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The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Natalia Grace Story

A complex tale of deception, lies, and the search for truth

Natalia Grace is a name that has continuously made headlines over the past several years due to the mystery surrounding her age. An orphan from Ukraine, Natalia Grace was adopted in 2010 by an Indiana couple, Michael and Kristine Barnett. 

At the time of her adoption, the Barnetts believed that Natalia was six years old. “But soon,” People Magazine details, “they became suspicious of her age, leading to a bombshell claim: that Natalia, who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, was merely posing as a child,and was really an adult woman with sinister intention.”

Over the next two years, Michael and Kristine began to see Natalia as a “sociopath” and “con-artist,” going so far as to accuse her of harming the Barnett’s biological children and poisoning Kristine. According to People, the Barnetts also claimed that “Natalia placed clear thumb tacks on the stairs face up so that they would step on them.”

In 2012, the Barnetts “petitioned Marion County Probate Court to have her age legally changed to 22, changing her birth year from 2003 to 1989,” People Magazine reported, “but the Barnetts believed she may have been as old as 33.” 

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The following year, Michaela and Kristine moved to Canada with their three sons, leaving Natalia behind in an apartment. 

Natalia’s story first caught public attention when “in 2019,” People writes, “Indiana prosecutors leveled charges against the Barnetts for neglecting a dependent.” Michael and Kristine could not, however, be charged with child negligence, as Natalia was legally an adult. After these allegations were made, the Barnetts spoke publicly, working to turn the odds in their favor. 

“It’s obvious her records were falsified. This is an adult masquerading as a child,” Micheal said in a Nov. 2019 appearance on Dr. Oz’s true crime show, as cited by People. “We took her to the stress center to have her evaluated that she is having thoughts of harming others and she is stating out loud that she is attempting to kill Kristine.”

Throughout all this chaos though, Natalia did find a shoulder to lean on. The Ukrainian-born American met Antwon and Cynthia Mans shortly after the Barnetts moved her into her apartment in Lafayette, Indiana. “In 2016,” People Magazine remarks, “the Mans petitioned to become Natalia’s legal guardians; however, a hearing was required to determine whether Natalia was a minor or a legal adult.” 

Due to Natalia’s legal birth certificate, the Mans were denied guardianship, but she continued to live with the family, who were eventually able to officially adopt her in the summer of 2023. 

As for Kristine and Michael, Business Insider claims that “Per court documents accessed by USA Today, Kristine said Michael moved back to Indiana after an unspecified ‘incident impacting the children’ in fall 2013 before filing for divorce from her in February 2014. Their divorce was finalized four years later.”

Their divorce came long before Michael’s Oct. 2022 trial, where he faced three counts of neglect and conspiracy to commit neglect of a dependent. Natalia was present at Michael’s trial, where she testified on the stand that she wanted to be with the Barnetts. “I wanted to live with them,” People recounted her desire. 

In the end, Michael was found not guilty on any of the charges and “in March 2023,” People states, “charges against Kristine were dropped.”

Just as the Barnetts faithfully believe that Natalia was a con-artist, Natalia has stood firm in her innocence, refuting “Michael and Kristine’s claims that she lied about her age and was trying to harm them and their children,” People reports. 

In Aug. 2023, Natalia Grace was finally proved right, when, as written by People, “A blood test conducted by the medical lab TruDiagnostic revealed that Natalia is approximately 22 years old.” This ultimately proved that Natalia, who believed she was 20 at the time of the results, was indeed a child when she was adopted in 2010.

“This one little piece of paper throws every single lie that the Barnetts has said right into the trash with a match,” People noted Natalia said in a Jan. 2024 episode of “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks,” adding, “It just proves that I was not lying about my age.”

An ID docuseries, “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks,” is described by USA Today as “an original, bizarre family saga about a 6-year-old Ukrainian orphan with spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia adopted into what appeared to be a normal family.” The documentary has two seasons, the first of which aired in May 2023 and the second season debuting at the beginning of 2024. 

While it initially appeared that the second season of “Natalia Speaks” would be the last, a shocking twist in events gave there reason to believe that a third may soon be in production. 

“The President of ID, Jason Sarlanis,” People details, “says that the network was ‘thoroughly shocked’ when Antwon and Cynthia Mans, the couple that took Natalia in more than a decade ago and legally adopted her in 2023, revealed that their relationship with her has deteriorated.” 

“Something ain’t right with Natalia. This girl is tweaking,” a voiceover of Antwon says in the final minutes of the season two finale. “I feel like she’s the enemy in the house. And she said to us we have held her hostage. Made us look like we’re the enemy.” At the end of the call, Antwon appears to say, “We’re done. We’re done with her.”

While the finale was already completed at the time of the phone call, Sarlanis was adamant that the conversation be added to the episode. Though it seemed that Natalia Grace had finally found peace, this new development has certainly thrown her another curveball. 

Natalia released a statement on her Instagram page concerning the Mans’ phone call, which reads, “I am okay and doing well and thank you all for your support and prayers. I wish I could tell you more abt the show but I signed an agreement with the show to keep things confidential for now. I will let you guys know when I can for sure, but just know I am okay. Love y’all.”

Natalia has also started a GoFundMe under the name Natalyah Mans. With a goal of $20,000, the description announces that Natlia has recently moved out and is hoping to be able to have enough money to make a deposit on her own place. She also mentions the possibility of having to pay for some major surgeries, due to her form of dwarfism.

“To all who have stuck by me through all of this,” Natalia states at the end of her GoFundMe page, “I cannot thank you enough! I love y’all.”

For more information on her GoFundMe, it can be reached by going to https://www.gofundme.com/f/y24hqb-new-beginnings.

For more information regarding Natalia Grace, go to www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/2024/01/03/natalia-grace-curious-case-docuseries/72097714007/, www.cnn.com/2024/01/02/entertainment/natalia-grace-explainer/index.html,/www.businessinsider.com/natalia-grace-parents-where-are-michael-kristine-barnett-now-2024-1, or people.com/crime/natalia-grace-id-documentary-child-or-sociopath/.



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Lainey Vollmer, Staff Writer

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