LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — For almost two weeks, News 8 has covered a bizarre neglect case where prosecutors say adoptive parents Michael Barnett, 43, and his ex-wife Kristine, 45, abandoned their adopted foreign-born daughter who has a form of dwarfism in an apartment in Lafayette before moving to Canada.
The Barnetts face criminal charges of neglect.
For the first time, we are hearing from someone who met the daughter after she was left.
Margaret Axsom said it’s been several years but she still remembers her friend suddenly disappearing. Axsom said she never found out where she went.
Axsom still lives next door to the upstairs apartment on 900 block of North 11th Street. Axsom has lived on this street for 23 years.
“She lived in the next house,” Axsom said. “She lived upstairs, right next door.”
Last week, Michael’s attorney Terrance Kinnard disputed the neglect charge on News 8. Kristine has declined to be interviewed but has provided unverified documents supporting her side.
Axsom met the Barnetts’ daughter at the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy, also known as LARA. Axsom said they were students together and were also friends.
As far as her friend’s age, “old enough to go to LARA. She had to be over 18,” Axsom said.
Apparently, LARA wasn’t her only school she attended in Lafayette.
Our news partners at WLFI-TV have reported the Barnetts’ adopted daughter attended the Excel Center, a school which helps adults and older youth. At the time, she was legally at least 23 years old. She was there four days before employees contacted the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office, but the Excel Center would not comment further.
We’ve contacted the property management company that owns the 11th Street apartment. Citing state law, they said they could not release information about previous tenants.
For Axsom, the memories of her friend are still vivid.
She said deputies once knocked on her door asking about the girl but didn’t tell News 8 much more.
As for the accusations and the neglect charges, even if the adopted daughter was an adult, Axsom said, she is glad the parents are in trouble with the law.
“You do not adopt a kid and go to Canada. I think they have to be punished.”
After leaving several messages for Kristine’s attorney last week, News 8 stopped by Rodney Sarkovics’ office in Carmel on Monday, but he refused to meet with us.
Because of the dispute of the adopted daughter’s age, News 8 is not identifying the victim. News 8 has been unable to locate her.