(Mankato, MN) – A Mankato woman stands accused of keeping her children locked in a basement for a majority of the time they are at home.

Tia Jacquinet Oppegaard, 39, was charged in Blue Earth County Court with gross misdemeanor child endangerment and child neglect.

According to the criminal complaint, Blue Earth County Human Services received a report in August that Oppegaard locks two of her three children in their basement bedroom so they can’t get out and bother her.  Oppegaard allegedly used a rope and a child lock to keep the children from getting out.  A third child is apparently allowed to be upstairs.  The oldest child – age 10 – is allowed to come upstairs to get a Lunchable for supper, according to the report.

When investigators visited Oppegaard’s home, they found a jump rope tied to the doorknob of the downstairs bedroom, where two children sat wide awake inside.  One of the girls wanted to get out of bed, but Oppegaard told them it was bedtime.  Investigators saw a potty chair in the room.

In September, detectives interviewed one of the children at school.  The girl said the children usually get up at around 7 a.m. in summer and are allowed to play in a downstairs playroom, which is tied shut with the jump rope.  The girl said the children then nap from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  The jump rope, she told police, is on the door because she gets hungry and steals snacks.

At a follow-up visit at Oppegaard’s home, investigators noticed she had stopped using the jump rope to tie the door shut, but now had a gate keeping the children from leaving downstairs.

Doctors told investigators that the children’s situation was potentially unsafe and unhealthy for normal child development, and said the circumstances had possibly led to reported behavioral problems and weight loss.

Oppegaard’s children are 10, 3, and 1-year-old.  She’s been summoned to appear in Blue Earth County Court on December 19th.

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