Details released on child abuse arrest in North Newton
By Pilar Pedraza
Authorities in Harvey County have released new details about the arrests of two North Newton parents on child abuse charges.
Jim and Paige Nachtigal were arrested Tuesday after their three adopted children were taken into protective custody.
"This is the first time I've seen a medical diagnosis from a physician of child torture," said David Yoder, Harvey County Attorney. "I didn't even know there was a medical diagnosis of child torture until this case."
According to Harvey County Sheriff T. Walton, North Newton police were called about a runaway child last week. The 11-year-old boy was in a field, barefoot. Police carried him to the car.
Police asked the child why he ran away.
"The child said he hadn't done his homework, that he had sinned, and that he was afraid to go back home because of the sinning that he had done," said T Walton, Harvey County Sheriff.
Police began investigating on Monday, the 8th of February. The child, along with two adopted siblings, girls aged 11 and 15, were taken into police protective custody on Thursday.
"The children told investigators what life was like in the home," Walton said.
They were taken to the doctor on Friday. The doctor determined both 11-year-olds were malnourished. The girl had a broken leg and both had healing broken bones.
"In the interview at EMCU she said she was struck with a cane and there was a definitive mark, linear mark on her leg near the fracture," said Randy Jordan, North Newton Police Chief. "His elbow had been dislocated at some point and it had healed improperly."
The police chief says the children described a board and a cane which were used to hit them when they had sinned.
"Dad did most of the hitting at the directive of mom," Jordan added.
After Tuesday's hearing which resulted in the arrests of their parents, police searched the home and found items matching the items the children told them about. The board was a 1x3", which was broken in half and found in the trash.
The older child was not malnourished and did not have any broken bones. Police say she only saw a doctor once, the 11-year-olds had been to the doctor twice. Walton says the older girl also verified there was "some severe punishment" of the 11-year-olds.
The 11-year-old girl was adopted by the Nachtigals four years ago, the 15-year-old girl and the 11-year-old boy were adopted a year later.
Chief Jordan says the 11-year-old girl was limping when she was picked up.
The police chief says X-Rays showed two recent broken fingers on the girl, the boy also had broken ribs and a broken wrist.
Jordan says, the children said if they didn't do their homework or sinned they had to be punished. He says it was the same if they didn't tell mom the food tasted good often enough.
He says the kids were taken out of public schools in 2014 and were homeschooled. In the last year, police say, the children had very little contact with anyone outside the home.
"They weren't allowed internet, they had no cell phones, anything like that," said Jordan. "It seems that things that went on in the home were kept pretty secret."
The children told police the 11-year-olds got little to eat and were never allowed seconds.
"For breakfast they got two pieces of bread, sometimes a banana or an apple and a little bit of water. And they usually were sent to their room, bedroom to eat that," Jordan said.
For lunch, if they were good and had not sinned, they got a sandwich with cheese and meat and had to stand at the kitchen counter to eat.
"The young boy did talk about one time he got chips with his sandwich and he was ecstatic about that," the chief said.
For dinner, the children said they did not eat the same as mom, dad, and the 15-year-old girl.
Police say the children had only gained three to six pounds over the past three years, which put them in the lower third percentile for height and weight. The boy's BMI was less than 1 percentile for his age.
Police found documentation in the home from a doctor in the children's native Peru. The doctor stated the children were all very healthy prior to being adopted. The documents had no mention of broken bones or anything like that. The children also had no local medical records regarding broken bones.
"They can't remember when they saw a doctor recently," said Jordan.
The boy has a serious heart condition which was not addressed. Doctors say that condition is life-threatening, and he is now seeing a pediatric cardiologist.
Police say some of why the older girl was treated better was because she could "navigate around parents' emotions better" and not set them off.
Police say they are not sure how much religion played into the treatment, but the kids used the terms "sin" and "sinful" a lot.
The night the boy ran away, someone police say is "close to the situation" called 911 and told officers they were worried that food was being withheld from the younger kids. Police say as their investigation continued, they found many people had seen things. They decided to take the children into protective custody once they determined they were being isolated.
Both Nachtigals were charged Wednesday morning and could face 11 years in prison. They're still in custody on $300,000 bond. Those charges include three counts of Child Abuse, Inflicting Cruel and Inhumane Corporal Punishment on a Child.
Police expect to file more charges once they get all of the reports back from doctors.
They are expected to make their first appearance in court this afternoon.
Chief Jordan says there had been "numerous" reports about the home to DCF against the Nachtigals, but he did not have any details on those reports and he says his office was never contacted about them.