An Indiana couple have been charged with abandoning their adopted daughter after legally changing her age from eight to 22 and renting an apartment for her to live in alone so they could move to Canada with their biological sons.
Kristine Elizabeth Barnett, 45, and her now-ex-husband, Michael Barnett, 43, were each charged with one count of neglect on Wednesday night following a five-year investigation.
Police say the girl – who is originally from the Ukraine and has dwarfism – was just 11 years old when the Barnetts abandoned her in a house in Lafayette, 60 miles north of Indianapolis, and moved abroad.
But Kristine has professed her innocence, saying the girl is much older than her birth certificate suggests and describes the adoption process as ‘fraud’.
Kristine Barnett, 45 (pictured), and ex-husband, Michael Barnett, 43, have been charged with neglect of their adopted special-needs daughter after a five-year investigation
The Barnetts appeared on 60 Minutes in 2012 to talk about their 13-year-old son, Jacob, whom they touted as a physics prodigy
This shot from the program appears to show the couple’s adopted daughter suffering from dwarfism at the dinner table (pictured next to Kristine)
The Barnetts previously made national headlines when Kristine published a book in 2014 about raising her son Jacob, described as a child physics prodigy with IQ higher than that of Albert Einstein, who was diagnosed with autism aged two.
CBS’ long-running news magazine 60 Minutes in 2012 produced a segment on Jacob Barnett, which included interviews with the then-13-year-old boy genius and his proud parents.
The segment included video shot at the family’s home, which appeared to show the Barnetts’ adopted special-needs daughter seating at the dinner table.
According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the Barnetts, who have three sons, adopted the girl from the Ukraine in 2010 and a doctor who examined her that year determined she was about 8 years old.
When a detective spoke to Michael Barnett earlier this month, he said he and his ex-wife had the girl’s age legally changed to 22 in June 2012 and that his wife told her to tell anyone who asked that she ‘looks young but was actually 22.’
Barnett told the detective that he and Kristine rented an apartment in Lafayette in July 2013 and, despite knowing that the child knew no one in that city, they left her there and moved to Canada, investigators wrote in the affidavit.
Kristine lashed out on Facebook about the allegations against her, calling them ‘false’
Barnett said that other than paying the apartment’s rent, they provided the girl with no additional financial support.
The girl told a detective with the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department in September 2014 that she had come to the US ‘through an adoption’ in 2008 from her native Ukraine and that the Barnetts adopted her two years later.
She said she lived with the Barnetts in Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, for about two years, after which they rented the apartment for her in Lafayette, about 60 miles northwest of Indianapolis.
In 2014, Kristine Barnett published a memoir about her experience raising a genius son with autism
‘She was left alone in the apartment in Lafayette while the rest of the Barnett family moved to Canada,’ investigators wrote in the affidavit, adding that the girl hasn’t seen the Barnetts since.
The affidavit leaves a lot unclear, including how long the girl lived alone in the apartment before her plight was discovered and why an investigation that apparently began in September 2014 took years to result in charges against the Barnetts.
It also doesn’t say where in Canada the Barnetts lived or whether they have since returned to the US.
Kristine Barnett broke her silence on Facebook Sunday, writing in part: ‘I am sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges and maintain that they are false charges. Friends and family you decide if what you are reading is real or fake for yourselves.’
In an off-camera interview with WISH-TV, Kristine has reiterated that she was innocent, and that her daughter’s adoption was a ‘scam’.
The woman provided a letter to the station purportedly written by her ex-husband’s doctor at IU Health, who also treated the girl at one time, which states that her date of birth written on her birth certificate is ‘clearly inaccurate’.
According to the document, which has not been independently authenticated, evidence of the girl’s true biological age can been seen in her teeth, adult sexual development and menstrual cycle.
The letter claims the girl has been diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder, and that she previously admitted that she was older than 18 years old in 2011.
The picture on the left showing Kristine with son Jacob was taken in 2015 in Toronto. The image on the right shows the mom in December 2018
In July 2014, Penguin Random House published Kristine Barnett’s book titled The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius, billing it as a ‘memoir of a mother’s love, commitment and nurturing, which allowed her son, originally diagnosed with severe autism, to flourish into a universally recognized genius–and how any parent can help their child find their spark.’
The 288-page volume talks about Kristine’s experiences raising Jacob and why she chose to ignore the experts when it came to treating her son’s autism.
A brief passage providing information on the author stated: ‘Kristine Barnett lives in Canada with her husband, Michael, and their three boys, Jacob, Wesley, and Ethan. She is a public speaker on alternative education for children with autism.’
Jacob Barnett caused a stir when at the age of 10 he enrolled at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where he astonished his professors with his knowledge and became a paid researcher in quantum physics.
According to his Facebook page, Jacob is currently a PhD student at Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada.
In a bizarre twist to an already convoluted tale, WISH-TV reported that Michael Barnett married his second wife in 2016, two years before his and Kristine’s divorce was finalized.