Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Child's remains found at New Mexico makeshift compound

County Sheriff's Office of the rural compound during an unsuccessful search for County Sheriff's Office of the rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy
Lisa Bryan | 08 August, 2018, 16:15

Police went in after the sheriff in Taos, New Mexico, was forwarded a note from someone on the property given to Georgia police, which read: we are starving and need food and water.

The Taos County Sheriff's office said in a statement that they were alerted about the compound by Georgia police who had received a message from an inhabitant of the encampment.

Aleks Kostich, managing attorney in the Taos County public defender's office, said the office was gathering information and assigning attorneys to the defendants.

The remains of a young boy have been found on a filthy New Mexico compound where authorities rescued 11 children last week, according to police.

Property owner Jason Badger said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group that he said had built the compound on his acreage instead of a neighboring tract owned by Lucas Morton, one of the men arrested during the raid.

He had met both of the men in the group, but never the women, who authorities say are the mothers of the 11 children, ages one to 15. According to an arrest warrant obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the boy and his dad left home after the father revealed his plan to perform an "exorcism" on the toddler since he was "possessed by the devil". However, the boy was not at the compound when police executed a search warrant there. He said the images were shared with the mother of Abdul-ghani but she did not spot her son.

"The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice", Hogrefe said after the police operation at the compound.

Hogrefe described the children looking like "Third-World country refugees" with no food, fresh water or shoes and "basically dirty rags" for clothing. The children were taken away for medical tests.

What authorities found was what Hogrefe called "the saddest living conditions and poverty" he has seen in 30 years on the job.

The five adults, including the boy's father, have been charged with child abuse.


The FBI and authorities in Georgia indicated to the sheriff's office that there could be weapons on the compound, and deputies learned that there had been a shooting range installed there, Hogrefe said.

Morten was also charged with harboring a fugitive. Both of them face several charges of child abuse. "Each count is a third-degree felony". It was unclear how or why they ended up in New Mexico, Hogrefe said. They have not yet made their first appearances in court.

The Taos County sheriff identified the women facing charges as Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35. "All were arrested without incident in Taos and were later booked in the Taos Adult Detention Center", it said.

"We had a good idea of a target location to look for the child." he said.

The Taos County Sheriff's Office went to the makeshift compound on Friday to search for a missing 3-year-old boy, AG Wahhaj.

The Sheriff said the Federal Bureau of Investigation had "recently provided information and surveillance on this location, but they (FBI) didn't feel there was enough probable cause to get on the property".

It wasn't clear who sent the message or how it was communicated.

According to law enforcement, the prime suspect in the boy's disappearance was his father, 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj. "Unbelievable", Hogrefe said. "These children were hungry, they were thirsty, they were filthy".

Authorities said at a news conference that they have not positively identified the remains as missing Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj.

In a federal court filing in 2006, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj claimed he was harassed on his way to and from Morocco by customs agents at JFK Airport in NY because he is "the son of the famous Muslim Imam Siraj Wahhaj".

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