US couple accused of ditching adopted girl, moving to Canada

RICK CALLAHAN

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana prosecutors have charged a couple with abandoning their adopted daughter in 2013 and moving to Canada, leaving the girl, who was just 11 years old and has dwarfism, in a rented apartment but providing her with no other financial support.

Tippecanoe County prosecutors filed neglect charges Wednesday against Kristine Elizabeth Barnett, 45, and Michael Barnett, 43. They had not been booked or arraigned as of Friday and online court records don't list an attorney for them.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the case, the couple adopted the girl in 2010 and a doctor who examined her that year determined she was about 8 years old. When a detective spoke to Michael Barnett earlier this month, he said he and his wife had the girl's age legally changed to 22 in June of 2012 and that his wife told her to tell anyone who asked that she "looks young but was actually twenty-two."

Barnett told the detective that he and his wife rented an apartment in Lafayette in July 2013 and, despite knowing that the child knew no one in that city, they left her there and moved to Canada, investigators wrote in the affidavit. Barnett said that other than paying the apartment's rent, they provided the girl with no financial support.

The girl told a detective with the Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Department in September 2014 that she had come to the U.S. "through an adoption" in 2008 from her native Ukraine and that the Barnetts adopted her two years later. She said she lived with the Barnetts in Hamilton County, just north of Indianapolis, for about two years, after which they rented the apartment for her in Lafayette, the Tippecanoe County seat about 60 miles (96 kilometers) northwest of Indianapolis.

"She was left alone in the apartment in Lafayette while the rest of the Barnett family moved to Canada," investigators wrote in the affidavit, adding that the girl hasn't seen the Barnetts since.

The affidavit leaves a lot unclear, including how long the girl lived alone in the apartment before her plight was discovered and why an investigation that apparently began in September of 2014 took years to result in charges against the Barnetts. It also doesn't say where in Canada the Barnetts lived or whether they have since returned to the U.S., though the Barnetts have different addresses listed in Indianapolis.

Prosecutors did not respond to several questions emailed to them Friday about the case, saying only in a reply that they had asked a county judge to issue an order for the Barnetts to appear at an initial hearing on the charges.

___

Information from: Journal and Courier, http://www.jconline.com

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