A missionary couple from Kansas who thought they were doing the Lord's work when they adopted three children from Peru will now be spending a collective 64 months in prison after they were sentenced last Thursday for brutally beating two of the children for failing to do their homework.
First arrested in 2016, James and Paige Nachtigal of North Newton entered Alford pleas for several child abuse counts last August. Jim Nachtigal plead guilty on three counts of felony child abuse while Paige Nachtigal pled guilty on two counts. They acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence for convictions but admitted no guilt, The Associated Press said.
Their arrest was triggered after police say the couple's 11-year-old adopted son was found walking barefoot in a field. The boy told police that he was afraid to go home because he hadn't completed his homework and that was a sin. His sister, also 11, was later discovered with a broken leg.
North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan had to wipe back tears a number of times as he testified about what he saw in the missionaries' home when he investigated the case in February 2016, according to KSN.
"They did find there was a healing broken bone in his arm, and when he said he got hit it hurt, he got hit hard," said Jordan of the condition in which investigators found the boy.
Dr. Kerri Weeks with KU School of Medicine in Wichita who evaluated the boy and his sister said the girl had a "very wasted appearance."
"I noticed her limping on her right leg when she came into the clinic, she had very thin limbs, a very wasted appearance," Weeks said. "This case, in my opinion, in my training and expertise was extremely severe."
Reading a prepared statement at the sentencing hearing, the Christian couple's oldest adopted child, who is now 17 and enrolled in an area school, compared the treatment of the 11-year-old children to the suffering of Holocaust victims, according to Newton Now.
She said the couple beat her younger siblings so bad they would break wooden spoons in the process before graduating to the use of a cane. The couple would also starve the children as punishment.
"In school, I've been studying the Holocaust, and just looking at pictures of those people, that's what [the male child] looked like," she said as she begged the court to imprison the couple.
"They treated two innocent kids, which all they wanted was a family and future and to be loved, they treated them like animals," she said. "They might never pay for what they did to those kids, but having to go to jail and have that time alone and having to think about what they did, maybe someday they will realize what they did to hurt us. I hope they stay out of my life and I never see them ever again."
James Nachtigal's most-recent employer, Don Esch, who operates Esch Landscaping, said he was disciplined and always eager to do what the Bible said.
"If the Bible said to do it, Jim would be one of the first to volunteer to do it," he said.
In arguing for the couple to get the maximum penalties for their crimes, however, Harvey County Prosecutor David Yoder showed photos and X-rays of injuries the children suffered at the hands of the Christian couple including healed broken bones, weeping sores on the buttocks, how dry at least one of the children's skin was, the large sore on one of the children's arms from being hit with a cane and blisters on their feet from either wearing improperly fitting shoes or wearing no shoes at all, according to Newton Now.
Yoder argued that even though the Nachtigals presented a wholesome public image to the world, they were a terror to their adopted children.
"If Charles Dickens was writing this, it would be a tale of two Nachtigals. Good Christian religious people, good community people, always out there doing well for others, while at home they're systematically abusing two children," he said. "The community and the state needs to see justice and tell the Nachtigals what they did was criminal and what they did needs to be severely punished."
The couple explained, however, that they had no idea caring for adopted children would have been so challenging, according to KSN.
"When I set out to adopt I had no idea of the difficulties and behaviors I would be preparing," Jim Nachtigal said.
"I had no idea of the difficulties and behaviors I would have to deal with," Paige Nachtigal added.
The couple begged the court for mercy in sentencing.
"I'm very remorseful for the pain I caused these children," James Nachtigal said through tears, Newton Now said. "My goal was to help my children become responsible citizens, not to hurt them."
The couple is expected to report to the Harvey County Jail by 5 p.m. on March 15.