Kitchener-Waterloo

Couple who lived in Waterloo accused of abandoning adopted girl in U.S.

A man and woman who moved to Waterloo, Ont., in 2013 so their teenage son could attend the Perimeter Institute are now at the centre of a court case in Indiana. Kristine Barnett and her ex-husband, Michael Barnett, are alleged to have abandoned a daughter they adopted from Ukraine.

Kristine Barnett did media interviews when teen son started studying at Perimeter Institute

Kristine and Michael Barnett are accused of abandoning their adopted daughter in Indiana before moving to Waterloo, Ont., in 2013. (Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office)

A family who made a high-profile move to Waterloo, Ont., in 2013 is now at the centre of an unusual court case in Indiana. 

Kristine Barnett and her ex-husband, Michael Barnett, have been charged with two counts each of neglect of a dependant. In Tippecanoe Superior Court on Friday they pleaded not guilty.

They are accused of abandoning their adopted daughter when they moved north of the border.

The family moved to Waterloo so their 15-year-old son, who is gifted, could attend Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. The family did a round of media interviews about the move at the time and about Kristine Barnett's book, The Spark, in which she discusses how she nurtured her genius son.

The son remains at the school as a Ph. D candidate, Perimeter confirmed Friday. The institute said it would not comment further, citing the son's right to privacy.

Location unclear 

It's unclear whether Kristine or Michael still live in the area. Kristine's Facebook page says she lives in Waterloo, but when reached by email, she would not confirm that.

"I am very exhausted and I have to go to court in the morning to plead innocent," Barnett said in an email to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo Thursday evening.

Last week, Barnett gave an interview to the British Daily Mail newspaper in which she claims the family was duped and the daughter they adopted from Ukraine was not a child, but rather a 30-year-old woman with dwarfism.

Age legally changed

The Tippecanoe County Prosecutor's Office told CBC it was unable to comment on the case because doing so "would have a prejudicial impact on a case and/or defendant."

Court documents released by the prosecutor's office to CBC Kitchener-Waterloo said the girl at the centre of the case told police she arrived in the U.S. from Ukraine in 2008 and was adopted by the Barnetts in 2010. 

Girl left on own in Lafayette

She said she lived with the family for two years before the Barnetts rented an apartment for her.

The documents say the girl was "left alone in the apartment in Lafayette [Indiana] while the rest of the Barnett family moved to Canada" and the girl has not seen them since. Michael Barnett told officials that they paid rent on the apartment, but did not otherwise financially support the girl.

The family and prosecutors give conflicting information over the girl's age.

Before they moved, court documents say the Barnetts had the girl's age legally changed in 2012 from eight years old to 22. 

The adopted daughter has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, which results in abnormal bone growth. The documents say she was examined at the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital on June 3, 2010, which estimated the girl was eight years old. A skeletal survey in 2012 showed her to be approximately 11 years old, the court documents say.

"Michael Barnett admitted he believed [the girl] was a minor child in July of 2013 when Michael Barnett and Kristine Barnett left [her] at an apartment in Lafayette," the documents say.

The Barnetts are due to return to court on Dec. 27 for a pretrial conference. Court documents show a jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 28, 2020.