There’s Been An Important Update In That Ukrainian Orphan Story

Sooo remember last week when a story broke about Natalia Grace, a Ukrainian girl who was adopted by a couple in Indiana, and is accused by her adoptive parents of being a 22-year-old sociopath masquerading as a child? I obviously remember it, because it’s all I’ve thought about since the story broke. Most people take Kristine and Michael Barnett, the couple who adopted Natalia, at their word and believe that they really did accidentally end up in a real-life version of the movie Orphan. Others, though (namely, me and Indiana prosecutors) were more skeptical. Again, to reiterate: this is literally the plot of a movie that came out in 2009, that the Barnetts are claiming happened to them in 2010. I rest my case. But now, the Daily Mail has new developments that just made things even crazier than they were before.

In case you missed the original viral news storm, here’s the lowdown of what all your true crime-obsessed friends have been talking about nonstop. According to the Daily Mail, Natalia arrived in the United States in 2008 and was adopted by a New Hampshire couple, Dyan and Gary Ciccone. This is interesting because the New Hampshire couple gave Natalia up just two years later. I’ve got to wonder why that happened—is it because they quickly realized she was an adult who was trying to murder them? Or, IDK, just another reason? Then, the Barnetts adopted Natalia in 2010, after claiming they were contacted by a Florida adoption agency for an “emergency adoption” where they had 24 hours to complete the adoption. Which begs the questions: what was the emergency, and why did the Barnetts only have 24 hours to make a decision about adoption, like they claimed?

I wasn’t the only one who had questions about this adoption. A Not Another True Crime Podcast listener who requested to remain anonymous because of her career thought the “emergency adoption” detail was sketchy as well. She said in an email to Not Another True Crime Podcast, “I’ve worked in social welfare for both children and adults with developmental disabilities and/or serious mental illness for about ten years. AT NO POINT have I encountered a situation where an adoption was an ’emergency’.  The adoption process through the state/county systems are long and drawn out.  Even if you are a family member wanting to adopt, you are typically well-vetted with background checks, criminal history disclosures, drug tests, etc.”

She does clarify, “However, there is such a thing as an emergency foster placements, and a meet and greet for a foster child may only be one day before you decide to take them. Each child in care is also appointed a Guardian ad Litem in addition to their child safety worker to advocate in the courts for their best interest. So that makes me think the family who had to adopt Natalia ‘in an ER situation’ did so through a shady private agency or with shady state attorneys.”


Even more interestingly, in 2010 (the same year they adopted Natalia) the Barnetts started to suspect their adopted daughter was older than they thought (Kristine claimed this was due to reasons like her having a large vocabulary, not being interested in toys, but more legitimately, supposedly having a period and pubic hair). They took her to get a bone density test and the results estimated that she was 8 years old. Then, in 2012, they took her to get another bone density test, which concluded that she is 11 years old. And yet somehow, miraculously, later in 2012, they were able to get an Indiana court to declare her a legal adult and change her birth date to 1989. In 2013, when the Barnetts decided to move to Canada so their son Jacob could attend a prestigious school, they left Natalia in Indiana and rented her an apartment. They lost communication with her. In September 2019, the Barnetts are charged with neglect. And that’s how this whole story went viral in the first place!

So, what gives? Is Natalia 8 or 22? Is she a sociopath or nah? And why, in 2019, do we not have the technology to definitively conclude this one way or the other? Yes, Natalia has a rare form of dwarfism that makes determining her age difficult, BUT STILL. We have self-driving cars and caught the Golden State Killer after 45 years and we can’t tell if someone is a literal child or adult? Seems sketch.

Well guys, this case just got even more complicated on Tuesday, when a woman claiming to be Natalia’s birth mother spoke to The Daily Mail and claimed that, yes, Natalia was actually a child when she was adopted. Anna Volodymyrivna Gava told the Daily Mail that she gave birth to Natalia 16 years ago and divorced her father before deciding to give Natalia up for adoption. She claims she gave birth on September 4, 2003 but “felt forced to surrender her immediately because of the child’s severe disabilities.”

this case just remained interesting

Anna then claims Natalia was placed in an orphanage and her name was changed by Ukrainian social services to Natasha (which is apparently the Ukrainian version of Natalia?). Natalia/Natasha lived at the orphanage for five years until officials contacted her and told her that she was going to be adopted by an American couple, and she was asked not to interfere with the adoption.

” there are good people in America, they will pay for everything, the child will be normal,” she told The Daily Mail, adding,”I was told that they would do her a surgery which I wouldn’t be able to afford. They said the surgery was some $80,000.” So, basically, they convinced her to give up her child by convincing her she’d have a better life in America and even be able to get surgery to fix her disabilities. I don’t know, I’d say that being publicly accused by your adoptive family of being a liar, scammer, and attempted murderer is not exactly a better life, how about you? Now Anna feels guilt for abandoning her daughter 16 years ago, admitting, “Of course I am not excusing myself, I did wrong too for ditching her, leaving her 16 years ago.” She also begged Natalia to come visit her and her siblings in Ukraine.

Dyan and Gary Ciccone, Natalia’s first adopted parents, told DailyMailTV that “they did not want to discuss their time with her.” While I respect that opinion, I really would implore them to give me the tea.

Now, I know what you’re thinking because it was my first thought: how do we know Anna Volodymyrivna Gava is actually Natalia’s birth mother, and not a scammer looking to cash in for a quick 15 minutes of fame? The Daily Mail says their reporters saw a document at the orphanage that proved Anna’s baby was admitted in 2003. DailyMailTV also claims they learned independently that Natalia came to the U.S. in 2008 with papers stating that she was named Gava Natalia Vadymivna and her birthday was September 4, 2003, and listing Gava Hanna Volodymyrivna as her birth mother. Okay, so that’s not exactly the same, but it’s pretty damn close. Like, what’s more likely: two people with practically the same name decided to impersonate some little girl/maybe adult and her mom for fun, or the spelling on the paperwork got f*cked up somewhere along the line between the U.S. and Ukraine? Or, I mean, I guess this orphanage and woman could have fabricated a few documents to make herself seem like Natalia’s actual birth mom. Let us see for ourselves, release the docs!

While Kristine and Michael Barnett face up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for abandoning their child, Natalia is living with a new couple, Antwon and Cynthia Mans, who the Daily Mail reports treat her like a teenager and recently celebrated her 16th birthday. If she’s been attempting to murder them this entire time, they are either the stupidest people alive, or they have no regard for their own lives.

In conclusion, a wild case just not even more wild, and now this sh*t is like an episode of Maury. I’m going to need a DNA test on this supposed “birth mom”, and I’m going to need it yesterday.

Images: Not Another True Crime Podcast / Spotify; Giphy; Youtube