Couple abandons kid in empty house
A couple facing felony neglect charges are accused of abandoning a girl with dwarfism they adopted from overseas after legally changing her age.
The mother has previously published a book on parenting "genius" children and has called the charges against her "false".
The child involved in the case was adopted by the couple from Indiana in the United States in 2010 after she came into the country from the Ukraine through an adoption program in 2008. A doctor examining the girl at the time of her adoption believed her to be about eight years old.
Three years after adopting the girl, Michael and Kristine Barnett are accused of renting an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana, where they left the child on her own and fled to Canada.
Before dumping the girl, they used their powers of guardianship to change her age from eight to 22, according to reports.
Prosecutors from Tippecanoe County filed felony neglect charges against Kristine Elizabeth Barnett, 45, and her now ex-husband, Michael Barnett, 43, last Wednesday after investigating the pair for five years.
The same year the couple allegedly abandoned their adopted daughter, Kristine published a book titled The Spark: A Mother's Story of Nurturing Genius, her "true story of what it is like to live with an exceptional child" - her son Jacob, a genius in physics.
Kristine said she was "sick and devastated" by the allegations that she would abandon a child.
According to reports, court documents allege the couple first adopted the girl in 2010, two years after she travelled to the US from the Ukraine as part of an adoption program.
Medical documents from 2010 indicate a doctor assessed the girl, who has dwarfism, to be eight years old the year she was adopted by Michael and Kristine.
However, in 2012, the couple had the girl's age legally changed from eight to 22 via Indiana court probate. This is a legal process where a person's legal guardian can make changes to their birth certificate or other documents. It's unclear why the change was made, and a skeletal survey done of the girl that same year determined her to be 11 years old, according to WishTV.
Speaking to reporters, Kristine claimed the adoption had been a "scam" and their adopted daughter had been an adult with a personality disorder, according to WishTV. She claimed the girl's age on her birth certificate was "clearly inaccurate" and said she believed her daughter had a diagnosed sociopathic personality disorder.
The couple had previously made headlines for appearing on the US version of 60 Minutes in 2012, sharing her family's story of parenting her son, Jacob, who is a child prodigy in the field of physics.
Jacob was diagnosed with autism when he was two years old and has an IQ higher than Albert Einstein, according to The Daily Mail. In screenshots of the program, the adopted girl can be seen eating dinner with the family.
At the age of 10, Jacob enrolled at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where he was later employed as a researcher. He reportedly now studies at a university in Canada.
According to the court documents, Michael told detectives Kristine advised him to tell people the girl "looks young but was actually 22" after they changed her name.
The pair then rented an apartment in Lafayette in July 2013 and moved to Canada.
"She was left alone in the apartment in Lafayette while the rest of the Barnett family moved to Canada," the probable cause affidavit stated, adding the girl had not had contact with the family since then.
Police investigators talked with the girl in 2014, and she told them she "had not seen the Barnetts since they moved to Canada".
There is a great deal of mystery left in the case, including the determined age of the adopted girl, and what became of her after she talked with police in 2014.
Kristine disputed the charges against her, writing on Facebook that she was "sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges and maintain that they are false charges".
Kristine and Michael have both been charged with neglect of a dependent.