'Off-grid' couple faces hearing to regain custody of 10 children

'Off-grid' couple faces hearing to regain custody of 10 children
Facebook page photos reveal tarps cover the wood framing that serves as the family's quarters.
Facebook page photos reveal tarps cover the wood framing that serves as the family's quarters.
Nicole and Joe Naugler
Nicole and Joe Naugler

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this story identified Breckinridge County Sheriff Todd Pate as the voice in the recording. Sheriff Pate spoke with WAVE 3 News Friday night and indicated the voice on the recording is one of his sheriff's deputies.

GARFIELD, KY (WAVE) – A couple faces a hearing Monday to regain custody of their 10 children, whom Child Protective Services put into foster care Wednesday following a confrontation between their mother and a Breckinridge County sheriff's deputy .

"I don't know where my children are but if you have them, tell them we miss and love them dearly," a post on Nicole Naugler's

Facebook page, Blessed Little Homestead,

read on Friday. "My heart is broken. I have been trying to keep busy with the legal stuff to keep my mind busy. It's going to be the longest weekend of my life."

Nicole and Joe Naugler are facing charges in a case that has prompted an outcry on social media from supporters of their family's “off-the-grid” lifestyle.

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Neighbor Travis Metcalf isn't buying it.

"They're living underneath tarps," he said. "So kinda take it at that."

"No Trespassing" signs mark the perimeter of the Naugler's 27-acre homestead, located off of a gravel road. Facebook page photos reveal tarps cover the wood framing that serves as the family's quarters. There is no wired electricity, only generators. No running water and no toilets; only shallow latrines or slop buckets.

Dozens of photos posted on the social media page show the children playing in snow or mud.

"They delivered a baby up there last winter," Metcalf said. "It was about 30 degrees below zero; it's no living conditions for a kid at all."

The children do not attend formal schools. Postings allude to a "free-schooling" approach in which parents provide "life lessons" to each child at his or her own pace.

The Nauglers have depended upon neighbors' private wells or municipal hookups for their drinking water, but a confrontation on Sunday prompted a criminal summons for Joe Naugler on a charge of menacing.

"(Naugler) was turned down for the water request and asked to leave the property," the summons read. "He then said to his son 'get the pistol out of the glove compartment box.'"

WAVE 3 News has withheld the complainant's name at her request.

"He (Naugler) was acting very erratically," the complainant said in an interview Friday. "He was calling us names that I have to spell out. I can't even say 'em. And he said 'don't worry, I know where you live, and I'm gonna be back.'"

On Wednesday a sheriff's deputy went to the Nauglers, summons in hand, attempting to conduct a welfare check for Child Protective Services. He wanted to speak with two of their sons, who reportedly witnessed the water confrontation.

A website run by a supporter of Nicole Naugler posted the audio recordings of her encounter with the deputy: 

Deputy: You are standing the chance of having your children removed,
Nicole Naugler: For what, under what grounds?
Deputy: Let me just finish...
Nicole Naugler: For what, for not complying? I have constitutional rights, I have rights as a parent and my children won't speak to anybody without my permission, without an attorney or a lawyer.

The recordings detail several minutes of similar discourse. The deputy warned Nicole Naugler she faced felony charges of interference and could lose custody by court order if she continued to deny CPS access to question her children.

The confrontations would end with both parties yelling and Nicole Naugler in cuffs.

Deputy: Ma'am, sit down!
Nicole Naugler: You cannot kidnap my son!
Deputy: You're gonna be under arrest.
Nicole Naugler: You can shoot me dead, shoot me dead but you won't kidnap my son!
Deputy: Ma'am, You need to sit down in that car!
Nicole Naugler: Shoot me!

Nicole Naugler was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

"The kids are in four foster homes," said family friend Pace Ellsworth.

Ellsworth's crowd-sourcing site,

, has been raising money to help Nicole Naugler open a dog-grooming business in Radcliff.

"We chose to invest in Nicole because of her industriousness and uncompromising intention to lift her family out of their indigent circumstances," a Capistan news release read in part. "Her drive to save her family from their current financial and legal circumstances, mixed with her outstanding customer validation history, confirm that we made the correct decision."

"A CPS visit with her today went well," Ellsworth said by telephone Friday. "They're looking forward to getting the children back."

Other support groups have started raising funds to cover the Naugler's legal costs.

Nicole Naugler is scheduled to appear in court on her criminal charges Tuesday, May 12.

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