The court calendar for James and Paige Nachtigal of North Newton took a dramatic change this week, as the next step in their legal journey is no longer separate jury trials later in September and October. 

Instead, the couple will face sentencing Dec. 21 after entering a plea agreement. That will be a contested hearing, with all day set aside for arguments. 

"We had been in negotiations for months," said David Yoder, county attorney. "The Nachtigals got together with their attorney and decided to take a deal. ...  It was not something that we planned. .... There is no deal on sentencing. Both parties can argue their side to that."

Each had been charged with five counts of abuse of a child and seven counts of aggravated battery after an investigation removed three internationally adopted children from their home in 2016.   

James Nachtigal, a former nursing home administrator in Newton, pleaded guilty and was convicted of three counts of abuse of a child. Paige Nachtigal pleaded guilty and was convicted of two counts of abuse of a child. All other charges against the pair were dropped. Under the agreement, they will each have to pay restitution. 

The maximum sentence for each count, based on their lack of criminal 31 and 34 months in prison on each count they are found guilty of. Under Kansas law, they could each receive a total of 62 to 68 months in prison based on the number of counts they face and sentencing guidelines. 

The agreement occurred days after prosecutors filed a motion to allow for the victims to testify via closed circuit television.

"The primary concern throughout this has been the traumatic effect of the kids having to go into court and testify," Yoder said. "... That is off the table now that the jury trial is off."

The case began Feb. 5, when one of the 11-year-old children ran away from home. The child was reported missing by his parents, later located by a member of the Kansas Highway Patrol in a farm field walking barefoot.

He told officers he left the home because “he had not done his homework and he had sinned,” said Sheriff T. Walton.

Three days later North Newton Police Chief Randy Jordan launched an investigation, talking to those close to the family and neighbors about concerns. The children were removed from their home Feb. 11, 2016, by North Newton Police Department over concerns about the treatment of the children. Medical examinations began Feb. 12, 2016.

During those exams one boy and one girl were found to be severely malnourished with multiple bruises with either current broken bones or healing of past broken bones. Injuries included a currently broken leg, a dislocated elbow that had not properly healed, formerly fracture fingers and formerly broken ribs.

Jim and Paige Nachtigal were arrested Feb. 16, 2016,  after a child in need of care hearing at the Harvey County Courthouse. Yoder said that case is being pursued separately from the criminal case filed Feb. 17, 2016.