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AG claims there's new evidence in Indiana adoption neglect case, asks Supreme Court to take case

A former Tippecanoe County couple charged with neglect claimed the girl they adopted was actually a young-looking woman. Their charges were later dropped.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Indiana attorney general's office wants the state's highest court to take up a case involving a former couple accused of abandoning their adopted daughter. 

The office is requesting that the Indiana Supreme Court reverse an appeals court decision in Michael and Kristine Barnett's cases and in the petition for this request the office argued it has "ample" evidence that "no court has ever been allowed to see."

The former couple was charged in 2019 with neglect of a dependent for allegedly leaving their daughter, Natalia, in an apartment. They adopted the girl in 2010. 

During an appearance on "Dr. Phil," Natalia claimed she was only 16, and she said her adopted parents abandoned her in Tippecanoe County when she was just 8.

Michael and Kristine said they weren't guilty of child neglect and that Natalia was lying about how old she was. Their attorney argued that the 8-year-old girl they adopted was actually a young-looking adult woman with a form of dwarfism. 

A Tippecanoe Superior Court judge later decided the Barnetts can't face neglect of a dependent charges when a previous judge ruled in favor of changing Natalia's minor age to an adult age based on her birth year, which was determined through a series of tests according to the Barnetts' attorney.

"Through a series of scientific and medical tests, it was determined that this person was not a minor child at 6 years of age but may have been as old as 20 to 22 years of age," the attorney said in a 2019 interview.

The attorney general's office wants the state's high court to reverse this decision.

In a statement to 13News, the attorney general's office claimed the Barnetts mislead the court "in a scheme to abuse and neglect" Natalia and that because the court was misled, the Barnetts' case should be reviewed by the Supreme Court. 

The attorney general's office also said new evidence has surfaced to support its claims. 

"No court has ever been allowed to see the ample evidence that the State now has to show that the Barnett’s mislead the 2012 judge and fabricated their claim that an 8-year-old who still had baby teeth and the physical development of a young to pre-teen girl was somehow a 22-year-old girl who was fooling everybody about her actual age. Not allowing this case to proceed to trial would be a travesty of justice to this girl and the people of Indiana," the statement said. 

It's unclear at this point if the high court will take up the case. The attorney general's office said the Indiana Supreme Court could indicate if it's taking on the case in 2-3 months, but there's no way to be sure of that timeline. 

"This case is highly unusual in facts and law, which makes it difficult to make predictions upon. The decision is entirely discretionary on the Court’s part. However, we are confident that this case is appropriate for the Court’s review and is hopeful that it will be granted," the statement said. 

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