LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A couple has been charged in a years-long investigation, accused of abandoning a girl in a Lafayette apartment and then leaving for Canada. Prosecutors say Michael and Kristine Barnett also legally changed the Ukranian girl’s presumed age from 8-years-old to 22-years-old.
“This is going to end up on a TV show,” a law enforcement officer told News 18 Thursday.
The investigation began five years ago. In Sept. 2014, the Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by a school principal about a student. Officers spoke to the girl who said she had a form of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal.
The girl told police she was adopted by the Barnetts in 2010. Court documents, filed Wednesday, said the family lived in Hamilton County for two years. Then, the girl told police the Barnetts rented an apartment on North 11th Street in Lafayette, left her alone and then moved with the rest of the family to Canada.
Before they left, prosecutors say the Barnetts had the girl’s age legally changed to 22. The process by which her age was changed remains unclear. According to court documents, Kristine Barnett, also known as Kristine Pearson, told the girl to tell others she just “looks young.” A law enforcement source told News 18 that “neighbors took her under their wing” and are cooperating in the investigation.