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Court docs: Couple had girl’s age changed, abandoned her, fled to Canada

LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A five-year investigation resulted in charges against parents accused of changing their adopted daughter’s age before abandoning her and moving to Canada.

Michael and Kristine Barnett are charged with neglect of a dependent, according to court documents filed in Tippecanoe County.

The girl told police she was originally from Ukraine and came to the U.S. in 2008 via an adoption program. The Barnetts became her adoptive parents in 2010, according to court documents. The girl, who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, lived with the family in Hamilton County for two years.

In July 2013, the Barnetts rented an apartment for her on North 11th Street in Lafayette, left her alone and then moved the rest of the family to Canada, court documents said.

Police interviewed the girl in September 2014. She told them she “had not seen the Barnetts since they moved to Canada.”

The couple also had her presumptive age changed from 8 years old to 22 years old in an Indiana Probate Court, according to court documents, although the process through which the age change was made was unclear.

Kristine Barnett told the girl to tell people she was 22 and simply “looks young” for her age, investigators said. In June 2010, a doctor estimated her age at 8. An evaluation in June 2012 showed the girl was about 11 years old, court documents said.

During an interview in September 2019, Michael Barnett told investigators the family had her age “legally changed” even though they were aware she was a minor. Other than paying for rent at the Lafayette apartment, the couple didn’t support the girl financially, court documents said.

The girl has since moved out of Tippecanoe County, police said. For a time, she was enrolled at a tuition-free high school that provides adults and older youth with the opportunity to earn a Core 40 diploma and college credit, reported WFLI.

Michael Barnett and Kristine Barnett both have Indianapolis addresses, according to court documents.

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