Natalia’s been called everything from an “evil sociopath” to “the real-life orphan”.
The grainy 60 Minutes clip shows the Barnett family gathered around the dinner table in 2012.
The star of the story is Jacob, Kristine and Michael’s son who was diagnosed with autism when he was two.
A certified genius, Jacob published his first academic paper at 12 and by 15 was studying at a prestigious physics institute.
As Kristine proudly spoke of her son’s achievements to the 60 Minutes crew- nobody paid any attention to the dark-haired girl huddled in the middle of the table.
It was impossible to predict that little Natalia would soon become the most well-known member of the Barnett family – with her face plastered on newspapers around the world alongside the words “evil sociopath”, “the real-life orphan” and “psycho dwarf” – or that Kristine and Michael would be facing charges of child abandonment.
If you are feeling seriously confused at this point – you have reason to be, it’s a complex case.
We’ve got everything you need to know about this bizarre story right here.
Natalia is pictured with the family in a 60 Minutes clip from 2012. Source: Supplied
So where did this start?
The story actually started nearly 30 years ago, when Kristine and Michael’s son Jacob arrived.
He was diagnosed with severe autism at age two – with doctors telling the shocked parents that he would likely grow up unable to communicate.
But he quickly proved everyone very wrong, publishing his first academic paper published at 12.
Kristine ended up publishing a book about her son’s life, entitled ‘The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism’ and gaining fame as an autism advocate.
Meanwhile, Natalia was allegedly placed in an orphanage in Ukraine as a baby in 2003.
From an early age, it became apparent that Natalia suffered from dwarfism – she was reportedly adopted by an American couple in 2008.
Kristine became known as an autism advocate. Source:Facebook
“I am trying to poison you”
It’s unclear what happened with Natalia’s first adopted family – but Kristine and Michael were contacted in 2010 and were asked to adopt Natalia.
But within a year, Kristine was claiming Natalia “pushed her onto an electric fence, poured bleach in her coffee and threatened to stab them in their sleep”.
“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,” Kristine told DailyMailTV in an explosive interview.
“She was standing over people in the middle of the night. You couldn’t go to sleep. We had to hid all the sharp objects.
“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.’”
Natalia is said to be an adult posing as a child. Image: Kristine Barnett
“She wasn’t a child”
But even more disturbingly, the couple now say that they also realised Natalia wasn’t the six-year-old girl that she claimed to be.
They claim that Natalia had periods, full pubic hair and adult teeth.
In 2010, the parents claim that Natalia had a bone density test which reportedly revealed her to be at least 14.
Two years later, the Barnett’s filed a motion with the Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis in the US to change Natalia’s birth year.
It was changed from 2003 to 1989 – making Natalia 22 years old at the time.
The next year, the Barnett’s rented an apartment in Lafayette in Indiana for Natalia before moving to Canada, believing that she was a legal adult.
They moved so that Jacob could study at a school in Ontario – it was at this point that Kristine claims they lost contact with Natalia.
She said she felt concerned that Natalia would pretend to be a child again and put another family in harm’s way.
Kristine also claimed that Natalia was actually a woman that had periods. Image: Kristine Barnett
Or was she?
But back in the US, another version of the truth was brewing – with a different bone density test finding that Natalia was only 11 years old in 2012.
Just two years later, police apparently found out that Natalia had been left by her adoptive parents.
She told them that they had moved to Canada – with police apparently believing that Natalia was still a legal child at the time.
It’s not known why it took the police until 2019 to bring charges of child abandonment against Michael and Kristine – but the couple were charged late last month.
During the intervening years, another family, The Mans family of Indiana, applied to become Natalia’s legal guardian.
Although the family dropped their guardianship petition in 2018 –Natalia had remained in their lives.
Natalia reportedly hasn’t had any contact with Michael and Kristine since 2013.
William and Kristine Barnett are now facing child abandonment charges. Image: Tippecanoe County Sheriff Office
So what happens now?
Two weeks ago, Kristine and now-ex-husband Michael were charged with abandoning Natalia when they moved to Canada.
Despite their explosive revelations to the media – it appears that the charges still stand.
The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges on September 27 – with a motion filed by Micheal to dismiss both counts of felony neglect of a dependent.
According to court documents, the parents will next appear in court for a pre-trial hearing on November 11.
The trial is expected to start with a jury on January 28, 2020.
Kristine’s attorney NBC News that she is looking forward to telling “her story in court.”