Crime

Friend disputes allegations that young boys lived in Kansas City cave

The operator of Underground Diesel, Sean Dale, disputes that two boys discovered in his truck shop on Thursday were living in a crate (foreground). Dale said on Monday that the boys used the crate as a safe play area.
The operator of Underground Diesel, Sean Dale, disputes that two boys discovered in his truck shop on Thursday were living in a crate (foreground). Dale said on Monday that the boys used the crate as a safe play area. kmyers@kcstar.com

The operator of an underground Kansas City diesel repair shop disputes allegations that two young boys had been living in a crate for several days at his business.

Although Sean Dale conceded that the boys, ages 4 and 6, recently had spent much time at his shop, including two overnight stays, he insisted that they were never without adult supervision.

The two child endangerment charges against Brittany Mugrauer, the boys’ mother, are unfounded, said Sean Dale, the shop’s operator and an acquaintance of Mugrauer.

“My two mechanics were here the entire time,” Dale said Monday.

Sean Dale, operator of Diesel Underground, disputes allegations that two young boys found at his business were living there. Dale discussed the crate he says the boys played in and gave a tour of his facility on Monday, September 14, 2015. His tru

Prosecutors charged Mugrauer on Saturday. During her initial court appearance on Monday, her bond was set at $75,000.

According to court documents:

Jackson County deputies investigating a possible chop-shop operation found the two children Thursday unattended inside a 10-by-8-foot wooden shipping crate at Underground Diesel at 8201 E. 23rd St.

Two vehicle bench seats and two small blankets were inside the crate.

Vehicle parts were piled near the crate, which was near cars in various states of repair.

Both boys reportedly were dirty from head to foot. The 4-year old was holding a cup of dry noodles with dirt in it, and the 6-year-old told authorities that he should be in first grade but didn’t attend school.

The boys told authorities that they lived “in the cave” and that their mother had taken her boyfriend to the hospital after he had “smashed his finger.”

Mugrauer told investigators the boys had been living in the cave “for several days,” according to court documents.

Dale said his shop’s surveillance video shows the two boys arrived clean and fed at the shop that day and were among adults at all times. Prosecutors were welcome to review his approximately four hours or surveillance video, he added.

“I think the prosecutor needs to see it,” Dale said.

A Jackson County sheriff’s office spokesman did not comment on Dale’s assertions.

Dale described Mugrauer as having recently moved to Kansas City from Florida after her parents moved here. The boys were scheduled to receive vaccinations on Friday and the older boy was to be enrolled in school, he said.

He doesn’t understand, Dale said, why Mugrauer told investigators the boys had been there “for several days.” It’s possible she didn’t understand the question, he said.

Court records list her address as the same as the shop.

Dale invited a Star reporter and photographer Monday to inspect what he derisively called the “crate of doom.” The crate rested not on dirt floor, as court records said, but on a concrete floor dotted with patches of scattered gravel.

A few toys and a fishing rod sat in the crate near the car seats. The boys often kept a laptop in there, Dale said.

“The kids love it,” he said. “They can take a nap and it keeps them out of the high-traffic area.”

He showed a small refrigerator, which held water and milk.

The boys’ grandparents have contacted a lawyer, he said.

“They are dumbfounded and grief-stricken that their grandchildren had been taken away for nothing,” he said.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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