Education Classes, Now Has New Guardians

October 4, 2019 Updated: October 4, 2019

The Indiana couple accused of abandoning their adopted Ukrainian daughter with a rare form of dwarfism say the orphan was actually an adult and tried to kill them. Evidence has surfaced that showed the alleged child attended adult education classes.

Kristine Barnett, 46, and her then-husband, Michael Barnett, 43, were charged on Sept. 11 with neglect for relocating to Canada without Natalia—a Ukrainian girl they adopted in 2010.

They have since claimed Natalia was actually 22-years-old, not 9 as court papers say. They claim she was so mentally unstable she threatened to kill them on several occasions, reported the Daily Mail.

Adult Education Classes

After the couple allegedly abandoned Natalia at an apartment in Lafayette in 2013, police said she was forced to fend for herself for three years. In the three years while living alone, however, Natalia attended adult education classes at the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA) to work on her GED, reported Business Insider.

Her next-door neighbor, Margaret Axsom, told the outlet that she and Natalia attended classes together at the academy and also socialized in the neighborhood, including meeting up with people from a drug and alcohol recovery house.

“[The residents] had to take an alcohol test every night, stay clean, and sign in and out. Natalia was lonely and just wanted people to talk to,” Axsom said.

The outlet reported that Natalia is now under the custody of another couple—Antwon and Cynthia Mans—who became her guardians in 2016.


In an interview with DailyMailTV, Kristine Barnett claimed Natalia was an imposter who poured bleach in her coffee, pushed her toward an electric fence, and threatened to stab her and her then-husband Michael.

The mother of three said she had to hide sharp objects in the house and claimed her adopted daughter would draw pictures which said she wanted to kill members of their family, roll them up in a blanket, and put them in the backyard.

“She was standing over people in the middle of the night. You couldn’t go to sleep. We had to hide all the sharp objects,” Kristine said.

Kristine told the news outlet Natalia even admitted to trying to kill her.

“I saw her putting chemicals, bleach, Windex something like that, in my coffee and I asked her, what are you doing? She said, “I am trying to poison you,” she claimed.

“The media is painting me to be a child abuser but there is no child here,” Kristine added.

“Natalia was a woman. She had periods. She had adult teeth. She never grew a single inch, which would happen even with a child with dwarfism,” she said.

Kristine said she found clothes in the trash with traces of blood on them, and suggested she was hiding the fact that she had her period.

“She was jumping out of moving cars. She was smearing blood on mirrors. She was doing things you could never imagine a little child doing.”

Kristine said she and her ex-husband initially adopted Natalia, as she wanted a “larger family” but wasn’t able to have children of her own.

At the time of adoption, Natalia’s birth certificate stated she was born Sept. 4, 2003. Kristine added she was aware of Natalia’s condition—spondyloepimetaphyseal dysplasia, an inherited disorder which causes short stature, skeletal abnormalities, and problems with vision.

Kristine told the news outlet alarm bells began to ring when she joined the family. She said Natalia used vocabulary ahead of her years, wasn’t interested in toys, and had no trace of a foreign accent.

“I was giving her a bath and I noticed that she had full pubic hair. I was so shocked. I had just been told she was a six year old and it was very apparent she wasn’t,” the 45-year-old claimed.

By 2011, she said Natalia’s mental health had deteriorated so much that she spent a long period of time at the St. Vincent Indianapolis Stress Center to be treated for a number of psychiatric disorders.

Kristine also told WISH-TV that Natalia was diagnosed as a psychopath and sociopath.

The 46-year-old said the couple legally “corrected” Natalia’s age to 22 in an Indiana probate court after a physician told them her birth date was inaccurate, and that she had pretended to be a young child.

However, the pair were charged last month with neglect, accused of abandoning Natalia. An affidavit states Michael told police he and Kristine had changed her age despite doctors determining she was a minor.

Ahead of a court hearing scheduled for Oct. 15, Michael and his defense lawyer, Terrance Kinnard have filed a petition for the release of Natalia’s mental health records which would allegedly back up their claims that she is mentally ill, court papers state.

Kristine and Michael Barnett have both pleaded not guilty to their charges and if convicted, they could each face a sentence of up to five years and fines of $10,000, according to Business Insider.