A 24-year-old mother is in custody yesterday after her two young children were found barefoot, dirty, and living in a wooden shipping crate in an underground cave on the eastern edge of Kansas City, Missouri. Brittany Mugrauer was charged Friday night with two counts of felony child endangerment. Jackson County detectives discovered the 4- and 6-year-old children Thursday in the 8-by-10-foot crate furnished with vehicle bench seats, two small blankets, trash, and thin wires. According to the probable cause statement, the crate was missing one side and surrounded by car parts and vehicles in various states of disrepair. The investigators, who went to the cave to serve a search warrant related to a possible chop shop, noted the children did not appear frightened by them or the fact that they were alone.
The 4-year-old child was using hands to eat a dirty, dry cup of ramen noodles, a detective wrote. When asked why they weren't wearing any shoes, the children responded that they didn't have any. The older child told officers he should be in first grade but did not go to school. The children were taken to Children's Mercy Hospital where they were evaluated, bathed, and given clean clothes. Mugrauer told investigators her children had been living in the cave for several days and acknowledged leaving them there alone. The extensive network of caves was part of a massive limestone mining in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They house hundreds of businesses, many of which specialize in storage because they are protected from extreme weather and have year-round temperatures of 70 degrees. (Read more Missouri stories.)