We adopted a little girl – but now we think she’s a “sociopathic” adult
When Indiana couple Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted six-year-old Natalia Grace, a girl from Ukraine, in April 2010, it was a dream come true for them.
But almost immediately, the Barnetts claim they are living in a nightmare.
“[Natalia] “I threatened to stab my sons, drag their bodies outside and bury them below decks,” claims Michael Barnett in Investigation Discovery’s new documentary The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, out Monday.
“She tried to poison and kill my wife!” he says.
“She’s a sociopath.”
In the six-part series, Michael details the horror he, Kristine, and their birth sons Jacob, Wesley, and Ethan allegedly suffered at the hands of Natalia, who was born with a rare form of dwarfism called congenital spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia.
“What they hoped would be a very happy personal life turned into a true horror story,” legal analyst Beth Karas, one of the document’s lead authors, told The Post.
But was Natalia the perpetrator – or the victim?
On April 26, 2010, after picking up Natalia from the Adoption by Shepherd Care agency in Hollywood, Florida, the Barnetts reportedly made a shocking discovery while bathing their new daughter.
“Natalia had full pubic hair,” says Michael.
The disturbing find led her to believe she was an adult posing as a child – despite the papers listing her date of birth as September 4, 2003. The couple later claimed to have found out that she was menstruating.
“We don’t know who she is. We don’t know where she’s really from,” says Michael. “Who the hell is this person?” As far as I know, she’s lived in Ukraine for 20 years.”
He also claims that Natalia began plotting to murder his family within the first four months after the adoption.
“She got knives from the kitchen and hid them under her bed,” says Michael in the documentary. “[She said]”I will kill you in your sleep.”
Michael alleges that Natalia maliciously lured the Barnett boys onto busy roads, smeared feces on their faces, laced Kristine’s coffee with toxic detergent, and tried to push her into a high-voltage fence.
“She had screamed out loud, ‘You damn bitch, I’m going to kill you.’ “You’re going to die,” he says of the fence incident.
In 2012, the couple committed Natalia to the Larue Carter House Psychiatric Hospital in Indianapolis.
“She is not a child. This is an adult,” says an anonymous hospital worker in the document.
“I remember seeing how busty she was,” says another. “She talked a lot about sex … Natalia proposed to the men.”
Natalia, who was not involved in the documentary and was unavailable to The Post, has publicly denied all allegations. In 2019 she went to “Dr. Phil,” saying the claims were “not true at all.”
“I’m 16,” she said through tears.
Others, who met Natalia before she went to live with the Barnetts, say she was nothing more than a disabled and harmless child who was hopped from house to house after arriving in the US in 2008.
“In my heart, Natalia is the daughter I never had,” says Judith Irving, a small person who had considered adopting Natalia.
Irving says Natalia’s alleged acts of violence against the Barnetts were likely empty threats.
“I find it a bit ridiculous to be afraid of a child when you’re a full grown adult,” she says. “[The Barnetts] wanted to claim she was older than she is. This is just insane. Who thinks of that?”
After a month in the mental hospital, Natalia was released. Soon after, Michael and Kristine legally changed her age to 22 and rented her a one-story apartment in a complex in Westfield, Indiana.
According to this series, residents there accused Natalia of stalking, terrorizing and sexually harassing adults and children in the neighborhood.
“She’s really evil and sneaky,” says former neighbor Sue McCallum on the show. “People think, ‘She’s small and deformed.’ “She couldn’t possibly do everything everyone says.” But they’re wrong and she did it.”
The landlord refused to renew Natalia’s lease the following year.
The Barnetts, preparing to relocate to Canada, then housed Natalia in a two-story apartment building in Lafayette, Indiana, albeit with no adaptations to her special needs.
“They dropped her,” Karas told the Post. “The idea of putting her in an apartment with no remodeling and no occupational therapist is heartbreaking.”
Michael now claims in the documentary that it was Kristine’s idea to leave Natalia alone so she could fend for herself. He also claims that Kristine was cruel to Natalia.
Kristine was not interviewed in the documentary and a phone number listed for her was unavailable when The Post reached her.
The couple divorced in 2014.
That year, after struggling to survive on her own, Natalia moved in with Antwon and Cynthia Mans, whom she met by accident and had only known for three days.
In the document, Karas explains that between 2014 and 2019, multiple law enforcement agencies actively investigated Natalia’s case to determine if she was unfairly abandoned by the Barnetts.
In September 2019, Michael and Kristine were charged with double countenance.
Karas tells the Post, “One of the allegations of neglect was based on Natalia being an abandoned child. The other sentence [was based on] Natalia is a special needs adult who has been abandoned.”
The aim of the prosecution was to prove that Natalia was in fact a minor.
In December 2019, they located their biological mother, Anna Gava, who confirmed that Natalia was born in 2003.
In footage of a pre-trial testimony dated October 14, 2022, Natalia testifies about her age, saying, “I am 33 years old by law. Biologically 19.”
However, during Michael’s trial, which began on October 24, 2022 in Lafayette, a judge ruled that neither Natalia’s biological nor legal age would be mentioned during the trial.
Finally, on October 27, 2022, Michael was found not guilty of negligence on both counts. The negligence claims against Kristine were dismissed on March 23, 2023.
Natalia reportedly remained a surrogate member of the Mans family, accompanying her to court during the hearings.
“I don’t know that there is a single victim [in this case]’ Karas said.
“Is Natalia a convincing cheater or a neglected child?” she asked. “I don’t know if we know the whole truth.”