real life

The disturbing case of a couple who accidentally adopted a fully grown adult.

Natalia Grace made headlines in 2019 when her adoptive family accused her of lying about her age, saying she’s not a child, but in fact, a vindictive adult.

In 2010, American couple Michael and Kristine Barnett adopted Ukrainian-born Natalia, who at the time was six years old according to her legal documentation. 

Watch: The Curious Case Of Natalia Grace Trailer. Post continues below.

Video via iD.

Grace was initially welcomed into the family home and lived with the Barnetts and their three sons. 

However, things took a turn two years later, after the couple successfully had the courts change Grace’s legal age from eight to 22. 

They then moved her out of the family home and into her own apartment - before relocating to Canada with their three sons and cutting all ties with Grace.

The story garnered media attention when prosecutors levelled charges against the Barnetts for neglecting a dependant, resulting in a lengthy five-year investigation.


The Barnetts said they had made the decision to move her away from the family after several incidents occurred; alleging that Grace, who has a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita, was an adult posing as a child. They claimed that she had pubic hair, adult teeth and was menstruating.

The couple also believed that she had malicious intentions and that because of her, their family was in danger. Over the two-year period in which Grace lived with the Barnetts, they claimed she had attempted to poison Kristine’s coffee, dragged her towards an electric fence and would place clear thumbtacks face-up on the stairs hoping she would step on them. 

Michael, who is no longer married to Kristine having divorced in 2018, spoke about the torment Grace allegedly inflicted on them in a three-part docuseries titled The Curious Case of Natalia Grace, which premiered mid-last year.

“She threatened to stab my sons, drag their bodies outside and bury them underneath the deck,” he said. “I promise you within five years someone is dead.”

Over the years, the Barnetts have called Grace a “con artist” and a “sociopath”, and have appeared on multiple shows to tell their side of the story.

“It’s obvious that her records were falsified. This is an adult masquerading as a child,” Michael said on Dr Oz’s True Crime show back in 2019. “We took her to the stress centre to have her evaluated that she is having thoughts of harming others, and she is stating out loud that she is attempting to kill Kristine.”


But until today, Grace maintains she was a child when the Barnetts adopted her, and not the homicidal adult that they claimed she was. 

Natalia Grace has always maintained her innocence, and is speaking out for the first time in her docuseries. Image: iD.

She is now sharing her story in the six-part series, Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks, where she confronts the accusations head-on.


Since 2013, Grace has been living with couple, Cynthia and Antwon Mans, and their children. Cynthia first met Grace after the Barnetts moved her into the apartment, and shortly after their first meeting, Cynthia invited Grace to be a part of their family. 

The Mans family has remained by Grace’s side throughout her legal troubles and even appeared on Dr. Phil in 2019 to reaffirm that she was a minor and did not have the violent tendencies the Barnetts said she did.

“We have other children. We have a grandson. [Natalia] does nothing but love her siblings and her nephew,” she told Dr. Phil.

Cynthia also testified on Grace’s behalf in 2022 at Michael Barnett’s trial.

The Barnetts officially divorced in 2018, and in 2019 they were charged with multiple counts of neglecting a dependant. However, the charges based on neglect were dismissed due to Grace’s age.

Prosecutors then chose to go down a different path and charged the two for neglect based on Grace’s dwarfism.

But it didn’t stick, and Michael was found not guilty in October 2022, and Kristine’s charges were dropped in March 2023.

Despite the hostility, Grace has always spoken positively about her time with the Barnetts, telling Dr. Phil that during her stay with the family, she felt loved and accepted.


Grace, who spent her early years jumping from one foster home to another said, “I actually thought I had found the right family after bouncing around ... I thought I had found the right family for me.”

At Michael’s trial in October 2022, Grace testified that if it had been up to her, she would have wanted to continue living with the Barnetts and not move into an apartment by herself. 

However, she does claim that the former couple have made a number of false allegations against her, and is speaking up for the first time about it in her docuseries.

The docuseries sees her confront her adoptive father. Image: iD.


“The things that Kristine and Michael have said that I have done is a lie. I have never done anything that Kristine and Michael have said that I have done,” she said. 

“You can ask anybody in my family now. You can ask Bishop Antwon and Cynthia Mans that - just ask them, ‘Has she ever done anything?’ They will tell you who I really am. They’re not going to lie and neither am I.”

In the series, Grace confronts Michael, and questions him about why they adopted her in the first place, to which he responds: “I’ve learned recently that you and I had the same monster [in] Kristine, and we are here because we both were incredible victims of an otherworldly type of abuse.”

Natalia Speaks also shows previously unseen footage and evidence, as well as new theories and testimonies from people who were involved in the case. 

Feature Image: iD.

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