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Indiana couple accused of abandoning adopted daughter, moving to Canada

Authorities said Michael and Kristine Barnett legally changed the girl's age from 8 to 22 before leaving the country.

An Indiana couple is wanted for allegedly changing their adopted daughter's age from 8 to 22, then leaving her alone in an apartment while they moved the rest of the family to Canada, prosecutors said.

Michael Barnett and his now ex-wife, Kristine, were charged last week with two counts of felony neglect of a dependent. On Tuesday, a Tippecanoe County judge issued warrants for them both.

Terrance Kinnard, an attorney for Michael, told NBC News that his client plans to surrender to police Wednesday. Court records indicated that Kristine had not yet been arrested.

The county sheriff's office became involved in September 2014 when Natalia Barnett told authorities that Michael and Kristine adopted her in November 2010, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by NBC News.

According to the court document, Natalia has a form of dwarfism and hospital records from June 2010 showed her age was approximately 8 years old.

However, hospital records from June 2012 showed she was about 11, the affidavit says. That same year, prosecutors say Michael and Kristine legally changed Natalia's age to 22, and the following year they moved to Canada, leaving her alone in an apartment in Lafayette in Tippecanoe County.

Natalia told authorities during that September 2014 interview that she is originally from Ukraine and came to the United States in 2008 through an adoption program, the court documents state.

She told authorities that she had not seen her adoptive parents since they moved to Canada.

Earlier this month, authorities spoke with Michael who confirmed that he and Kristine had Natalia's age changed in 2012 even though doctors had determined she was a minor.

Image: Kristine Barnett
Kristine Barnett speaks with Katie Couric on KATIE in 2013.Donna Svennevik / Walt Disney Television via Getty images

"Michael Barnett admitted Kristine Barnett told Natalia to tell others Natalia looked young but was actually 22," the affidavit states.

Michael also told investigators that he and Kristine paid the rent for the apartment in Lafayette but "did not financially support Natalia after leaving" for Canada, the document states. The affidavit alleges that the neglect went on from July 2013 to February 2016, when Natalia moved out of the Tippecanoe County area.

The court document does not say how Natalia was able to care for herself after she was abandoned in Indiana. The Tippecanoe County sheriff's office declined to comment on the case when contacted by NBC News.

Kinnard said during a phone interview that Michael is "distraught" over the allegations and is not the "callous individual that is laid out" in court documents.

According to Kinnard, Michael believes he and Kristine are the victims of fraud and were led to believe that they were adopting a child when Natalia was actually a young adult between the ages of 18 and 22 who was presenting herself as a minor.

Kinnard also denied that his client abandoned Natalia, telling NBC News that Michael and Kristine moved to Canada to pursue an opportunity for their son and paid the rent at the Lafayette apartment upfront so Natalia would have a place to stay.

Authorities in Tippecanoe County became involved after Natalia presented herself as a child to another couple and asked them for help, Kinnard said.

Kristine claimed in an interview with WISH-TV in Indianapolis on Friday that Natalia was diagnosed as both a psychopath and sociopath, and that when she and Michael adopted her she was actually an adult and not a child as they believed.

Kristine called the adoption a "scam" but would not provide the outlet with further details. According to WISH-TV, Michael and Kristine filed for divorce in 2014, shortly after moving to Canada. The divorce was finalized last year.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Kristine said she was shocked over the allegations against her.

"I am sick and devastated from the idea of any of these charges and maintain that they are false charges," she said.

Kristine is an author whose family previously made headlines as her son, Jacob, who has autism became what many considered a math prodigy. Jacob's story was featured in national media, including on "60 Minutes" in 2012.

Kristine did not return repeated attempts by NBC News to reach her.