In April 2010, Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted a Ukrainian girl named Natalia Grace, whom they believed to be 6 years old. However, the couple soon began to suspect that she was an adult con artist who wanted to kill them. After two years of living with Natalia, Michael and Kristine petitioned to have her birth year changed from 2003 to 1989. Then, they rented her an apartment in Indiana and moved to Canada. Natalia wasn’t alone for long, though, as she eventually became close with a couple named Antwon and Cynthia Mans. They went on to adopt Natalia, but who exactly are Antwon and Cynthia?
Who Is Natalia Grace Barnett?
As seen in ID network’s May 2023 docuseries, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, Michael and Kristine began to suspect in 2010 that their newly adopted daughter was an adult living with a severe form of dwarfism. They noticed mature features on her body, including pubic hair, and were disturbed to hear her making alleged death threats against them and their three biological sons.
Michael and Kristine claimed that Natalia attempted to kill them multiple times and that she terrorized their sons. By 2012, they couldn’t take it anymore. After a judge granted their petition to change Natalia’s birth year, Michael and Kristine rented her an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana, in 2013, leaving her behind as they moved to Canada with their sons.
By that point, Natalia had already lived on her own in an apartment in Westfield, Indiana, with her former adoptive parents still in the same state. However, her disability, called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc), made it difficult for Natalia to climb stairs or reach high places. She also didn’t have cooking or cleaning skills.
A social services investigation into Michael and Kristine led them to be charged with neglect in 2019. During Michael’s trial in October 2022, Natalia testified that she met a kind neighbor in Lafayette, who then introduced her to Cynthia Mans, as the Lafayette Journal & Courier reported.
Who Are Antwon and Cynthia Mans?
Cynthia testified in court that she and her husband, Antwon, invited Natalia to live with them a few days after they met. The Lafayette couple charged Natalia $250 per month in rent, which went toward Cynthia and Antwon’s own monthly rent payment. Cynthia also taught Natalia how to read, write, and do math, as she struggled with counting money.
As revealed in the docuseries, Cynthia and Antwon applied to become Natalia’s legal guardians in 2016. However, they needed to prove that she was a minor. There was a hearing to determine whether or not Natalia was a legal adult, with medical reports submitted as evidence. The judge ultimately maintained that Natalia was an adult, so Cynthia and Antwon dropped the guardianship petition.
Despite this, Cynthia and Antwon continued to care for Natalia and treat her as a member of the family. They eventually became her new adoptive parents. In addition to Natalia, Antwon and Cynthia have five children. Cynthia and Antwon currently live in Crawfordsville, Indiana, with Natalia.
What Did Antwon and Cynthia Mans Say About Natalia Grace?
Cynthia and Antwon joined Natalia on Dr. Phil in 2019, where they maintained that she was a minor when they took her in. They also claimed that she never exhibited any violent behavior toward their family and that she was loving toward her adoptive siblings.
On June 1, 2023, Cynthia launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for a wheelchair-accessible van for Natalia. The crowdfunding post has a goal of $10,000. In the description, Cynthia thanked fans for their “love and support” following the docuseries. She revealed that Natalia had seen a spine specialist, who explained that a surgery to correct Natalia’s spine at this point would do more harm than good. The family hopes to raise money for the van so that Natalia and the Mans can visit “the Holy Land Jerusalem.”
“Natalia is such a sweet young lady that has been through so much. We want her to be able to get in the vehicle easier which is why we are needing this wheelchair-accessible van. Natalia will start attending school once she gets her new id so if anyone wants to donate to our GoFundMe we’d greatly appreciate it,” the post continued.
As of publication, the GoFundMe has raised just over $3,200.
Natalia Grace Shares Her Side in ‘Natalia Speaks’
Natalia responded to The Curious Case of Natalia Grace with a follow-up docuseries, Natalia Speaks, which aired its first episode on ID on January 1, 2024, and will continue on January 2 and 3. In the series, she proves her real age — 22 years old in 2023 — with a DNA test and disputes the claims made by her former adoptive parents. Natalia also comes face to face with Michael for the first time in years to discuss what happened.
Antwon and Cynthia both appear in Natalia Speaks to defend their adoptive daughter’s character and support her as she explores the truth. In episode 1, Antwon joined Natalia for her confrontation with Michael, and the two fathers got into an explosive argument after Natalia asked Michael not to curse.
Natalia Speaks also documented the process of Natalia getting legally adopted by the Mans. She told her lawyer that Antwon and Cynthia were her real parents because they “showed her love” when the Barnetts didn’t. The docuseries’ conclusion showed Natalia on her adoption day, all smiles as the judge declared her a Mans.
However, Natalia’s story did not end there. The final moments of the docuseries featured an alleged phone call from Antwon and Cynthia that producers received two weeks after production wrapped and six months after Natalia’s adoption. Her new adoptive parents claimed that Natalia was “stabbing her family in the back over a complete lie.”
“Something ain’t right with Natalia. This girl is tweakin’,” Antwon said. “I feel like she’s the enemy in the house. And she said to us, we have held her hostage. Made us look like we’re the enemy.”
He concluded, “She’s done other things too but this was a new low. Natalia does not have emotions for nothing but herself. We’re done. We’re done with her.”
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