In 2023, Investigation Discovery dove into the bizarre and fascinating case of Natalia Grace, the Ukranian orphan with a rare form of dwarfism, spondyloepiphyseal, who was adopted by Michael and Kristine Barnett in 2010.
“The Curious Case of Natalia Grace,” which has reached more than 10 million viewers across ID and Max since its debut, follows the story of the young girl, who claimed she was 6 at the time of her adoption; two years after adopting her, the Barnetts petitioned to have Grace’s age legally changed to 22, changing her birth year from 2003 to 1989. A year later, in 2013, they moved to Canada and abandoned her.
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Michael Barnett, who was found not guilty of three counts of neglect and conspiracy in 2022, called Natalia a “con artist,” claiming she was an adult masquerading as a child and tried to kill the family. The second season, titled “The Curious Case of Natalia Grace: Natalia Speaks,” debuted in January. It features unseen evidence and footage and allows her to share her side of the story and face Barnett for the first time. She also took a blood test that revealed she is approximately 22 years old, suggesting she was 9 years old when she was adopted.
“We were following the story in real time as it unfolded and didn’t know what to expect beyond the first season. We could not predict future events. For example, we did not know when the Barnetts’ trials would take place or what the exact timing would be,” says executive producer and Hot Snakes Media co-founder Shannon Evangelista. “Therefore, we did not plan beyond the first installment. We had also hoped to hear Natalia’s side, which prompted the creation of the second season.”
With such a complex case, it’s hard to not take sides, but Evangelista felt it was important to “give everyone the opportunity to share their own perspective” on what really happened.
“This particular story is a wild ride, and I wanted to immerse the audience in that journey. However, it was truly heartbreaking to hear about Natalia’s ordeals at the Barnetts,” she says. “Nevertheless, my intention is always to ask challenging questions and let the investigation unfold naturally, allowing the audience to embark on an equally enthralling journey. This is our approach when creating all of our documentaries.”
“This story’s real-life events are undeniably fascinating and leave viewers wondering, ‘Did this really happen?’ With narrators presenting conflicting accounts, the truth remains elusive,” Evangelista says of the recent fascination with the case. “Just when you think you’ve grasped it, a new twist emerges, sending you down a different path. This captivating journey keeps audiences enthralled as they join the search for answers. I can’t wait to see the Hulu adaptation, and I believe Ellen Pompeo’s talent will perfectly capture the complexity of this character.”
Season 2 ended with Natalia’s second adoptive father, Bishop Antwon Mans, telling producers, “Something ain’t right with Natalia. This girl is tweakin’. I feel like she’s the enemy of the house. And she said to us we have held her hostage… We’re done. We’re done with her.”
In a recent interview with The U.S. Sun, her adoptive mother Cynthia Mans stated that while Natalia is “living with friends,” things are all smoothed over with her now.
Still, it sounds like there is more story to tell. When asked whether there will be another season of “The Curious Case Of Natalia Grace,” Evangelista plays coy, quipping there’s “nothing to report at this time.”
“The Curious Case Of Natalia Grace,” produced for Investigation Discovery by Hot Snakes Media, is available to stream on Max.
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