Natalia, the Ukrainian orphan who was accused by her former adoptive parents of being a sociopath pretending to be a child, discussed the family’s accusations during a Thursday Dr. Phil exclusive sit-down.
The eye-opening interview answers many questions the case posed after Kristine Barnett and her now ex-husband Michael Barnett accused Natalia, who has a type of dwarfism called spondyloepiphyseal, of having poisoned their drinks, hovering over them while they slept with a knife, and smearing blood all over the walls of their home.
Yet the one claim that had people most baffled was whether Natalia was much older than her adoption papers stated, as the Barnetts claimed. When asked directly by Dr. Phil whether she is a scam artist who lied about her age and terrorized her adoptive family, Natalia responded crying that it was all a lie.
"I'm 16," said Natalia, who reportedly came to the US through an adoption agency when she was 6. She affirms her birthday is September 4, 2003. Natalia's new adoptive parents, Antwon and Cynthia Mans, who also appeared on the show with her, believe her and held her hand throughout the interview.
"It's terrible that they're trying to make her out to be this monster [in the press]" Cynthia said. "She didn't display any kind of psychotic behavior. I think there's something that [Kristine] is hiding hat she doesn't want to get out."
In typical Dr. Phil fashion, the host didn’t seem entirely convinced by her story and needed more answers. Natalia, holding her own, detailed how she was shuffled from home to home after arriving in the US before being placed with the Barnetts. She says that she was happy with them at first, but that everything changed after Natalia underwent surgery. Kristine, she claims, began questioning her age. She later accused Natalia of spraying a household cleaning product in her coffee and shoving her into an electric fence.
"None of that happened," Natalia said. "[Kristine] said I put knives on top of the fridge [too], but I can't even reach that high."
When Dr. Phil questioned Natalia about whether she had stood over the Barnetts with a knife while they slept, she teared up, answering simply, "No."
The case came to light after the Barnetts allegedly abandoned Natalia in an apartment in 2013 and moved to Canada with their two biological children. When the Mans discovered that she was living alone, they invited her into their home to live with them. Antwon says that after Kristine found out that Natalia had left the apartment, she called the Mans and suggested they commit her to a psychiatric facility, stating, "she's crazy."
Natalia has been living with the Mans family for almost seven years now. Since the case broke, the Barnetts have pleaded guilty to two counts of felony neglect of a dependent. "They should do the responsible thing, do their time and get it over with and get right with God," Natalia told Dr. Phil. "It's not right to do that to a child."