Nachtigal sentencing hearing continues

James Nachtigal, second from left, and Paige Nachtigal, right, sit in court this morning with their lawyers. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

A sentencing hearing in the child abuse case involving Jim and Paige Nachtigal continues Thursday, March 8. The couple pleaded guilty to five counts of felony child abuse following their arrest in 2016.

The hearing began at 9:30 a.m. and included hours of testimony and information on the case. The sentencing hearing recessed for lunch and is scheduled to begin again after 1 p.m.

The sentencing hearing concludes a case that began more than two years ago.
On Feb. 5, 2016, North Newton Police took a report from the couple that one of their children ran away.

A highway patrol officer found an 11-year-old boy running barefoot in a winter field, looking emaciated.

The boy told law enforcement he ran away from home because he sinned and hadn’t done his homework and was afraid to return.

The North Newton Police Department checked into the situation and received a report from “a person close to the situation” that food was being withheld from the children in the house as a punishment.

Harvey County District Court Judge Joe Dickinson swears in a witness on Thursday morning during sentencing proceedings. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

“The more people I talked to, the more disturbing things came,” Police Chief Randy Jordan said.

Six days later, law enforcement took three children in the Nachtigal household into protective custody. Medical examinations found two of the children, an 11-year-old boy and girl, to be severely malnourished.

Both of the children were adopted from an orphanage in Peru by the Nachtigals and had healthy medical records at the time of their adoptions.

The Nachtigals, at the time, had a fundraising web page to finance another trip to Peru to do mission work in order to “Further the Kingdom of God.”

The children recounted stories of beatings with a cane and wooden board as well as starvation as punishment for “sinning.”

On Feb. 16, 2016, police arrested the Nachtigals and searched their home, finding a cane and other implements similar to the children’s descriptions. The couple were arrested on three counts each of child abuse.

“Disturbing is the only way I could describe it,” a visibly emotional Jordan stated at a press conference following the couple’s arrest.

Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan continued investigating the situation, learning that the Kansas Department of Children and Families received numerous reports of child abuse or neglect involving the Nachtigals but never contacted the North Newton Police Department about abuse reports during his tenure.

“A lot systems had failed, but he didn’t,” former Sheriff T. Walton said of Jordan’s work on the case.

By Feb. 25, charges against the couple ballooned, with them each facing child abuse charges–two counts of torturing or cruelly beating a minor and seven aggravated battery charges. All the charges were felonies, carrying at least 31 months in prison for each count.

The couple were tried together and originally pled not guilty to the charges.

Paige Nachtigal, right, gets a hug during a lunch break on Thursday during sentencing proceedings. Wendy Nugent/Newton Now

At the time, County Prosecutor David Yoder said that he was looking to avoid a lengthy trial.

“We’re obviously pursuing plea negotiations at this time and seeing if there was something we could pursue to save the children from a trial,” Yoder stated in an August 2016 article.

In August of 2017, the couple changed their pleas to guilty. Jim Nachtigal pled guilty on three counts of felony child abuse. Paige Nachtigal pled guilty on two counts.
The pleas, when entered, however, were what are known as Alford pleas. This means that while the pleas are listed as “guilty,” neither Jim nor Paige admit guilt with the crimes but acknowledge that, with the evidence the prosecution has, it is likely they could convince a judge or jury beyond reasonable doubt of their guilt.

The couple was convicted of the charges.

Sentencing continued to drag out with various legal postponements until March 8.