Natalia Grace Barnett has become the latest true crime phenomenon thanks to the ID network’s docuseries, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace. The final two episodes of the series, released on May 31, went inside Michael and Kristine Barnett’s child neglect charges, investigation, and trial. Keep reading to learn more about Natalia Grace Barnett and the timeline of events leading to her former adoptive parents’ court case.

Who Is Natalia Grace Barnett?

In April 2010, Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted a young Ukrainian girl named Natalia Grace, whom they believed to be 6 years old. However, behavioral issues and concerns about Natalia’s physical appearance over the next two years led the Barnetts to believe she was actually an adult with a severe form of dwarfism known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc). 

As seen in the docuseries, Michael and Kristine claimed that Natalia was a “sociopath” and a “con artist” who threatened and attempted to kill them multiple times. In 2012, the couple petitioned to the Marion County Probate Court to have Natalia’s birth year changed from 2003 to 1989, making her an adult in the eyes of the law. The Barnetts moved to Canada in 2013, leaving Natalia behind in a rented apartment in Lafayette, Indiana. In 2014, Michael filed for divorce from Kristine, and the divorce was finalized in 2018.

Not long after the Barnetts left Natalia behind, they faced a social services investigation, as it was believed that Natalia was a minor despite her new birth record. By 2019, Kristine and Michael faced criminal charges.

September 2019: Michael and Kristine Barnett Charged With Neglect

The social services investigation led both Michael and Kristine to be charged with neglect of a dependent, neglect of a dependent causing bodily injury, neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury, endangering a dependent’s life, abandoning or cruelly confining a dependent, and conspiracy to neglect a dependent. 

However, it became a tricky situation when considering the difference in her legal and alleged biological age at the time she was abandoned (24 years old versus 10 years old). Some charges were based on her being a minor and some were based on her being an adult dependent with a disability.

February 2022: 4 of Michael Barnett’s Charges Are Dropped

A few months before Michael’s case was set to go to trial, the court ruled that any charges based on Natalia’s age could not be considered, according to the Lafayette Journal & Courier. Additionally, four charges of neglect of a dependent were dismissed due to the statute of limitations running out. Prosecutors ultimately decided to continue pursuing the remaining neglect charges based on Natalia’s disability.

October 2022: Michael Barnett’s Natalia Grace Trial Begins, Verdict Reached

The Natalia Grace Barnett trial officially began in October 2022. As depicted in The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, Michael’s attorneys aimed to paint Natalia as an adult. They pointed out that, legally, Natalia was around 24 years old when the Barnetts left her in Lafayette. The trial also included a testimony from Natalia where she said she never wanted to live in Lafayette.

“I wanted to be with the Barnetts,” she said, per the Journal & Courier. “I wanted to live with them.”

Michael’s attorneys argued that Natalia wanted to move on from the Barnett family. They showed videos of Natalia shopping for herself in a grocery store and walking across a street, noting that she was an “able-bodied adult,” Associated Press reported.

Natalia also testified that she did not have the skills to live independently. She didn’t know how to cook or use a washing machine, and she struggled to reach high spots in her apartment due to her height. Her disability also made it difficult to open canned food or climb the many stairs to her apartment in Lafayette.

After two hours, the jury came to a verdict. Michael was found not guilty. Three counts of neglect and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent were dismissed.

March 2023: Kristine Barnett’s Charges Are Dropped

According to the Journal & Courier, Kristine had been scheduled to go to trial in 2023, with Michael subpoenaed to testify against his ex-wife. However, the court ruled to have any charges based on Natalia’s age dismissed. The remaining counts of neglect of a dependent were also dismissed due to “insufficient evidence.”

“The State believes there would be insufficient evidence at trial to prove the charges in this cause beyond a reasonable doubt,” the Motion to Dismiss read, according to WLFI News 18.

Kristine’s trial was canceled just a few weeks before its scheduled date in April 2023.

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