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New arguments made, no decision on motions in Barnett child neglect case

Michael Barnett and his lawyer were present for a hearing on several motions, Kristine Barnett was not.

Posted: Oct 23, 2019 1:51 PM
Updated: Oct 23, 2019 2:12 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A Tippecanoe County judge made no decision on motions presented Wednesday in the Barnett child neglect case.

Michael Barnett and his lawyer were present for a hearing on several motions, Kristine Barnett was not. They’re the parents accused of changing their adopted daughter's age from 8-to-22 years old, dropping her off in a Lafayette apartment and then leaving for Canada.

Michael and Kristine Barnett mugshots via Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office

The home on N. 11th Street in Lafayette where court documents say the Barnett girl lived. The home is divided into several apartments. Photo: Trevor Peters

The first motion was Michael Barnett’s request to exclude his address from from public record. His attorney, Terrance Kinnard, argued Barnett was subject to harassment. However since the address is already published, his attorney said it would be impractical to get rid of it. Barnett withdrew the motion.

The arguments began during Michael Barnett’s motion to dismiss count one of two neglect of a dependent charges.

The state alleged concealment of evidence occurred, saying Kristine Barnett telling the daughter to lie about her age was an active attempt to conceal. The state also said re-aging the girl and dropping her off in a community where she had no contacts was a further act of concealing neglect. Therefore, the state said it was a continuing offense, within the statute of limitations. 

Barnett’s attorney said nothing was concealed because a Marion County judge ruled in 2012, and another later  in 2017, the girl was an adult. The girl legally would be about 30-years-old right now. Kinnard also said Tippecanoe County law enforcement officers were present for that hearing and made testimony. Therefore, he said nothing was kept from the state. 

The judge also heard the state's motion to quash three subpoenas by Barnett. The defense wanted emails and texts from law enforcement in relation to the case. The state considered it "work product," and said it was far beyond what is considered "discoverable."

Kinnard said the defense has a right to know what is out there so he can make an argument, just like the state can. 

"My zealous fight for my client is to make sure that I get access to all the information," said Kinnard after the hearing. "I hope that no one interpreted my zealous representation of Michael to anyway impugned the deputy prosecuting attorney by suggesting they would hide information. But when you're in a case such as this, you want to make sure you are on top of all issues at all times."

There was no decision on the motions Wednesday. 

The state's request for a gag order will be heard Monday Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. The judge said Kristine’s lawyer would need to be present.

"Me (Kinnard) talking to you (the media) is what I should be doing to let the public know what is going on. This isn't just about Michael Barnett. In any criminal case, the public at-large has a right to know what their government is doing. The government is our servant, they are not our master."

The state also provided some clarity on what they're going after in the charges. As we previously reported, Kinnard wanted clarification on the whether they considered the girl a dependant based off her age, or her alleged disability. The state said they would be proceeding on age, and would be willing to add additional language to the probable cause. 

"I do have some public policy concerns that just because someone is vertically challenged, that that makes them disabled," said Kinnard. "With respect to the age, you heard my argument in court. A court of proper jurisdiction two separate times five years apart made a ruling. And I'll stand by my statements in court. I do find it troubling that the deputy prosecuting attorney believes that they can unilaterally insert its own opinion for that of a jurist elected by the public to make such decisions." 

According to court documents, the Barnetts adopted a girl from Ukraine in June 2010. The girl has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal. News 18 is choosing not to name the girl due to age uncertainty.

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.

Arrest warrants were issued for the parents. Michael Barnett turned himself in at the Tippecanoe County Jail and posted bond on Sept. 18. Kristine Barnett did the same thing the next day.

The girl left Tippecanoe County in 2016, according to court documents.

News 18 will be at the Oct. 28 hearing for the gag order. 

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