Couple who abandoned daughter with dwarfism had gained fame for raising child prodigy

A couple accused of adopting a girl with dwarfism before abandoning her and moving overseas also gained fame for raising a child prodigy.

Kristine Elizabeth Barnett, 45, and Michael Barnett, 43, are accused of moving to Canada in 2013 leaving behind an 11-year-old girl in the US with no financial support.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the couple adopted the girl in 2010 and a doctor who examined her that year determined she was about eight years old.

The Barnetts have since divorced.

Michael Barnett and Kristine Barnett speak on 60 Minutes about their son Jake studying physics in 2012. Source: 60 Minutes

In 2012, the Barnetts appeared on 60 Minutes for a story about their then 13-year-old son Jake who has Asperger’s syndrome.

The segment looked at how Jake, with the help of his parents, was studying physics at Purdue University Indianapolis despite once being told he may never be able to read.

It appeared to show the then-couple’s adopted daughter sitting at the dinner table with them.

Ms Barnett also published a book around the same time the segment aired titled: “The Spark: A mother’s story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism”.

Her book looks at how Jake developed physics theories before he was 10 and how his parents raised him.

It's believed the adopted daughter is pictured here sitting next to Kristine Barnett. Source: 60 Minutes

The girl, who the Barnetts are accused of abandoning, told a detective with the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department in September 2014 that she had come to the US “through an adoption” in 2008 from her native Ukraine and that the Barnetts adopted her two years later.

When a detective spoke to Michael Barnett earlier this month, he said he and his wife had the girl’s age legally changed to 22 in June of 2012 and that his wife told her to tell anyone who asked that she “looks young but was actually 22.”

Ms Barnett denied the accusations to News 8 and claims the adoption was a scam.

“I am sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges and maintain that they are false charges,” she wrote on Facebook.

Ms Barnett has denied the accusations against her and her ex-husband. Source: Facebook/ Kristine Barnett

She also alleges the girl they adopted is actually an adult.

The mum gave News 8 a letter she claims was provided by her ex-husband’s doctor at Indiana University.

The letter claims the girl’s an adult with signs of her age evident from her teeth, sexual development and menstrual cycle. It also claims the girl has sociopathic personality disorder.

Mr Barnett told a detective that he and his wife rented an apartment in Lafayette, Indiana, in July 2013 and, despite knowing that the child knew no one in that city, they left her there and moved to Canada, investigators wrote in the affidavit.

He said that other than paying the apartment’s rent, they provided the girl with no financial support.

With The Associated Press

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