Tippecanoe County mother, father surrender in adoption age battle

Adoptive parents Michael and Kristine Barnett were both booked and bailed out of the Tippecanoe County Jail. (Photo: Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department)

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WTHR) — A father who adopted a little girl about 10 years ago is in hot water with investigators.

Michael Barnett spent about an hour behind bars for the first time after surrendering himself to Tippecanoe County Sheriff Bob Goldsmith.

High-profile Indianapolis attorney Terrance Kinnard represents Barnett. He referred to the case having twists and turns as an understatement.

Especially since his client took in a girl to raise with his own children.

"He is simply one of the better souls in our community," Kinnard said.

In 2010, Barnett and his now ex-wife adopted an 8-year-old girl. Barnett’s attorney argues that all along the little girl was actually a young looking adult woman.

"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," Kinnard said.

In court documents obtained by Eyewitness News, the daughter, named Natalia, told detectives she's originally from Ukraine and has a form of dwarfism.

She reported two years after the adoption that the Barnetts rented her an apartment on North 11th Street in Lafayette before the entire family relocated to Canada.

Kinnard insists his client did so believing their adoption was a scam all along. But in the best interest of Natalia, the Barnetts didn't just leave her helpless. They paid a full year's rent for an apartment in Lafayette that was in walking distance of a grocery store, hospital and a park. During that time, Kinnard shared with Eyewitness News that he discovered on two different occasions there were legal rulings that determined that Natalia was indeed an adult woman.

"Two Indiana superior court judges ruled that this person was not a minor but, in fact, an adult," Kinnard said.

The attorney is still doing a lot of research and discovery in the case. On Wednesday, he had only had Barnett as a client for about 24 hours. He believes as the case progresses, a lot more details will help uncover his clients did nothing wrong and even went beyond the call of duty after being allegedly scammed in the adoption process.

In another ironic twist in the case, current Tippecanoe County Sheriff Bob Goldsmith was the lead detective on the Barnett adoption case.

According to court records, he believes Natalia was only 8 years old based on medical opinions from doctors at multiple hospitals in central Indiana, including Riley Hospital for Children. Goldsmith could not comment on the case Wednesday afternoon as Barnett was processed in and out of the jail. A bondsman posted bail within a half-hour of his initial arrest on the warrant.

After spending an hour in the Tippecanoe County Jail, Barnett walked out. He and his attorney will return to the Tippecanoe County Courthouse for a hearing and court dates to fight two counts of felony neglect of a dependent.

Adoptive mother and ex-wife Kristine Barnett was booked into the Tippecanoe County Jail at 6:22 a.m. Thursday morning. A bondsman posted a $500 cash bail for her release at 7:46 a.m.

Initial hearings for both Michael and Kristine are set for Friday, Sept. 27 at 8:30 a.m.

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