Natalia Grace Barnett claimed that her former adoptive mother Kristine Barnett pepper sprayed the Ukraine native repeatedly during her time living with Kristine and her husband, Michael Barnett, between 2010 and 2012.
Natalia, 22, detailed her experiences with the Barnetts during the second episode of The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks on Monday, January 1. She alleged that Kristine sat her down and forced her to keep her eyes open while she pepper sprayed Natalia in the face several times. Natalia further claimed that Kristine did this as punishment when she did anything wrong, including one instance where she could not complete a high school level physics test, despite being a child at the time.
“She literally made me sit there for like 10 minutes until I could finally go and wash it out. And even then it still hurt,” Natalia said through tears. “And she didn’t care. … It just really hurt because she was supposed to be my mom. And she didn’t act like a mom to me.”
Natalia, who has a severe form of dwarfism known as spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc), was adopted by Michael and Kristine in 2010. At the time, the former couple believed she was 6 years old. However, Kristine noticed while bathing her adoptive daughter that she had pubic hair, which led her and Michael to believe Natalia was much older. Michael and Kristine went on to claim that Natalia made several threats and attempts to kill them.
The docuseries also discussed Kristine’s background, which allegedly played into how she treated Natalia. She believed that she turned her and Michael’s oldest son, Jacob, into a genius and authored a successful book about the experience called The Spark. Lawyers and legal experts believed that Kristine wanted to turn Natalia into another genius. Meanwhile, Natalia thought Kristine wanted to boost her own ego and reputation by adopting a child with a disability. However, when she was unable to achieve her goal, she allegedly began abusing Natalia and lying about her age to get rid of her.
Natalia claimed in the docuseries that she believed she was a child, but Kristine “trained” her to lie about being an adult, and she complied to avoid getting in trouble. Despite an endocrinologist and a dentist confirming Natalia was around 9 years old at the time, Kristine and Michael filed to legally change Natalia’s age in 2012. The documents listed her birthday as September 4, 1989, which would have made her 23 years old at the time.
After changing her birthday, Michael and Kristine rented Natalia an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana, and left her behind as they moved to Canada with their sons. Natalia’s neighbors, Antwon and Cynthia Mans, grew concerned about her, as they believed she was a child. The couple took her in and eventually became her new adoptive parents.
Meanwhile, Michael and Kristine, who got divorced after they abandoned Natalia, faced charges of neglect of a dependent in September 2019. However, four of Michael’s charges were dropped in February 2022, and he was found not guilty of three counts of neglect and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent in October 2022. Kristine’s charges were dropped before her trial in March 2023.
The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks continues on Investigation Discovery on January 2 and 3 at 9 p.m. ET.
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