An explosive new documentary into the bizarre tale of Ukrainian dwarf Natalia Grace features her sitting at a table reading a Bible, and telling her adoptive mother she is trying to ‘get rid of evil thoughts’.
That clip is among a series of disturbing behavior exhibited by Natalia who is accused of terrorizing her adoptive family in Indiana, who believed they had taken in a six-year-old orphan only to soon suspect she was actually an adult dwarf.
Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted Natalia in 2010 and were both recently acquitted of neglect charges after abandoning her to live alone in an apartment while they moved to Canada.
The couple, who split in 2014, claim she is an imposter who conned their way into their family, threatened to stab them in their sleep and poison their coffee.
In The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, which is set for release on Investigation Discovery (ID) on Monday, May 29, the family open up about the harrowing ordeal.
But one question still remains: was she a Ukrainian orphan or an adult dwarf sociopath as the family claims?
‘She won’t tell us the truth of who she is – we are living with a con artist and sociopath,’ Michael Barnett sobs in the opening sequence.
The family claimed Natalia (pictured) was ‘told her new birthdate at the orphanage in Ukraine’ and ‘threatened to stab’ their children
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
The family’s ordeal began when they decided to adopt a foreign orphan on April 26, 2010 from a center in Florida. They believed they were giving a home to a six-year-old child in need.
In the documentary, Michael describes that the family took the leap when life was ‘fantastic’. He and his wife were raising their three sons, had ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank’, and a brand new home.
‘Early 2010, we were blessed with many things. By the time 2014 came around, I have 37 cents in my bank account, I have no wife, I have no children, I have no home and no job. If Natalia never entered our lives, I never get divorced.’
The Barnett’s dream life quickly turned into a nightmare when they realized Natalia Grace may be a violent and threatening menace – and they started to question her true age on one of the first nights after her adoption.
While giving Natalia a bath after spending the day at Disneyland, he said Kristine let out a blood-curdling scream from the bathrooom when she noticed the girl they thought was just six had ‘full pubic hair’.
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.
‘She tried to poison and kill my wife,’ Michael added. ‘(And) one night, I opened my eyes and Natalia is standing at the foot of the bed with a knife in her hand.’
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’.
‘We were all abused,’ Michael Barnett (pictured) screamed as he recounted the ordeal
Michael and Kristine Barnett (pictured) adopted Natalia Grace in April 2010, believing they were taking home a six-year-old child, but they soon suspected she was an adult posing as a child
Natalia pictured being home schooled in December 2010. Kristine Barnett claims Natalia tried pushing her onto an electric fence, poured bleach into her coffee and threatened to stab the Barnetts in their sleep
As the couple’s concerns over Natalia’s true age grew, Kristine attempted to get the ‘truth’ out of her by allegedly increasingly aggressive means, including forcing Natalia to stand by a wall for extended periods of time.
Both Michael and his son allege in the documentary that Kristine was physically abusive to Natalia. Looking back on her treatment of the orphan, Kristina’s son Jake said: ‘My mom firmly believed that Natalia was a hostile agent, and is not who she said she is.’
On one occasion, Kristina allegedly trapped the youngster outside until she confessed to the ‘truth’, leading a neighbor to call the police.
However, Michael claims the responding officer immediately realized it was not Natalia that was in danger, but his three sons.
‘He knows instantly they are in grave danger,’ he added.
When questioned by the officer during an investigation, Natalia revealed that she was ‘told her new birthdate at the orphanage in Ukraine’ before she moved to the US.
‘(The officer) informs us he believes that her Ukrainian birth certificate is all bogus,’ Michael said.
A document from her migration into the country also allegedly revealed that she had not grown at all over four years, which Michael claims would still happen to some extent to a six year old despite her dwarfism.
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.
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.
The building in Lafayette, Indiana, where Kristine and Michael Barnett rented an apartment for Natalia to live in after they left for Canada
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
Throughout the disturbing series, the Barnett’s family and friends recalled their shock at seeing the scandal unfold, with Michael’s sister describing it as ‘the stuff of a horror movie’.
However, the family’s account of what happened has been notably called into question, with some alleging the neglect charges were legitimate and Natalia was the true victim.
‘The Barnett’s are the predators,’ said a former neighbor. ‘They literally just left her to the wolves… regardless of her age, she was left feeling neglected, abandoned and alone.’
Michael’s mother also said that ‘we don’t know that there is 100 percent one villian here’, while the couple’s son, Jake, insisted: ‘My mom isn’t 100 percent innocent.’
In the past, Michael accused his now-ex-wife of beating Natalia.
In what was perceived as a smoking gun by some, Natalia’s biological mother, Anna Gava, insisted she was born in September 2003, making her six-years-old when the Barnett’s adopted her.
Viewers are kept guessing over the truth throughout the docuseries, with outlandish claims from the Barnett’s often countered with allegations they may have concocted some of the issues with their adoption to get rid of the child.
‘This is one of the most difficult (cases) I’ve had’ said Robert Cooper, a detective with the Lafayette Police Department. ‘It’s like a Rubik’s Cube, it continues to change just when you have it solved.’
Dwayne and Robyn Farris, a couple who were close to adopting Natalia before she was taken in by the Barnett’s, said while they were suspicious of the circumstances around Natalia’s migration to America, they never suspected she was older than advertised.
And after being contacted by the Barnett’s and hearing their ordeal, they felt that it appeared they were attempting to get them ‘on side’, with Robyn believing a lot of ‘shady stuff’ occurred behind closed doors.
‘(Kristine) was using me and Dwayne because if she could get us on her side believing that Natalia had issues, then she would feel justified in maybe getting rid of her.’
‘We started figuring it out, that everything Kristine told us wasn’t the truth,’ added Dwayne.
Dwayne Farris (left) and Robyn Farris (right) said they believed claims made by the Barnett’s about Natalia were made up and exaggerated
Pictured in December 2010, Natalia had an adult vocabulary. Kristine Barnett said, ‘At the time I ran a little school and I remember she said to me, these children are exhausting, I don’t know how you do it.’
The couple said the day they picked up Natalia was one of the happiest of their lives, before the situation quickly deteriorated
Michael Barnett is pictured holding his new daughter Natalia in May 2010 in Florida just days after collecting her from the adoption center
In an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com in 2019, Kristine maintained her stance, and insisted she and her family were subjected to harrowing abuse carried out by the potential imposter.
‘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 said.
‘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.
‘Natalia was a woman. She had periods. She had adult teeth. She never grew a single inch, which would happen even with a child with dwarfism.
‘The doctors all confirmed she was suffering a severe psychological illness only diagnosed in adults.
‘She was jumping out of moving cars. She was smearing blood on mirrors. She was doing things you could never imagine a little child doing.’
In a 2019 episode (pictured) of Dr. Phil, Natalia denied being an adult and her new parents even defended her, stating she was a ‘genuine loving girl’ and not an ‘adult sociopath masquerading as a child’
In a 2019 episode of Dr. Phil, Natalia denied being an adult, breaking down as she insisted she never conned the devastated Indiana family.
She appeared alongside her new parents, Cynthia and Anton Mans, who defended her and stated she was a ‘genuine loving girl’ and not an ‘adult sociopath masquerading as a child.’