Crime & Courts

Couple accused of beating, starving adopted children convicted of abuse

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

A North Newton couple accused of abusing three Peruvian orphans they adopted have been convicted in the case.

James Nachtigal and his wife, Paige Nachtigal, will be sentenced Dec. 21 in Harvey County District Court, county attorney David Yoder said Wednesday. Each entered what is known as an Alford plea to multiple counts of child abuse on Friday. That type of plea allows a person to be convicted of a crime and take advantage of any deal that’s being offered by prosecutors without admitting guilt.

James Nachtigal was convicted of three counts of child abuse; his wife was convicted of two, Yoder said. Both are facing a sentence of 31 to 34 months on each count. The state agreed to dismiss several other felony charges in exchange for their pleas, Yoder said.

The Nachitgals originally pleaded not guilty in the case. They were arrested in February 2016 after North Newton police launched an investigation into the children’s welfare after one — an 11-year-old boy — was found walking barefoot in a field during a runaway attempt and told authorities he feared returning home because he had sinned.

In subsequent interviews, the boy and his sisters, then 11 and 15, described beatings doled out over misbehavior and unfinished homework, broken bones, isolation and meals that were miniscule or denied. The boy also had a life-threatening heart condition that went untreated.

A doctor later diagnosed the children as victims of child torture. They were adopted from an orphanage in an area of Peru where the Nachtigals had worked as missionaries.

Yoder said Wednesday that the children are still living in foster care and are experiencing “various degrees of wellness.”

They will not be returned to the Nachtigals, regardless of the sentences the couple receives in December, he added.

“They’ve had a lot of traumatic struggles as a result of what they’ve been through,” Yoder said of the children.

“One of them is doing very, very well. One of them is struggling still very badly. The third one is struggling but maybe not as severely. ... There’s a broad range of emotional consequences they’re dealing with.”

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