Former neighbors of a Ukrainian dwarf accused of pretending to be a child have revealed the spine-chilling conversations that led them to believe she was ‘like a serial killer’.
Natalia Barnett was put into a Lafayette, Indiana apartment by her adoptive parents Michael and Kristina Barnett in 2011, after they came to suspect she was far older than she claimed.
The Barnetts adopted Natalia in 2010 and were both recently acquitted of neglect charges after abandoning her to live alone in the apartment while they moved to Canada.
The couple, who split in 2014, claim she is an imposter who was actually an adult and conned their way into their family, threatened to stab them in their sleep and poison their coffee.
Neighbors who lived next door to Natalia’s Lafayette apartment recounted in the new docuseries ‘The Curious Case of Natalia Grace’, which premiered on Monday night, how she was unmoved by her disturbing behavior.
‘(She was) like a serial killer or something, how casually they put attempted murder into a conversation,’ said Toby Miles, a former neighbor.
Natalia Grace Barnett was put into a Lafayette, Indiana apartment by her adoptive parents Michael and Kristina Barnett in 2011, after they came to suspect she was far older than she claimed
The building in Lafayette, Indiana, where Kristine and Michael Barnett rented an apartment for Natalia to live in after they left for Canada
Neighbor Toby Miles (pictured) revealed the chilling conversations he had with Natalia Grace Barnett led him to believe she was ‘like a serial killer’
‘(She said) I stood over them with a knife, so they took all the knives away,’ recalled Toby Miles’ wife Melanie Miles. ‘And then I tried to poison them, so I had to live in the garage for a while.’
Sue McCallum, another Lafayette resident, said the Natalia had a ‘so what’ attitude when discussing her alleged attempts on her adopted family’s lives.
‘Oh gee, I pulled a knife on my parents, big deal,’ she said. ‘That’s the attitude you got from her.’
The former neighbors all shared similar accounts of Natalia’s bizarre perspective on her alleged disturbing behavior, which left them scratching their heads over how to process the unsettling revelations.
‘What do we do with this information? We’re not social workers, we’re not therapists,’ said Toby.
Natalia, pictured being home schooled in December 2010, is the subject of a bombshell new documentary detailing her adoption ordeal
Sue McCallum, another Lafayette resident, said the Natalia had a ‘so what’ attitude when discussing her alleged attempts on her adopted family’s lives
Natalia was moved into the Lafayette apartment after the Barnetts moved to Canada, and after a judge legally changed her age to 22. However, questions still remain over her true date of birth.
‘It was hard for us to understand how she was just left in that apartment by herself,’ said Melanie Miles.
‘If I thought she was just a child who didn’t know how to take care of herself, this would be a different conversation,’ added her husband, who feared cutting ties with Natalia could endanger himself due to her apparently unhinged temperament.
‘It’s like a bad breakup,’ he said. ‘Like if I break up with you, are you going to go crazy?’
The saga of Barnett’s adoption captured headlines in recent years amid the arrests of her former adoptive parents Michael and Kristine Barnett.
The couple were taken into custody in 2019 on child neglect charges. Michael was acquitted of the charges in October, while Kristine had her case dismissed in March, just three weeks before her trial.
It came after they adopted Natalia in April 2010, believing they were taking home a six-year-old child.
But their dream adoption quickly turned into a nightmare when they realized she may not be who she had claimed, and they suspected she was a menacing adult masquerading as a child.
‘She tried to poison and kill my wife,’ Michael claimed. ‘(And) one night, I opened my eyes and Natalia is standing at the foot of the bed with a knife in her hand.’
Kristina, who is accused of abusing Natalia in the bombshell documentary, told DailyMail.com in 2019 that her family were terrorized by the Ukrainian in the months after they adopted her.
She alleged that Natalia threatened to stab the family in their sleep, pushed her towards an electric fence, and poured bleach in her coffee.
‘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,’ she told DailyMailTV.
‘She was standing over people in the middle of the night. You couldn’t go to sleep. We had to hide 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.”
‘The media is painting me to be a child abuser but there is no child here,’ said Barnett.
The Barnetts were charged with neglecting their child after ditching Natalia in the early 2010s and moving to Canada after they petitioned a court to move her birth year back 14 years, which was granted. In October 2022 and March 2023, their charges were dropped
Questions remain over Natalia’s true age after it was legally changed from eight to 22 in 2012
Michael revealed in the documentary that the couple suspected she was not a child after a trip to Disney World where Kristine discovered she had ‘full pubic hair’ while giving her a bath.
In the months after that, the couple allege that there was ‘a lot of escalation’. This included discovering she had been hiding her period from them for months.
On one occasion, when Natalia met another six-year-old with a rare bone disorder named spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, the stark difference in age became seemingly undisputable.
Natalia, who did not speak with a Ukrainian accent, towered over her playmate, while her bone structure and vocabulary were far more advanced.
As the months wore on, Michael claimed it became apparent they were living with a menace, to the point she ‘threatened to stab’ her new siblings.
In never-before-seen footage, the documentary shows Natalia’s suspect behavior inside her adoptive home, including sitting at a table reading the bible. When asked why she chose to read it, she responds: ‘To get rid of these evil thoughts.’
‘She would do as much as possible to cause hurt or harm or mental distress to the entire family,’ Michael said.
After taking the child to a psychiatrist after several months, Michael said he was stunned by the diagnosis. Instead of the expected result of schizophrenia or that Natalia was hearing voices, the expert told them something worse – she was a ‘sociopath’.
The numerous red flags led the family to seek an attorney, and in 2012 a petition launched by the family at probate court was granted and a judge legally changed her birth date from 2003 to 1989 on her Ukranian birth document.
After the couple was granted their petition, they decided to move her into an apartment in Lafayette – three counties away from where they lived – while they moved to Canada.
Later in court, Natalia would testify that sustained herself mostly on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Ramen Noodles and an occasional pizza. She said she had limited use of her hands and arms, and struggled to open canned food.
But a year after the move, Natalia was forced out of the apartment due to complaints about her disturbing behavior. Neighbors recounted seeing her struggling to take care of herself and recount in the documentary how they saw her wearing dirty clothing, scuffed shoes and stinking of body odor.
Natalia, pictured days after being collected from her Florida adoption center in May 2010 by the Barnetts, soon had her new parents suspicious as she had her period and an adult vocabulary for a six-year-old
Locals added that they were struck by Michael’s occasional presence outside the apartment in sports cars while Natalia was left inside a squalid apartment.
Those near her also described her as a ‘pest’ to the community, where she would enter homes uninvited and even faced allegations of inappropriate behavior with local children. She denied the claims.
Michael said the family left her in Indiana and moved to Canada to support his 15-year-old prodigy son’s time at college. But some of the family’s critics claim the move was motivated by the desire to get rid of Natalia.
The move led authorities to charge the couple with child neglect, despite their insistence Natalia was an adult woman whose age had been legally changed by a judge.
Although the child neglect allegations against the Barnetts were dropped due to Natalia’s legal age change, further charges of neglect stood due to her dwarfism, which made her dependent on the couple.
Charges of neglect of a dependent, neglect of a dependent causing bodily injury, neglect of a dependent causing serious bodily injury and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent loomed over the couple for years.
Michael was acquitted in October 2022, while Kristine’s case was dismissed in March, just three weeks before her own trial.