After receiving an anonymous tip about allegedly poor living conditions at a homestead in rural Kentucky, Breckinridge County Sheriff Todd Pate and Trooper Adam Hutchison went to Joe and Nicole Naugler’s property to investigate.
The Nauglers, who have ten children and another one due in four months, have chosen to live a “back to basics” lifestyle “off the grid.” The family lives in a 280-square foot wood-frame, three-walled cabin with a generator for power. They have no running water, use an outhouse with a latrine, grow their own vegetables, hunt on their land, and cook on a wood stove.
The children are educated through a method of homeschooling called “unschooling,” in which they learn through experiences rather than from textbooks and focus on the subjects they find interesting.
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While the tip was anonymous, it came after Joe had a run in with a neighbor. A report said Joe was accused of threatening the neighbor by asking one of his children to “hand him the gun,” though no weapon was actually produced.
The tip said the family was living in a tent, Nicole had given birth in a tent, there was no running water or septic, and none of the children were enrolled in school, as well as the allegation that Joe had threatened a neighbor.
When authorities arrived on the scene, Joe was away from the property with eight of the children. Nicole, who was home with the two oldest children, tried to drive away, but was pulled over, had her two children taken away from her, and was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She said her arrest took place when she would not passively allow the deputies to take her children.
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The sheriff later ordered Joe to turn the other children over by 10 a.m. or be arrested for felony charges, and he complied. Joe was charged with the misdemeanor crime of menacing, which occurs when someone “intentionally places another person in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury,” according to Kentucky state statute 508.050.
The children are now in the custody of Child Protective Services, split between four houses in four counties; and child welfare agents are investigating the allegations of unfit living conditions.
Reactions to law enforcement’s actions have been mixed. Pace Ellsworth, a family friend, said the family was happy and just chose to live outside the modern norms. Many commenters on the family’s Facebook page voiced their support for the family, such as one man who wrote, “It would not be my choice to live like that. But you never asked me for my opinion..lol..If your family is healthy and happy, then who am I to tell you to change. I applaud you and hope the best for your family.”
However, others have cautioned that there is more to the story than what first meets the eye. One Facebook commenter said they used to know the Nauglers and the couple is “nothing but trouble.” Another commenter who claimed to know the family said Joe and Nicole are “scary” and the Nauglers were banned from coming over to their house after their children asked they not come back. Others have insisted the living conditions on the homestead are not fit for the children to be living in and questioned the safety of the children.
The Nauglers are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday on the misdemeanor charges, and a child custody hearing was set for today.
Do you think CPS was right to remove these children from the homestead, or should the Nauglers be allowed to raise their family as they see fit? Let us know in the comments section below.
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