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Dad of adopted 'child' recalls signs he knew she was actually a 22-year-old woman

Jess Hardiman

Published 
| Last updated 

The father of an adopted 'child' who actually turned out to be a 22-year-old woman has shared the telltale signs he and his wife spotted after they welcomed her into their family.

When Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted Ukrainian Natalia Grace in 2010, they believed she was a six-year-old child with a rare bone growth disorder.

However, it was later revealed that Natalia was not who she said she was - far from it.

Over time, it emerged that she actually has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, and was not a child at all, with a judge determining she was an adult woman aged 22.

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Natalia Grace. Credit: Investigation Discovery
Natalia Grace. Credit: Investigation Discovery

The story has been turned into six-part documentary, The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, which explores the Barnetts’ accusations of Natalia being a fraudulent 'adult sociopath masquerading as a child'.

In episode one, Michael - who also has biological children of his own - recalls how the first warning sign came when they went to give Natalia her first bath after picking her up.

He says: “We get to the hotel that night, and Kristine’s going to give our brand new daughter a bath, and I hear a shout from the bathroom.

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“This was a, ‘I’m not playing around, come here right now, Michael’ shout.

Natalia's adoptive dad Michael Barnett. Credit: Investigation Discovery
Natalia's adoptive dad Michael Barnett. Credit: Investigation Discovery

“I get up and go flying to the bathroom, and the colour’s almost gone from her face. It’s almost like she’s seen a ghost. She’s truly frightened and she just doesn’t know what she’s seeing or what’s going on.

“She says, 'Michael, look. Look down'.

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“And Natalia had full pubic hair. And I don’t know what you think. Is that possible? Is that even possible? Who the f**k is this person?”

While Michael claims he and wife Kristine vowed to show ‘love and compassion’ to Natalia even after the shocking discovery, he admits there was ‘a lot of escalation going on in the first few months’ - including another moment when more alarm bells started ringing.

He continues: “There was a day where I came home from work, Kristine’s got a pair of Natalia’s underwear.

“Kristine asked Natalia to tell me what’s going on.”

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In a home video, we see Kristine asking Natalia to explain to her father ‘what happened’, as Michael says: “I can remember her physical-ness at the time, her hands were just out in front of her like this, and she’s like, 'Well, I have a period, and I’ve been hiding it'.

“And I just don’t know what’s going on right now.”

In a home video, Natalia admitted she'd started her period. Credit: Investigation Discovery
In a home video, Natalia admitted she'd started her period. Credit: Investigation Discovery

A stunned Michael can then be heard saying it’s simply 'not possible'.

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We also hear from an unnamed family friend, who says Kristine had found some socks that had been thrown out of the window after Natalia used them in her underwear.

“Kris was just mortified,” they say.

“She said, 'This isn’t normal. What have I got myself into?'

“And I said, 'You need to start finding out how old she is'.”

Later in the documentary, we find out that Natalia was re-aged by a judge in 2012 after the Barnetts filed a motion in Marion County Court to ‘have her age corrected to something more appropriate’.

Legal expert Beth Karas explains: “The judge had a petition prepared by an attorney that would lay out the arguments for why this person is not the age they believe she is - she is actually an adult.

Natalia was re-aged in 2012. Credit: Investigation Discovery
Natalia was re-aged in 2012. Credit: Investigation Discovery

“Nobody knows quite what age, but she has not grown in four years, so the judge came up with his own little formula: 'Well, you stop growing at 18 - if she hasn’t grown in four years then she’s at least 18 when she entered their lives. And I’m gonna add four years'.

“He said, 'Okay, I find you 22'.”

Natalia was given a new birth certificate with a new date of birth of 4 September, 1989.

Michael adds: “At the time that she was re-aged, I knew she was an adult.

“Did I know it was 18, 22, 35, 150? No.”

The Curious Case of Natalia Grace will air for three consecutive nights on Investigation Discovery, starting on 29 May.

Topics: Documentaries, TV And Film, Natalia Grace

Jess Hardiman
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