TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — The girl at the center of a Tippecanoe County child neglect case capturing worldwide attention will break her silence Thursday on the nationally-televised Dr. Phil show, according to a promotional video.
Michael and Kristine Barnett appear for their initial hearing in Tippecanoe County Sept. 27
In a preview to her interview with Dr. Phil McGraw, the girl denies the accusations of her adopted parents. Michael and Kristine Barnett claimed the girl was an adult and tried to kill the family. The Barnetts are each facing two counts of child neglect in Tippecanoe County after prosecutors said they dropped the girl off in a Lafayette apartment and moved to Canada.
In the video, Dr. Phil asks the girl, "Are you a 33-year-old scam artist?"
"It's not true at all," the girl says as a tear rolls down her face. "I just want people to hear my side."
"Why did they want to get rid of you so badly?" Dr. Phil asks. The question is not answered in the promo video.
It ends with Dr. Phil saying:
"I guess it comes down to whether or not you are an evil, psychopath demon child that's come over here to murder everybody."
In the video, the girl, who WLFI is not naming due to age uncertainty, is accompanied by a man and a woman. This is the first time the girl is speaking out, despite multiple attempts News 18 has made for her to share her side of the story.
You can watch Dr. Phil's interview with the Barnett girl Thursday at 3 p.m. on WLFI.
A gag order was issued on Oct. 28 for the parents from speaking with the media about their adopted daughter's mental health, physical health or things they claimed happened while she was in their care. Online court records show the girl was added to the gag order on Friday Nov. 1.
The story came to light in early September when Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Patrick Harrington filed formal charges against the parents. According to court documents, the Barnetts adopted the girl from Ukraine in June 2010. The girl has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal.
The family lived in Hamilton County, and a friend of Kristine Barnett told News 18 the couple had a "traumatic adoption experience" with the girl. The friend said the girl tried to physically harm the family multiple times. The Barnetts believed they were scammed into the adoption, according to the friend. The family said the girl's dwarfism may have disguised her real age.
Between 2010 and 2012, the Barnetts had the girl's age tested, according to prosecutors. Court documents cite two doctors' reports from Peyton Manning Children's Hospital showing the girl's age to be about 8-years-old in 2010 and 11-years-old in 2012.
However, a doctor's report from IU Health, provided by Kristine Barnett, said otherwise. The report said the girl's records from Ukraine were "grossly incomplete."
"The birth certificate that was given to the Barnetts showed a date of birth of 9/4/3. This date is clearly inaccurate," the report said.
The report goes on to say the girl had been seen by a dentist and neuropsychologist, both of which determined she had characteristics of a full-grown adult.
The Barnetts' son Jacob, a physics prodigy, was the feature of a "60 Minutes" report in 2012 highlighting the child's successes. The boy was offered to continue his education at the Perimeter Institute in Canada. The report even appears to show the girl.
Before they left, prosecutors said the Barnetts had the girl's age legally changed from 8-years-old to 22 in June 2012. That would make the girl 30-years-old now in the eyes of the state.
The court documents said Kristine told the girl to tell others she just "looks young."
It was then in July 2013 that prosecutors said the Barnetts rented an apartment in the 900 block of North 11th Street in Lafayette for the girl. Prosecutors said the Barnetts paid for a year of rent, but nothing else for the girl before leaving with the rest of the family. Kristine Barnett's friend told News 18 the family helped the girl until she was ready to live on her own. The friend said the girl was living in Lafayette under the care of doctors.
Court documents show the girl was evicted from the property in May of 2014. A law enforcement source told News 18 that "neighbors took her under their wing."
It was in September 2014 that the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office was notified and interviewed the girl. A law enforcement source told News 18 they were called by an employee of the Excel Center, a free Indiana public school giving adults a chance to earn an Indiana high school diploma.
An employee told News 18 the girl actually only attended the Excel Center for four days, and she had come from many other schools. Next door neighbor, Margaret Axson, said she was friends with the Barnett girl in her classes. The two reportedly attended the Lafayette Adult Resource Academy (LARA) together. She said one day, the girl just stopped coming to class.
The girl told sheriff's deputies in 2014 she was abandoned by the Barnett Family.
The case went silent until the Tippecanoe County prosecutor filed the two neglect charges on Sept. 11, 2019. Affidavits said Michael Barnett was interviewed Sept. 5, 2019, and admitted he believed the girl was a minor in July 2013 when the couple left her in the apartment.
The girl left Tippecanoe County in 2016, according to court documents.