Parenting Author & Husband Accused of Changing Daughter's Age from 8 to 22, Moving Countries Without Her
The girl told police she was originally from the Ukraine and came to the U.S. in 2008 through an adoption program
Following a five-year investigation, an Indiana couple who once gained fame for raising a child prodigy, has been charged after allegedly abandoning their adopted daughter in an apartment alone before fleeing to Canada.
Michael and Kristine Barnett became the adoptive parents of the young girl in 2010 after she came to the U.S. from the Ukraine via an adoption program in 2008, according to court documents obtained by WLFI News 18, ABC 7 Chicago and Fox 59. They were reportedly told she was 8 years old at the time.
The girl, whose name has not been revealed to the public, lived with the couple for about two years in Hamilton County.
In 2012, the couple, who already had two sons, somehow legally changed the girl’s age to 22, according to the court documents. However, an evaluation done in June 2012 showed the girl was 11, the documents state.
Kristine allegedly told the girl, who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, to tell people that she simply “looks young” if questioned about her age, according to the legal documents.
In 2013, Kristine, 45, and Michael, 43, set the child up in an apartment on North 11th Street in Lafayette in Tippecanoe County before leaving her completely alone and moving their family to Canada, according to the documents.
The girl was interviewed by police the following year and told them she “had not seen the Barnetts since they moved to Canada,” according to the court documents.
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On Sept. 5, Kristine and Michael allegedly admitted to changing the girl’s age, but did not specify how they did so, local outlet WLFI News 18 reported. They also allegedly told authorities that they rented out an apartment for the child but said they did not provide her with any other financial support other than paying the rent.
At some point within the last five years, the child was enrolled at the Excel Center — a free tuition high school for adults, according to WLFI News 18. She then left Tippecanoe County in 2016.
The Excel Center did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
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Michael and Kristine have been charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent, Fox 59 reported. The couple, however, has not been arrested.
A lawyer for Michael and Kristine was not immediately found.
Despite the charges being brought against the Barnetts, many details surrounding the case remain unclear.
It is not known how long the child lived in the apartment before police got involved, why the Barnetts chose to abandon her after she was placed into their care or how they were legally able to change her age.
On Sunday, Kristine spoke out about the charges calling them “false” on Facebook.
“Ok I am sorry I am not supposed to be talking to anyone but in response to the Washing Post photo of me supposedly being booked into jails, here is what is actually happening,” Kristine wrote.
“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. I am having to come in here to confirm I am not arrested and my attorney states and has confirmed their is no warrant for my arrest.”
While little is known about Michael, Kristine is a published author, who rose to fame on the literature scene following the release of her book The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism in 2013.
The book, which received rave reviews from The Washington Post and Newsday, is a memoir about Kristine’s life as a mother to her son Jacob, whose “extraordinary mind was almost lost to autism.”
“At age two, when Jake was diagnosed, Kristine was told he might never be able to tie his own shoes. At nine he started working on an original theory in astrophysics that experts believe may someday put him in line for a Nobel Prize, and at age 12 he became a paid researcher in quantum physics,” a description of the book reads on Amazon.
“Dramatic, inspiring, and transformative, The Spark is about the power of love and courage in the face of overwhelming obstacles, and the dazzling possibilities that can occur when we learn how to the tap the true potential that lies within every child, and in all of us,” the description says.
Kristine also spoke about her children in a video shared by Indigo Chapters, in promotion of the book, but did not make any mention of her adopted daughter.
Kristine did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.