Parents accused of leaving adopted daughter, moving to Canada appear in court

Crime Watch 8

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Indianapolis parents accused of leaving their adopted daughter alone in an apartment and moving to Canada appeared in court for the first time Friday.

The defense attorney representing Michael Barnett requested that the prosecution be much more specific about how Tippecanoe County authorities allege Michael and his ex-wife, Kristine Barnett, neglected a dependent.

News 8 helped break the story on Sept. 12, and it’s now making headlines around the world.

Previous coverage

Court documents allege Michael and Kristine Barnett left their adopted daughter in Lafayette in 2013.

The Barnetts say they’re the victims of a scam because the girl they adopted was actually an adult with a form of dwarfism that could mask her age.

(News 8 is not identifying the victim in the case because she may be a juvenile. Attempts to find the victim have been unsuccessful.)

In 2012, a judge in Marion County agreed with medical documentation in an emergency petition filed by the Barnetts and changed her legal age from 8 to 22. The girl was born in the Ukraine, court documents said.

In an interview with the Daily Mail this week, Kristine said their daughter is a sociopath who threatened to stab family members and poured chemicals into her coffee to try to poison her.

Pleas of not guilty were automatically entered for both Barnetts by Magistrate Daniel Moore.

Cameras were not allowed inside the courtroom, and the Barnetts had nothing to say to the News 8 camera outside the court.

Friday morning served as their initial court appearance, where the magistrate read them their rights and advised they face up to six years in prison for the charges of neglect of a dependent.

Michael walking out arm in arm with his current wife and next to his attorney, Terrance Kinnard.

“Our position is that our clients are, in fact, innocent,” said Kinnard.

Under Indiana law, the neglect of a dependent charge can refer to a child who is under 18 years old or someone who has a mental or physical disability. Kinnard asked prosecutors to specify the declaration of dependency of the Barnetts’ daughter, because, in this case, either could apply.

In either situation, Kinnard thinks his client has a strong defense.

“We are at a loss because we don’t believe either of those things truly exists from a legal standpoint,” Kinnard said.

“We certainly want to know exactly what it is my clients allegedly did so that they can defend themselves,” Kinnard said.

Kristine was accompanied by her uncle. The new attorney she appointed Thursday had a case already scheduled and couldn’t make it.

Meanwhile, the case is still top of mind for neighbors along North 11th Street. The Barnetts left their daughter at this apartment in 2013, paying her rent ahead of time. It’s been years since she lived there. According to the mailbox her apartment is currently empty, but some neighbors like Margaret Axsom still remember.

Axsom lived next door to the victim and was her friend.

“She’s a very nice lady and tried to learn,” Axsom said.

Axsom met the Barnetts’ daughter when they took classes together at the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy. She said they’d walk the few blocks together but doesn’t believe her friend was capable of living by herself because of her size.

On Friday, Axsom said she was glad the Barnetts were being held accountable.

“I think they should be sorry for what they did,” Axsom said.

She also had a message for her long lost neighbor: “I miss you and I become your friend. I think you’re a very nice lady.”

But the Barnetts have a different view.

Back on Sept. 12, Kristine said it was News 8 who informed her she was facing criminal charges.

“To say they were shocked would be an understatement,” Kinnard said. “They are still bewildered as to why they are even placed in this position.”

Both Barnetts are under a “no contact” order with their adoptive daughter. But as this case continues, they will be able to ask her questions through the legal process in a deposition.

Kinnard said it’s been years since the Barnetts have had physical interaction with her, but they wish her well.

“My client’s feelings toward this particular individual have never wavered. They still hold her dear in their hearts,” Kinnard said. “They still believe she is a person that deserves love and support. They have never deprived her of that.”

News 8 also spoke on the phone with Kristine’s attorney, Philip Hayes. He told us once Kristine’s story is told, everybody will be clear with what happened.

Kinnard said his request to get more specific charging information will be filed with the court by the end of the day Monday.

As long as the Barnetts meet the terms of their bond, which includes no drug or alcohol use, they are allowed to leave the state.

They are due back in court Dec. 27, with a trial tentatively scheduled for Jan. 28.

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