Life imitating art? Or the most brazenly ludicrous legal defense since folks were blaming Twinkies on hate crimes?
Indiana foster mom Kristine Barnett (above, inset) and her ex-husband Michael Barnett were charged earlier this month with two counts of neglect after allegedly abandoning their foster daughter.
The Barnetts had previously been praised for their parenting, even experiencing a brush with fame when their autistic son Jake became a well-known math prodigy. He even did a TED Talk.
However, just a year later, according to authorities, they abandoned another child, adopted 9-year-old Ukrainian daughter Natalia Grace, in a newly rented apartment and fled to Canada.
Now Kristine is telling her side of the story, and it is totally unbelievable.
Seriously, you probably will not believe her.
Look, y’all remember that movie Orphan? About the little girl (above) who gets adopted, but then it turns out she’s a homicidal adult woman posing as a child?
Kristine told DailyMailTV on Monday:
“The movie Orphan is exactly what happened.”
Kristine says she and her then husband took on Natalia Grace in an emergency adoption in Florida in 2010, in which they were suddenly given just 24 hours to complete the paperwork.
The mother explained:
“I always wanted to have a larger family and I had very severe complications in my pregnancies and was unable to have more children. I also at that time had a very privileged life. I felt that if I had the ability to help another person in the world then I wanted to do it.”
So how did things go from charity to criminal charges in just three years??
The couple were told the girl was six years old but looked younger because she suffered from a form of dwarfism called spondyloepimetaphyseal dysplasia, which causes skeletal abnormalities, vision problems, and shortness of stature.
She had a Ukrainian birth certificate, but almost no other information, so the Barnetts took them at their word.
However, things got sketchy fast…
“Natalia was extremely nervous. You could see she was going to need a lot of support and care. We did notice immediately in the parking lot that she couldn’t walk. There was nothing in the paperwork stating that.”
They took her to the beach and experienced something chilling and inexplicable:
“The boys rushed into the water and Natalia wanted to be carried into the ocean. Michael and myself were physically exhausted so we asked her to wait just a few minutes.
With that she just got up and ran into the ocean. I remember looking at Mike and thinking, what’s going on? She couldn’t walk a second ago and now she just got up and ran.”
The first time Kristine saw the girl naked, she got another shock:
“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.”
Natalia only wanted to hang out with teenage girls, not other children. She didn’t like toys. She also didn’t have a Ukrainian accent, and when the family contacted a friend who spoke Ukrainian they found their new daughter seemed to know nothing about the country she was supposedly from.
What’s more, she just didn’t act like a kid. Kristine recalls:
“At the time I ran a little school and I remember she said to me, ‘These children are exhausting, I don’t know how you do it.’ I was like, you’re supposed to be a child yourself. It was like something another mom would say as she dropped her kids off.”
Kristine says she also found bloodstained clothing in the trash, leading her to believe her “six-year-old” was trying to hide the fact she was having her period.
The mother took the girl to her family physician, who ordered bone density tests; and the results suggested the girl was actually at least 14 years old.
Kristine says she even tried to adapt to the idea she had actually adopted a teen:
“It’s very hard to decipher how old she is because she has such a unique look. But at that time I started to believe she was probably a teenager. But I didn’t have any regrets. This was what I wanted to do. I felt overwhelming love for her.”
But that’s when things got downright creepy.
Kristine recalls listening in horror to what sounded like Natalia Grace attacking a child on a baby monitor. And there was much, much more:
“She would make statements and draw pictures saying she wanted to kill family members, 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.”
But also… very familiar…
“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.’”
OK, wait. The secret killer is just going to tell you she’s a secret killer? That is some really bad screenwriting.
Kristine says it’s everyone else who has the story wrong:
“The media is painting me to be a child abuser but there is no child here. 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. The doctors all confirmed she was suffering a severe psychological illness only diagnosed in adults. 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.”
It was in 2011, just a year after the adoption, when things started to get so violent.
Kristine says Natalia’s mental health started to break down, and the girl was hearing voices. The Barnetts sought the best health care for their daughter; for over a year she was treated for various psychological disorders. She would spend days at a time, sometimes weeks, in the St. Vincent Indianapolis Stress Center.
However, after an incident in 2012, in which the young girl (or maybe not??) allegedly tried to push her foster mother into an electric fence, she was placed at a state-run psychiatric unit on a longer basis. It was during this stay, Kristine says, the girl finally admitted her age.
This all sounds like a bad horror movie (or a good one, depending on who made it we guess), but Kristine apparently has the paperwork to back up her version of events.
She says multiple mental health care professionals also believe Natalia is much older. One clinical therapist noted that Natalia told them she was actually 18. That was in January of 2012.
The family pediatrician, Andrew McLaren MD, even wrote a letter backing the Barnetts’ story completely. He wrote that he believed the girl was much older than she said and had actually been defrauding people with the use of her looks.
But couldn’t the authorities figure this out?
Apparently they tried. According to DailyMailTV, the police began investigating in 2012 to try and figure out if Natalia Grace’s entrance into the country in 2008 was actually immigration fraud. The case was turned over to the FBI and ICE, but it was unclear if anything had come of it.
It sounds horrifying, but there may be no way for the Barnetts to definitively prove their theory of the girl’s age.
However, one court has apparently sided with them.
Kristine and her husband are accused of legally altering Natalia’s birth certificate to change her age to 22 years old. That was in 2013, when she was supposed to be just nine.
“Legally altering.” That means they were able to convince a judge of their alternate theory of Natalia’s age with all their evidence.
DailyMailTV got the legal docs and confirmed Judge Gerald S. Zore of the Marion County Superior Court had indeed reviewed their documentation and allowed them to legally change their foster daughter’s age from eight years old to 22.
Kristine says she and her then-husband helped the newly legal adult apply for food stamps and other benefits and found her a home with state healthcare provider, Aspire Indiana. That is, until she caused problems there as well. Hence the apartment.
Since she was an adult, renting her an apartment was not some crime but a kindness. Right?
“I co-signed the lease and paid for the rent up front for a year. I did everything you would do when you send your child off to college, I helped her with groceries and bought furniture at Target for her. I was optimistic, she had a concrete plan for her life. She had food stamps. She had social security income for the rest of her things. She had demonstrated she was able to live.”
Kristine says she didn’t nope off to Canada but rather moved so her math prodigy son could attend the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario.
It was after that Natalia disappeared.
“She discontinued communication with me. What I did get was a letter in the mail stating that she had changed Michael from the beneficiary of her social security income to someone else. The last time we spoke on the phone, she told me she was cooking spaghetti for her new family.”
That just sent a chill up our spine!
Oh, BTW, fun fact: the little girl who played the terrifying Esther in the movie Orphan is ALSO an adult!
Not because she was keeping a secret or anything, but because that movie came out ten years ago! LOLz!
So let us know, Perezcious parents…
Are y’all buying this wild story? Or is it just a brilliant lie ripped from the big screen??