New evidence raises more questions in bizarre child neglect case

Local

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — An exclusive News 8 investigation reveals new details in a bizarre case of child neglect allegations.

As we reported Thursday night, parents from Indianapolis are accused of abandoning their adopted daughter in 2013 in a Lafayette apartment, then moving to Canada.

According to court documents in Tippecanoe County, Michael Barnett, 43, and his now ex-wife Kristine Barnett, 45, face a pair of felony charges for neglect of a dependent.

Kristine Barnett has repeatedly told News 8 she’s innocent, the adoption was a “scam” and the girl is actually an adult. But the girl’s mother refuses to sit down for an interview.

But that wasn’t the case seven years ago, when the Barnetts sat down with the national news program “60 Minutes” for a piece about their son Jake, a child prodigy. It was two years after the girl was adopted by the family and 18 months before she was left in Lafayette all alone.

The video airing on Jan. 17, 2012, told the story of 13-year-old Jake, a star student at IUPUI, the youngest to ever be published in a prestigious physics journal.

His parents, Michael and Kristine Barnett, were also interviewed.

The “60 Minutes” appears to show the couple’s adopted daughter making an appearance at the dinner table sitting next to Kristine.

Jake’s IUPUI professor tells News 8 he remembers meeting the girl at an event where families were invited.

News 8 reached out to Jake, who wouldn’t say much, only confirming the girl was around during his childhood until 2013.

That’s the same year Kristine wrote a book called, “The Spark: A mother’s story of Nurturing, Genius, and Autism,” and the same year Tippecanoe County prosecutors believe Michael and Kristine abandoned the girl at an apartment in Lafayette.

News reports say in the fall of 2013, the family moved to Canada so Jake could pursue physics studies.

Kristine provided a letter to News 8 that claims to be from Michael’s doctor at IU Health, who also treated the girl at one time. IU Health refuses to confirm to News 8 if the document is genuine.

The letter states the girl’s date of birth on her birth certificate is “clearly inaccurate.” The letter claims that evidence of her age can be seen in her teeth, adult sexual development, menstrual cycle and diagnosed sociopathic personality disorder. It even claims the admitted she was over 18 in 2011 and she’s made a career of perpetuating the fraud.

Still, the document cannot be independently verified and attempts to talk to Michael have not been successful.

While his divorce from Kristine wasn’t finalized until 2018, Michael married his current wife in 2016, Marion County records show.

We’ve also uncovered one final twist.

The neglect charges state Michael and Kristine continued to pay rent for the girl in Lafayette. But according to other court documents, she was evicted for not paying rent in May 2014 and left no forwarding address to pay the judgement and court costs.

Attempts to track down the girl at the center of this have not been successful. It’s not clear where the girl went between that eviction and February 2016, the end of the time span covered by the neglect case.

While the court documents filed this week state Kristine lives near 16th Street and Post Road, she told News 8 she’s still living in Canada.

Several messages left with Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington have not been returned.

News 8 also left messages with the state judicial system to track down how the girl’s age was legally changed from 8 to 22 in 2012 but on Friday had not heard back.

Finally, we reached out to doctors at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital who in 2010 and 2012 had estimated the girl’s age to be similar to the birth certificate that the IU Health doctor called inaccurate. The hospital has not responded to the request.

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