The boyfriend of a mother whose children were found living inside a crate in an underground cave in Kansas City, Missouri, has said the allegations against her are unfounded.
Brittany Mugrauer, 24, was charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of a child over the weekend after authorities found her children, ages 4 and 6, “completely covered in dirt and filth from head to foot,” according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
(Kansas City has an extensive network of caves underground that house hundreds of businesses, the product of large-scale limestone mining near the turn of the 20th century. Many of the caves have paved roads and utilities, but others, such as the one in which the children were found, have dirt floors and uncontrolled entrances, the Associated Press reports.)
The documents state that Jackson County sheriff’s deputies had been investigating reports of a possible “chop shop” at the cave when they found the children in an unattended “wooden crate.”
“The 6-year-old was dressed in a T-shirt and a pair of nylon pants which were too long and folded under the child’s feet,” the court documents read. “The second child, age 4, was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. The four year old was holding a cup of Ramen noodles which was dry. The cup had dirt in it with the noodles which the child was eating with the child’s hands.”
A parent was not located and a detective was called to take custody of the children. Mugrauer was detained a day later.
However, Mugrauer’s boyfriend, a man identified in the court documents only as “Sean,” insists that the the allegations and subsequent media coverage are the product of a misunderstanding, and that kids just used the crate as a fort in which to play. Surveillance video that he provided to KSHB shows that the crate was located in the back of his auto repair shop, Underground Diesel, which is inside the cave.
The company defended the set-up on its Facebook page, writing: “The kids were not left in a crate the[y] were in their playhouse and they were left in the supervision of 2 adults, these kids beg to come to the shop every single day they were dirty from playing with their toy trucks, does this look like a crate to you, you cannot believe everything you see on the news.”
The company also posted pictures of the alleged crate on Facebook. The images show a large, open box covered in monster truck stickers with two vehicle bench seats on the floor. Underground Diesel and Sean did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
After being taken to the hospital, where they were bathed and provided with clean clothing, the children identified their mother as “Brittany” and said that “they did not know where she was other than she had taken ‘Sean,’ her boyfriend, to the hospital as he ‘smashed his finger,’ ” according to the court documents.
The children also told police that they lived in the cave with their mother, the documents state. “They stated that they had no toys at the cave, no other clothing, no shoes, and that there was no water or place to cook.”
Mugrauer told authorities that the children had only been living in the cave for “several days,” though she did admit to leaving them there without a parent present.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office tells PEOPLE that the investigation is ongoing.
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