Crime & Courts

Plea deal attempt fails for couple charged with abusing orphans

James and Paige Nachtigal.
James and Paige Nachtigal. Courtesy photos

Attorneys failed to reach a plea deal following a day of negotiations in the case of a North Newton couple accused of abusing three Peruvians orphans they adopted.

“We did not walk out with any plea on the Nachtigals today,” Harvey County Attorney David Yoder said Wednesday after meeting with lawyers representing James and Paige Nachtigal.

“So jury trials … are still scheduled in the matter.”

The Nachtigals each are charged with more than a dozen criminal counts alleging they starved, beat and otherwise abused their then-15-year-old and 11-year-old daughters and 11-year-old son, whom they adopted from an orphanage in an area of Peru where they worked as missionaries.

The couple has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Both remain free on bond.

North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan launched an investigation into the children’s welfare last February after the boy was found by a state trooper walking barefoot in a field during his second runaway attempt. At the time, the boy told authorities he feared returning home because he had acted sinfully.

In subsequent interviews, he and his sisters described beatings doled out over unfinished homework and misbehavior, meals denied, broken bones and isolation from the outside world.

The 11-year-olds weighed 50 and 60 pounds when they and their older sister were removed from the Nachtigals’ home on Feb. 11. A doctor later diagnosed them as victims of child torture. The boy also had a life-threatening heart condition that went untreated.

Authorities have said James Nachtigal was responsible for the bulk of the physical abuse but that it was done at the direction of his wife. James is 52 and Paige is 50.

Yoder said Wednesday the children continue to live in foster care and “seem to be doing well.”

“The kids obviously have been through a lot, and they are all in a much more stable environment,” he said. “We have not had any new issues involving the kids in quite some time.”

He would not say where exactly the children were living. But “none of them are in Newton,” he said.

Kevin Loeffler, the defense attorney for James Nachtigal, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment Thursday.

A woman who answered the phone at the law office of Brent Boyer, who is representing Paige Nachtigal, said they had no comment.

Yoder said he could not disclose specifics of Wednesday’s plea negotiations because they are considered confidential discussions. A deal could still be worked out, he said.

The couple’s jury trials are set for the end of March and beginning of April. But Yoder said he expects them to be postponed.

Asked whether the Nachtigals’ parental rights had been or would be severed, he said: “We do have child-in-need-of-care cases still proceeding in the system for all three children. … But the status of them I’m not free to disclose.”

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker