One of the owners of the Rams Head Group, which owns and operates several restaurants and concert venues in the region, was charged in Howard County with secretly recording video inside a women's bathroom at the group's Savage Mill restaurant last week, Howard County police said Monday.
Kyle Muehlhauser, 37, of Severna Park, turned himself in on Feb. 19 after being charged with six counts of visual surveillance with prurient intent stemming from a 10-month investigation by police.
The investigation began in May 2014 after a woman at the Savage restaurant, located in the 8600 block of Foundry Road, reported finding a digital video camera inside a bathroom, police said.
Muehlhauser, who has been released on $35,000 bond, and his father, Bill, lead the Rams Head Group, which owns three other restaurants and two concert venues in the region, including Rams Head Live! in Baltimore. The group also operates Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore.
According to the charging documents, an investigation into the Savage restaurant began May 9 when a woman reported that a digital video camera fell onto the floor next to her in a women's bathroom.
Police recovered the camera and found images of the victim and six unknown women on the video, police said. The footage also showed a white man wearing a black shirt and gray pants setting up the camera, according to the documents.
The man's face was blurred in the footage, according to the documents.
The camera was placed in the direction of the toilet, police said.
Four days after police were told about the camera, a Howard County detective returned to get surveillance video of the restaurant, according to the documents. The detective reported that the physical description of the man who set up the camera matched the description of Muehlhauser, according to the documents.
Police served a search and seizure warrant on Muehlhauser's residence and seized evidence, according to the documents.
The camera was sent for DNA testing, police said, and in September police discovered there was male DNA on the device, according to the documents.
DNA was collected from Muehlhauser in October, and in December police received the results, which showed Muehlhauser's DNA on the camera, according to the documents.
Police declined to comment on details of the investigation between December and Feb. 19, when Muehlhauser turned himself in.
"I'm sorry, for investigative reasons, I cannot provide more detail than what is contained in the charging documents," spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said. "The investigation was active up until the time of the arrest."
Police said they have notified neighboring jurisdictions of the charges in case similar acts have occurred at other venues.
Muehlhauser is scheduled to be tried in Howard County District Court on April 9.
Jay Winer, managing partner of Historic Savage Mill, said in a press release that owners and tenants were "were shocked and surprised to learn of the allegations made against Kyle Muehlhauser of the Rams Head Tavern at Savage Mill, made public today. Rams Head Tavern has been a superior and upstanding tenant and major part of Savage Mill for nearly 20 years.
"We have been assured by the Howard County Police Department that although their investigation remains active, they have no reason to believe that any Mill personnel had any knowledge of or involvement in this unfortunate and illegal activity."
The mill was nearly empty mid-afternoon Monday. Though shop owners said that was in part because people were at work, many said privately that they worried about the impact the news would have on business. Many didn't want to speak publicly for fear of associating their business with the scandal.
Chuck Dick, a native of Savage who was visiting the mill with a friend from Annapolis, said the news was "hard to understand." The two planned to eat dinner at Ram's Head, a popular restaurant for locals.
"It just seems like such a silly, tragic thing," Dick said. "It's a shock, it's a disappointment.
"It's just breaking all out hearts here in the town, for all of them," he said of Kyle Muehlhauser's family. "We're saddened for the black eye it leaves on our little town."
Daniel Willcox, a North Laurel resident, was walking out of the mill after a business meeting at Bonaparte Bread, a cafe next to Rams Head. Willcox said he had only been to the tavern "once or twice."
But he said he was sorry to hear the news. "I like the ambiance and artistic qualities of the mill," he said. "It's kind of sad that this had to tarnish it."
Roxana Sinex, who owns Roxy's Art in the mill, said she thought customers would distinguish between Ram's Head and the rest of the shops at the mill. "I think it's an individual who did something," she said. "I don't think it will have an impact on the mill."
But, she added, the mill could suffer if Ram's Head, which she called the shopping mall's anchor, struggles.
Her husband, Stephen Sinex, who owns The Family Game Store, agreed. "If it affects Ram's Head at all, it will dramatically affect the mill," he said.