LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A judge has set a hearing for Michael Barnett’s petition to release mental health records. Barnett had an appearance telephonically in court for the first time Tuesday morning.
He is the father accused in a strange Tippecanoe County child neglect case that News 18 helped break earlier this month.
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
His attorney, Terrance Kinnard, called into Tippecanoe Superior Court II this morning after a motion was granted for Barnett to appear over the phone. Deputy Prosecutor Jackie Starbuck and Judge Steven Meyer appeared in person.
Judge Meyer set a hearing for the release of mental health records filed by the defense Wednesday. The records are protected by state statute. The hearing is set for Oct. 15 at 1:30 p.m. in Superior Court II, due to a 15 day notice for medical providers. It is confidential and closed to the public.
A notice of the hearing will also go to the adopted Barnett girl at the center of the investigation. Kinnard said the defense did not have contact information for the victim, and the state would need to make contact.
Barnett also gave permission for school records to be released for his son Jacob at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis). The request was filed by the state, noting they would fall under the Family Educational Rights and Protection Act (FERPA). However, Kinnard said he only represents Michael Barnett and could not speak for the accused mother, Kristine.
It all comes in the wake of the bizarre case that's been going on for most of this decade. An affidavit, filed on Sept. 11 by the Tippecanoe County prosecutor, alleges the Barnetts, now divorced, rented an apartment on North 11th Street in 2013 and left the girl alone. The rest of the family then reportedly moved to Canada for their son Jacob’s education
News 18 is choosing not to name the girl, due to discrepancy over her age.
Before they left, prosecutors said the Barnetts legally changed the Ukrainian girl’s age from 8 to 22-years-old. That process, even in Tuesday’s initial hearing, remains unclear. The couple told the girl to tell others she just "looks young," according to court documents.
Prosecutors said the girl had a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal. Court documents cite two doctor reports where they say the girl’s age was about 8-years-old in 2010 and 11-years-old in 2012.
A doctor's report, obtained by WISH-TV reporter Dan Klein from Kristine Barnett, said the girl is an adult. The doctor said, "Over time it has become increasingly apparent that this patient is substantially older than she claimed to be."
As News 18 reported Monday, a friend of Kristine Barnett said the adopted girl physically harmed the family, and that she was an adult the entire time.
Both Michael and Kristine Barnett turned themselves in last week and bonded out of the Tippecanoe County Jail.
An initial hearing for Michael Barnett is set for Friday.
This case is only just starting, and News 18 will be following it until the end.