Crime & Courts

North Newton chief on child abuse case: ‘The system broke down’

Three children were removed from the North Newton home of Jim and Paige Nachtigal this week.
Three children were removed from the North Newton home of Jim and Paige Nachtigal this week. The Wichita Eagle

Three days after announcing the arrests of a North Newton couple whose alleged abuse of their adopted children went unheeded for what appears to be months, Randy Jordan and his investigators were sifting through paperwork.

They hope something there will cast light on how three Peruvian orphans ended up starved and abused in a tidy brick-faced house in their town.

“Mountains,” Jordan, North Newton’s police chief, said describing the stacks of records and reports.

“There’s accountability all over the place. And somewhere, some time, the system broke down. We’re trying to find out how and why.”

The married couple at the center of the investigation, Jim and Paige Nachtigal, came under the chief’s scrutiny on Feb. 8, three days after they called authorities to report that their 11-year-old boy had run away from home.

Asked why he left his family, the boy told a state trooper – who discovered him barefooted in a field – that he hadn’t done his homework. He also said feared returning home because of the sinning he had done.

At that time, the boy – who also ran away in December, Jordan said – told police nothing about beatings and inadequate meals. So authorities returned him to his parents.

But Jordan said information he received that pointed to the children being isolated bothered him. The 11-year-old boy and his two sisters — 11 and 15 — hadn’t been seen much by people who knew the family.

By Feb. 11, Jordan had enough evidence to remove all three children from their home and place them in police protective custody. Doctors later gave a diagnosis of child torture after examining the children.

Less than a week later, the Nachtigals were arrested and criminally charged with child abuse. The allegations include beatings severe enough to crack bones and intentional malnourishment.

The couple remains in Harvey County Jail, each on $300,000 bond. Jim Nachtigal is 51; Paige is 49.

On Friday, Jordan gave his deputy chief the job of finding what’s known as post-adoption reports in the stack of records that were delivered to the North Newton Police Department. The health and welfare updates are among a host of strict requirements from Peru’s government in international adoptions.

The forms are supposed to be submitted every six months for four years after a child arrives at his or her new home, according to information on the U.S. Department of the State’s website.

The Nachtigals adopted the 11-year-old girl through an agency around four years ago. The boy and the older girl were adopted together about a year later, Jordan said. So it appears they still fall under the umbrella of that reporting period, he said.

“I’m hoping that several people were interviewed or talked with about how that adoption was going and how those kids were doing and that kind of thing,” Jordan said referring to the post-adoption reports, and that the information was “not just coming from Paige and Jim.”

If others completed the evaluations, they might document concerns that otherwise went unnoticed, he said.

The North Newton Police Department also plans to spend the coming days tracking down and interviewing the people involved in various stages of the Nachtigals’ adoption process, as well as those who made welfare reports about the family to the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Jordan said he has learned that DCF received around a dozen reports about the Nachtigals and their adoptive children, with some coming at least as early as 2014. None were forwarded to his department for further investigation, he has said.

It also appears that no one who might have suspected abuse called 911 or contacted law enforcement directly, either, Jordan said.

DCF spokeswoman Theresa Freed last week told The Eagle she couldn’t comment on the details of specific cases.

Speaking generally, however, she did say that DCF works closely with law enforcement to ensure a child’s safety when concerns are raised.

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

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