The plot of the horror movie Orphan—in which a couple unsuspectingly adopts an adult posing as a child—is pretty scary to watch onscreen. It would also be scary to live out IRL, which never seemed like a remote possibility until *voilà* it was.
There's a parenting author named Kristine Barnett who adopted a girl with a rare form of dwarfism from Ukraine in 2010, only to abandon her a few years later. But Kristine told WISH-TV she and her ex-husband, Michael, left the girl because she's actually an adult posing as a child. Let that sink in for a second.
It's a truly bizarre story, but it's not one police believe. Last week, criminal charges were filed against Kristine and Michael (who disputes Kristine's story) for abandoning their daughter. Here's a breakdown of everything we know.
Michael and Kristine adopted the girl in 2010
The girl—whose name is Natalia, according to Daily Mail—was born in Ukraine. Authorities say Natalia has a "rare bone growth disorder" resulting in dwarfism. She was adopted by the Barnett family in 2010 when she was eight years old, and she lived with them for the next three years.
During these years, the family received nationwide attention over one of the Barnetts' other children, Jake, who is a "boy genius" diagnosed with autism. He was profiled by news outlets, which led Natalia to appear onscreen next to Kristine. You can see Natalia and Kristine sitting with each other in the video below at the 1:37 mark:
Michael and Kristine don't deny that they left Natalia behind
After a few years, Michael and Kristine moved the family to Canada in the summer of 2013, allegedly so Jake could take classes at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. They did not bring their daughter with them, instead leaving her behind in a rented apartment.
This is where the story gets even weirder. Kristine and Michael changed Natalia's legal age from 11 to 22 years old in an Indiana probate court and then rented her an apartment, which they allegedly paid for. (Michael told detectives Kristine paid the rent, but they did not help with any other finances.) They then moved to Canada with their sons, leaving Natalia in Lafayette, Indiana.
But Kristine claims they abandoned her because she's an adult
The author told WISH-TV that the whole adoption was an outright "scam" because she and Michael adopted an adult who is a diagnosed psychopath and sociopath.
Kristine gave the station copies of a letter allegedly from a doctor, which says the date on Natalia's birth certificate is "clearly inaccurate" and she already had adult teeth and the "secondary sex characteristics" of a grownup.
We don't have proof of how legit that letter is, but it also alleges that Natalia admitted she was over 18 after she was committed to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with sociopathic personality disorder in 2012. The letter also claims Natalia "made a career of perpetuating her age facade."
After criminal charges were leveled at Kristine and Michael on September 11, Daily Mail interviewed Kristine, and she alleged that Natalia tried to kill her at one point.
"She would make statements and draw pictures saying she wanted to kill family members, roll them up in a blanket and put them in the backyard," Kristine said.
"She was standing over people in the middle of the night. You couldn't go to sleep. We had to hide all the sharp objects. I saw her putting chemicals, bleach, Windex something like that, in my coffee and I asked her, what are you doing? She said, 'I am trying to poison you.' The media is painting me to be a child abuser but there is no child here," Kristine said.
"Natalia was a woman. She had periods. She had adult teeth. She never grew a single inch, which would happen even with a child with dwarfism. The doctors all confirmed she was suffering a severe psychological illness only diagnosed in adults. She was jumping out of moving cars. She was smearing blood on mirrors. She was doing things you could never imagine a little child doing."
"I was giving her a bath and I noticed that she had full pubic hair," Kristine alleged. "I was so shocked. I had just been told she was a six-year-old and it was very apparent she wasn't."
Michael tells a different story
According to the Washington Post, when police interviewed Michael, he gave a different account of what happened. He says Natalia really was a minor when they left her in Indiana and Kristine coached her to tell people she was really 22 if they asked.
Natalia was allegedly evicted from the apartment in May 2014
Court documents obtained by WISH-TV say Natalia was eventually evicted for not paying rent, and court officials had some trouble tracking her down. During this year, Kristine and Michael also filed for divorce.
What happened next is even more confusing
Here's what went down next, according to the Washington Post: In September 2014, a school principal raised concerns about Natalia, since the age on her medical records (12 to 13) didn't match her legal age (in her mid-20s), but we don't know what came of that inquiry.
Court docs say another couple petitioned to be Natalia's guardians in 2016, but the Barnetts filed an objection. The new couple eventually dropped the guardianship petition.
Now, five years after they allegedly abandoned their daughter, charges were filed against Michael and Kristine on September 11. Kristine reportedly surrendered to authorities on September 19 and was released after posting a $5,500 (P287,377.75) bond. Michael reportedly surrendered on September 18 and was released after posting $5,000 (P261,252.50) bail.
We'll keep you posted once we have more information on how this unfolds. Something tells us you'll want to know.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.