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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Jamie Roberts

Natalia Grace 'tricked' adoptive parents but was 'still a child' when they abandoned her

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace has gripped viewers as the story of an alleged six-year-old Ukrainian child's adoption by an American family unfolds on screen.

Natalia Grace was said to be six years old when she was welcomed into the Barnett family home in Indiana in 2010, but her age was soon doubted by her new parents Michael and Kristine.

They claimed the youngster, who has a rare bone growth disorder called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia, was actually an adult at the time of adoption and said she went on to threaten to kill them family - claims Natalia continues to deny to this day.

Michael Barnett and his now-ex-wife Kristine were recently acquitted of neglect charges after they left Natalia to live alone in an apartment while they moved to Canada.

In the documentary, the Barnetts allege that Natalia was 22 years old when they left her, although Natalia continues to insist she was just a child at the time.

Michael and Kristine Barnett claimed Natalia lied about her age (Investigation Discovery)

And legal expert Beth Karas, who also appears on the documentary, admits she is more likely to believe Natalia's comments regarding her age over the family.

Speaking to Mirror Online, Beth confessed she does believe there were "some tricks" prior to the adoption, but does think there are sure signs Natalia is younger than the Barnetts have tried to prove.

She said: "I do think that there probably were some tricks. I don't know what Natalia's early life entailed but with the first family that got her in New Hampshire [prior to the Barnett adoption] there was some behavioural problems. She clearly had behavioural problems.

"And there are medical records that talk about it. So I mean, to that extent, you know, the Barnett's felt trapped, right? They didn't know anything about her and she's pulling this stuff and he [Michael] was like, What is going on here? They can't figure her out."

Natalia claimed to be six when she was adopted by the Barnetts (Collect Unknown)
The Barnetts said there was 'tell-tale' signs she had lied about her age (Investigation Discovery)

But Beth claims the Barnetts were also holding back information and weren't quite the "picture perfect family" they had tried to imply.

"When you start to peel back the curtain you know you see that like everybody there's some dysfunction in there, there might just have been a little bit more in that household than others."

Despite the Barnetts managing to get Natalia's age changed by law to 14 years older than first stated thanks to an emergency petition, Beth admits she finds this process to have been "troubling".

"It was so weird to me that she went the jump of 14 years," she said. "It's one thing if it was a couple of years."

She added: "The judge didn't hear any testimony. They just relied on the doctor's affidavit and this was not a doctor who was a specialist in dwarfism for the particular disability that Natalia has, which affected her bone growth. This was a general practitioner and a little unusual.

"In the stroke of a pen he gave her a new birthday."

Michael was passionate in the documentary (Investigation Discovery)

And she said the fact the show was able to track down her biological mother was another "credible" reason to believe Natalia's initial age.

"Her mother seemed credible," she said. "Her biological mother seemed credible. She says 'I've been dealing with this for 17 years' and that was in 2020, so that would put her birth year at 2003.

"...I think she's probably more likely than not younger, because she looks so different today."

Beth added Natalia has "clearly matured" over the years in terms of her appearance.

And she also dismissed claims that the Barnetts' happy life was ruined by the introduction of Natalia, instead calling their pairing a "perfect storm of personalities" which came together to "create this craziness in the household".

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace began on ID on Monday, May 29, and continues at 9-11 pm ET/PT on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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