In May 2023, Investigation Discovery’s docuseries The Curious Case of Natalia Grace saw Michael Barnett share the story of adopting a Ukrainian orphan named Natalia Grace with his ex-wife, Kristine Barnett. He accused Natalia of being an adult scam artist who posed as a child to infiltrate the family and claimed that she made several threats and attempts to kill them. Many viewers believed Michael until the January 2024 follow-up docuseries, Natalia Speaks, in which Natalia shared her side and accused Kristine of abusing her while Michael allegedly did nothing to stop it.
What Happened to Michael and Kristine Barnett?
Michael and Kristine adopted Natalia, who has a severe form of dwarfism known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc), in 2010. At the time, they believed she was 6 years old. However, the former couple began to suspect Natalia was actually much older when Kristine allegedly found pubic hair on her body during a bath. Michael claimed in the docuseries that Natalia was violent and attempted to kill Kristine by poisoning her coffee with Pledge cleaner and pushing her into an electric fence. He also alleged that she stood over their bed with a knife in the middle of the night.
After two years of living with Natalia, Michael and Kristine petitioned to have her birthday legally changed from September 4, 2003, to September 4, 1989, which would have made her 23 years old in 2012. They rented her an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana, and moved to Canada with their three biological sons.
Natalia’s disability made it difficult for her to live on her own, as her apartment had several stairs and high shelves. Michael and Kristine faced charges of neglect of a dependent in 2019. However, four of Michael’s charges were dropped in February 2022 because the court determined they could not consider anything based on Natalia’s age. He was then found not guilty in October 2022. The remaining charges, which were based on Natalia’s disability, were dismissed.
Kristine’s charges were dropped before her trial in March 2023 due to insufficient evidence.
What Abuse Claims Did Natalia Grace Make?
In Natalia Speaks, Natalia took a DNA test that proved she was 22 years old as of 2023, meaning that she was around 9 years old when the Barnetts left her behind in Lafayette. She also disputed many of Michael’s claims, alleging that Kristine controlled the narrative about her. For example, Natalia claimed that Kristine forced her to spray Pledge into a mug of coffee so that she could make it seem like Natalia tried to poison her. She also shut down the claim that she stood over their bed with a knife, arguing that her hand shape made it near-impossible to even hold the kitchen utensil.
Natalia further claimed that Kristine was violent toward her by repeatedly pepper spraying her in the eyes and preventing Natalia from washing them out for several minutes. She also detailed an incident where Kristine allegedly beat her with a belt and let her sons throw Natalia around. Natalia even claimed that Kristine once made her “dress like a gnome” and stand in a window for several hours, which was extremely uncomfortable with her disability.
Kristine Barnett Responded to Natalia Grace’s Abuse Claims
On January 4, 2024, one day after Natalia Speaks concluded, Kristine took to Facebook with a lengthy response to Natalia’s claims. She wrote that Natalia was a “very much loved and cared for member of my family.”
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“She was not abused by anyone in my family. Let’s get straight to these allegations,” Kristine continued. “Nobody ever took a belt to Natalia and the allegations that she was ‘beaten’ are just plain false. Any discipline of Natalia was very minimal and was not out of the bounds of normal parenting.”
Kristine later added, “As a parent, I have had good and bad days as a mom. There were many days raising four children I depended on the power of coffee to get me through the day for example, I was prone to getting exhaperated while cleaning, and I am certainly not going to claim I was a perfect mom. Anyone who has children knows that feeling of going to bed at night hoping you have done the right things and enough for your children on a daily basis. I am sure there were plenty of fails and some successes I had as a parent and mom but I was not abusive to my children.”
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