Monday, 10 December, 2018

Search for missing boy in New Mexico uncovers 11 starving children

Eleven children were held with little food or water in a makeshift compound in Amalia N.M. for an unknown period of time before police raided the location on Friday Aug. 3 2018 Taos County Sheriffs Office
Gerardo Duncan | 08 August, 2018, 16:14

Authorities combing a compound in rural New Mexico found the remains of a young child on Monday, just days after 11 starving children were rescued from the same location, police said.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said Tuesday that the remains were found after a search in Amalia, New Mexico, near the Colorado border.

Investigators said that's where they found Siraj Wahhaj living in a filthy trailer in what police described as some sort of makeshift compound in some of the worst conditions they've ever seen.

Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj is the toddler who vanished from Clayton County, Georgia, last November.

One 8-year-old child said that all the adults in the compound had seen Abdul-Ghani deceased and that "Uncle Lucas" - an apparent reference to Morton - washed the body twice and buried it in either a tunnel deputies found around the compound or in the "toilet room".

Morten is facing an additional charge of harboring a fugitive, and Siraj Wahhaj is also being held on a child abduction warrant out of Georgia.

Now the father, Siraj Wahhaj, is sitting in a New Mexico jail.

The boy's mother told police her child suffered from seizures along with development and cognitive delays.

But a tip forwarded to Georgia detective last week set off a series of events that led to a raid at the New Mexico compound.

In a court filing Monday, Abdul-ghani's father told the boy's mother before fleeing Georgia that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child because he believed he was possessed by the devil. It was unclear how or why they ended up in New Mexico, Hogrefe said.

"I had no probable cause to go onto this property".

At that time, Siraj Wahhaj said he was taking the little boy to the park, but they never returned.

A defense attorney said criminal complaints accusing five adults of child abuse are sparse in detail, leading to uncertainty about how much investigative work has been done.

Anderson says the 11 children found inside the compound at first played at neighbouring properties but had stopped in recent months.

The Badgers said they reached out to authorities in New Mexico and Georgia and gave the sheriff's office permission to search the property, but nothing was done until last week.

The children, ages 1 to 15, were taken into protective custody.

According to law enforcement, the prime suspect in the boy's disappearance was his father, 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj.

The search for Abdul-ghani led authorities Friday to the compound shielded by old tires, wooden pallets and an earthen wall studded with broken glass.

Hogrefe said the search did not turn up the missing boy, identified by the sheriff as AG Wahhaj, but that investigators had reason to believe the boy had been at the compound fairly recently. Two more people, Lucas Morten and Jenny Leveille, are also alleged to have kept the 11 children in squalor with nearly no food or water.

The children wore dirty rags for clothing with no shoes, and were surrounded by weapons and rounds of ammunition, authorities said.

The sheriff's office said both men initially refused to follow verbal orders, and Wahhaj was "heavily armed with an AR15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket when he was taken down".

Police described the compound as a small underground trailer covered by plastic, with no running water or electricity.

The Associated Press reports that Badger and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group of people in the makeshift compound, which he says is on his land.

Authorities staged a raid after someone believed to have been in the compound sent out a message for help that said: "We are starving and need food and water".

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