10 Revelations From ‘The Curious Case Of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks’
For the first time, Natalia Grace Barnett reveals shocking details about her life and confronts her adoptive father in person.
In 2010, Indiana couple Michael and Kristine Barnett welcomed into their family Natalia Grace, who they believed was a 6-year-old from Ukraine but later claimed in court was actually an adult woman.
Now, almost 15 years later, the Barnetts are divorced. But while their marriage is over, questions still linger about their adopted daughter — including whether she was a potentially dangerous mastermind or, as Michael now claims, a victim of his “controlling, lying, manipulating” ex-wife, Kristine.
Natalia has come forward to tell her side of the story for the first time in The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks. Ahead are just some of the many explosive revelations uncovered in the new ID docuseries.
Natalia believes what happened to her was the stuff of movies.
“It was all copied off the movie Orphan,” Natalia claims. “Ukrainian girl, Russian girl, check. Orphan. Check. All this crazy stuff. Standing at the end of the bed with a knife. Check. That’s why I want to do this, that’s why I want to tell people what really happened, because I didn’t get that chance.”
Natalia has found a loving new home where she’s accepted and feels loved.
Natalia has been living with her new guardians, Bishop Antwon and Cynthia Mans, for over a decade now. “My mom gives me hugs every day and tells me how much she loves me,” Natalia says. “Never once have they had to worry about me hurting their kids.”
Cynthia calls Natalia a “light” who “has brought so much joy” to her family. Cynthia claims, however, that Natalia was “broken” by what adoptive parents Michael and Kristine allegedly did to the orphan before she came into the Mans’ lives.
Natalia claims she was taught to tell people she was 22 years old.
In a March 2023 court deposition, Michael alleged Natalia had been telling him and Kristine, therapists, doctors and other authority figures that “she was a grown-up.”
While Natalie now admits it’s true, she claims that her adoptive mother, Kristine, “literally trained me to lie.” She continues, “That’s what makes it worse, the fact that it had to come from me, and they could use that against me, like, ‘Oh but you said it. You said that you [were] 22 years old.’”
“And then they changed my age,” Natalia notes of the couple going to court to get her age officially amended. “That whole thing was just a big chain reaction from one lie.”
Reports show the Barnetts were made aware of Natalia’s age from early on in the adoption process.
Indiana State Police Det. Brandon Davenport began looking into Natalia’s case in 2019. During the investigation, according to legal documents, Davenport learned Dr. Andrew Riggs, an endocrinologist, examined Natalia on June 3, 2010 — five weeks after Natalia went to live with the Barnetts — and estimated that she was “between 9 and 11 years.”
Medical staff at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis told the detective that the Barnetts were informed of Natalia’s age, contradicting Michael’s later denial that he and his wife knew the girl’s young age from the start.
Natalia was losing teeth, which indicated she could not be an adult as the Barnetts claimed in court when they legally had her re-aged in 2012.
Photos taken of Natalia shortly before she was adopted by the Barnetts appear to show she had lost baby teeth, indicating she was a child, as Dr. Riggs believed. Natalia says she also lost a tooth while living with the Barnetts, but that Kristine insisted she had pulled it out herself.
Dr. Timothy Gossweiler, a dentist who treated Natalia in 2011 and examined her at Kristine’s request, says that it was “very simple” to determine Natalia’s age. According to Gossweiler’s records, Natalia had 12 baby teeth remaining at the time, which would have put her at between 6 and 9 years old. “This is way too many baby teeth to be an adult,” he notes of the “indisputable” findings based on x-rays.
Recent medical tests conducted on Natalia also appear to determine her true age once and for all.
In August 2023, Dr. Halland Chen, an age specialist at TruDiagnostic in Lexington, Kentucky, conducted blood and DNA tests on Natalia. According to Dr. Chen, the results showed she was close to 22 years in age, or around two years older than she believed she could be. The result, Natalia said at the time, “throws every single lie that the Barnetts have said right into the trash with a match.”
“This is so big because literally this has been 13 years, 13 years of just two people lying their butts off,” Natalia says. “They ruined a kid’s life. They painted [me] as some big monster, when in reality they were the ones.”
If true, says Jackie Starbuck, former Tippecanoe County deputy prosecutor, the Barnetts petitioned to have Natalia’s age changed when she was around 8 and placed her in an apartment to live alone in Westfield, Indiana, in 2013, when she would have been just months shy of age 10. “What that means is Natalia was a child living on her own,” Starbuck says.
Prosecutors and a legal expert claim Natalia was adopted so Kristine Barnett allegedly could profit off her.
According to Starbuck, Michael alleged that Kristine thought she had turned their eldest son, Jacob, into a genius and they adopted Natalia, a special needs child, so she could show she could do it again.
Legal expert Beth Karas points out the Barnetts adopted Natalia in 2010. Among other business ventures that followed, Kristine signed a book deal for a reported $600,000 in 2011 and The Spark was published in 2013.
Karas claims Kristine had big plans for Natalia and wanted her to be the next “spark” to make her money. But Starbuck, the former prosecutor, notes that when Natalia didn’t turn out to be a genius like Kristine’s son, Natalia allegedly no longer fit into the mother’s narrative.
Starbuck says all mentions of Natalia and her adoption were removed from the published version of The Spark and the book does not mention her in “any way shape or form.”
“Kristine said that adopting me was this mission of love,” Natalia says, “and never once did I see any love. I feel like it was a mission of boosting her ego type of thing. I feel like she just wanted people to be like, ‘Oh my goodness, she’s this amazing person.’”
Natalia’s medical issues could have been the cause of deeper issues for her adoptive parents, experts claim.
Karas alleges Natalia’s many medical expenses to treat her skeletal dysplasia may have been an issue for Kristine after she failed at making Natalia into the next moneymaking genius in the family. “You have this person who is extremely fragile,” retired FBI agent Veronica Maxwell says of Natalia. “It’s so complicated; it involves travel from other countries; it involves numerous adults. It sounds like there may have been a point when the Barnetts realize that Natalia was starting to be a burden.”
Was Kristine Barnett really trying to erase Natalia from her family to protect her reputation?
Natalia says she believes the Barnetts initially did want to raise her but then had second thoughts once they saw the extent of her disabilities. “But the thing is though, if you felt like you can’t, why didn’t you send me back, or maybe even try to find somebody that did want me?” she asks, alleging her adoptive parents were more concerned with keeping “a good reputation.” Kristine, she adds, “did try to hide me from the world” and “just flat out hated me.”
Legal expert Karas says Natalia appears to have become “the invisible daughter” and suggests it seems as if her adoptive mother was “trying to erase her from the family.”
Michael Barnett now claims both he and Natalia both were “incredible victims of an otherworldly abuse.”
In April 2023, Natalia met with her adoptive father Michael in person following years of estrangement. During their tense meeting, Michael claimed he and Natalia survived “the same monster, Kristine.”
“We are here because we both were incredible victims of an otherworldly type of abuse,” he alleged.
When Natalia asked how Michael was a victim, he claimed that he was “exceptionally controlled, and put down and threatened.”
According to Michael, he was “guided and instructed to be exactly what [Kristine] wanted me to be,” and if he didn’t listen, his boys would have been taken away from him.
Michael also claimed he tried to leave his wife “no less than 10 times” during their marriage and “ended up in the hospital regularly over it.”
For more revelations and to watch the full story, stream The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks on Max.
Michael and Kristine Barnett claim their adopted daughter who had severe dwarfism was actually an adult — and not a little girl, like birth records showed.