CBS-affiliate WLFI reported Michael and Kristine Barnett were both charged with child neglect after the two were accused of adopting a Ukranian girl with dwarfism and legally changing her age from 8 to 22-years old.
Officials said the Barnetts left the girl in an apartment on her own. The rest of the family then reportedly left for Canada. The mother’s friend said none of the accusations are true, according to WLFI.
The friend, who chose to stay anonymous, told WLFI reporters the adopted girl had dwarfism and severe mental health issues when she was adopted in 2010.
The friend said the girl attacked the family and caused a “traumatic adoption experience.” The family reportedly had suspicions the girl was older than they were told.
The adopted girl’s birth records from Ukraine were “grossly incomplete,” according to two doctors’ from the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
“The birth certificate that was given to the Barnetts showed a date of birth of 9/4/3. This date is clearly inaccurate,” the report said.
The same report cites dental records that indicate the girl had characteristics of a full-grown adult.
The family friend said the court accepted documentation from the doctors saying the girl was actually an adult. Officials said the documents are unverified.
The family went through two trials, several years ago to re-age the girl. The girl’s age was finally changed legally and the friend said the family helped her get housing in order to live on her own under the care of doctors.
According to court documents, prosecutors determined the Barnetts abandoned the girl in 2013. Documents also cited the two doctors who said the girl was around 8-years-old in 2010 and 11-years-old in 2012.
“The media reports sound like she left this small child in an apartment for years,” the friend told WLFI. “Her side of the story is that ‘no, that did not happen.’ They went through all the legal trials. One initial and one to re-age, where it was upheld by the court with doctor testimony. That’s why she’s confused.”
The friend claimed the girl was given a Supplemental Security Income after she was re-aged. In order to receive SSI, you must be over 18 years of age.
The girl was reportedly evicted from her apartment in 2014, according to court documents. A neighbor and friend of the girl, Margaret Axson, told reporters she attended classes with her at the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy.
“She had to be 18,” Axson said in reference to the girl attending an adult resource academy.
The girl also reportedly attended the Excel Center, but an employee told WLFI the girl only attended classes for four days before other employees contacted the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said the girl told them the Barnett family abandoned her in 2014. School officials chose not to comment on the incident.
According to court documents, the girl reportedly left Tippecanoe County in 2016.
The family friend of Kristine said Kristine drove across the country to turn herself in after the warrant was issued.
The Barnetts entered an automatic not guilty plea in the Tippecanoe Magistrate Court. The attorney for Michael Barnett told WLFI they were shocked when the charges were filed.
“They are still bewildered as to why they are even placed in this position,” Kinnard said. “We simply don’t know, and again that’s why we are putting the ball back in the court of the prosecutor asking for a more definitive declaration of what these charges are.”
A judge set a confidential hearing on Oct. 15 to determine if the girl’s mental health records, that are protected by the state, can be released.
A pre-trial conference was set for both Michael and Kristine Barnett on Dec. 27 in Tippecanoe Superior Court II. A jury trial has been set for Jan. 28.
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