KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman whose two young sons were found inside an underground cave in Kansas City was released from jail Tuesday but won't be allowed to see her children without prior authorization, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Brittany Mugrauer, 24, was charged with two counts of felony child endangerment after her 4- and 6-year-old sons were found Friday in the cave, which housed a diesel repair shop. Jackson County authorities said the children were dirty, unsupervised and living in a wooden shipping crate inside the cave.
During Mugrauer's brief first court appearance Tuesday, Jackson County Circuit Judge J. Dale Youngs said Mugrauer, who had been jailed since the children were found, could be released on a personal recognizance bond. She would need authorization from a Jackson County Family Court judge to see her kids. Mugrauer doesn't yet have an attorney who could comment on the case.
Kansas City media showed Mugrauer asking reporters to leave her alone as she left the jail hours after the hearing. She is due back in court Oct. 7.
Investigators were searching the caves — part of a massive subterranean network carved out beneath Kansas City — for a possible stolen car operation when they found the children. According to a probable cause statement, Mugrauer told investigators the children had been living in the cave for several days and she admitted she had left them alone. The children said they didn't have shoes and the 6-year-old told investigators he didn't go to school, according to the statement.
However, Sean Dale, the owner of the Underground Diesel shop, told The Associated Press the boys stayed with Mugrauer while she worked for him at the shop and that he provided the crate so they wouldn't "run amok." He said the children were supervised, well-cared for and used the crate as a "man cave" where they could play.
"They have it as if it was a torture chamber and the crate was stuck in the deepest, darkest place," Dale said. "It's a well-lit playhouse in a pretty well-kept shop."
Mugrauer and the boys, who recently moved from Florida, were living in a hotel and stayed overnight at the cave only a couple of times when she worked late, he said. Surveillance video showed the children arriving clean and fed at the cave Friday, he said. He could not explain why Mugrauer told investigators the children lived there.
Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Michael Hunt declined Tuesday to respond to Dale's comments.
KMBC-TV reports a Family Court judge on Tuesday allowed the boys to go home with their father, although they are officially still in the custody of Children's Services.
Extensive limestone mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s created the millions of square feet of caves that are scattered throughout the Kansas City area. Many of the former mines now house businesses.
This story has been corrected to show Mugrauer was released on a personal recognizance bond.