A couple who hoped to adopt the Ukrainian-born orphan Natlia is speaking out in defense of the girl they wanted as a daughter, dismissing surprising claims that she is a violent adult posing as a child.
Vincent and Nicole DePaul, have a form of dwarfism similar to Natalia’s, and say they wanted to adopt the orphan in 2009, before she was taken home to Michael and Kristine Barnett, who have alleged she is older than she says and even exhibited disturbing behavior while in their home.
"When I heard that I was shocked. She looked like a child. She acted like a child. Do I look like a child? I'm a dwarf," Vincent told Inside Edition.
The DePauls ultimately did not proceed with the adoption, but they say they can prove she's a child. They showed Inside Edition stacks of adoption paperwork that list Natalia's official birth date as Sept. 4, 2003, which would make her 16 today.
The couple added that they "never" thought she was an adult. The DePauls also shared photos of Natalia with their daughter MacKenzie, who has fond memories with the girl. She said the way Natalia is being treated is unfair.
Age wasn't the only issue for the Barnetts. They claim Natalia tried to kill them, even saying she tried to push Kristine Barnett into an electric fence. However, the DePauls said that's not even physically possible.
"If me or my wife tried to push someone into an electric fence, it wouldn't go that well," Vincent said. "Imagine someone who's struggling to walk pushing an average size woman into a fence. It's ludicrous."
The Barnetts reportedly had Natalia's birth year legally changed from 2003 to 1989 two years after they adopted her. The Barnetts then moved as a family to Canada, and when they left Natalia in Indiana, they prepaid the rent on her apartment for one year and signed her up for social welfare programs, Michael said. After being charged with felony neglect of a dependent, the Barnetts pleaded not guilty.
Even though the Barnetts say they set Natalia up in her own apartment, the DePauls said that wasn't enough, explaining that she would need a home with a custom layout to accommodate for her dwarfism.
"They just left her in an apartment ... by herself with a tall kitchen — she can't reach anything. How is she supposed to live," Vincent said.