Her history is filled with trauma and betrayal. In 2010, Natalia Grace — who was born in Ukraine with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, a form of dwarfism — was adopted by Americans Kristine and Michael Barnett, who were told she was a 6-year-old orphan. Within months, however, the couple began to suspect their little girl, whom both have called “a sociopath,” was actually a young woman who’d been manipulating their family. In 2012, the Barnetts got a judge to change her birth year from 2003 to 1989 — legally making her a 22-year-old adult — then moved to Canada with their three biological sons, leaving Natalia behind in an Indiana apartment to fend for herself.
The wild story first made headlines in 2019 when the Barnetts, who’ve since divorced, were arrested for neglect of a dependent. Michael was found not guilty in a 2022 trial, and in 2023, charges against Kristine were dropped. Yet questions remained. In recent months, Natalia, who was taken in by another couple, Antwon and Cynthia Mans, has opened up about what she says really happened, finally telling “my side of the story,” she explains in the 2024 Investigation Discovery docuseries The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, which debuted on January 1 and has offered some vindication: DNA testing done in August puts her biological age at about 22, suggesting she was indeed a child when the Barnetts adopted then abandoned her. “This one little piece of paper throws every single lie that the Barnetts said right into the trash with a match,” Natalia says. “They ruined a kid’s life. They painted me as some big monster when, in reality, they were the ones.”
The Plot Thickens
But according to the Barnetts, Natalia’s behavior was terrifying. Doctors, Michael has said, warned their family they were “all in danger.” The former couple claim she threatened them with knives, placed thumbtacks upside down on the stairs, and attempted to poison Kristine with Pine-Sol cleaner and drag her into an electric fence. Natalia has denied their allegations, claiming the Barnetts were abusive. “Kristine beat me. Michael watched,” she said. (Michael, who appeared in the docuseries, places much of the blame on ex-wife Kristine, who he says manipulated and mistreated him, too. In a January 4 Facebook post, Kristine called Natalia’s claims “just plain false.”)
Now more drama has emerged. In a shocking twist, the Mans family, who legally adopted Natalia in June after nearly a decade of guiding and defending her, disavowed her mere days before the new docuseries aired. “Something ain’t right with Natalia. I feel like she’s the enemy in the house,” Antwon said in December 2023. “We’re done with her.”
Natalia has yet to address what happened, though on January 7 she launched a GoFundMe confirming she was no longer living with the Manses. “I’m saving money to get my own house,” she revealed, explaining that she wants to start a photography business and create “a fresh start” so she “get past everything that happened in my life.”