Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

Police find body of four-year-old boy at raided camp

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
Charlie Simmons | 08 August, 2018, 16:17

But she had no idea he'd disappear with their son for nine months - only to be found across the country with 11 other children living in squalor.

Taos County, New Mexico, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said that the women and the two men face charges of child abuse.

Clayton County police said in a missing persons bulletin that Wahhaj and his son were last seen December 13 in Alabama, traveling with five other children and two adults.

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", the sheriff's office said.

But Hogrefe reiterated at the conference Tuesday that he didn't have sufficient probable cause to raid the property until a distress message - "reasonably believed" to have come from within the compound - was relayed to his office by a detective in Clayon County Georgia last week. But the most risky encounter came when authorities tried to arrest the two men at the compound: Wahhaj and Morten. However, there was no sign of Abdul.

On August 2, Sheriff Hogrefe issued a search warrant describing "a makeshift compound surrounded by tires and an earthen berm" where Wahhaj along with adult Lucas Morten were thought to be in hiding.

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

The Associated Press reported Jason Badger, who appears to own the land where Wahhaj and the others were living, recently attempted to evict Morton but was unsuccessful. Hogrefe said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and officials from Clayton County Police Department had been working the case for about two months.

Aleks Kostich of the Taos County Public Defender's Office said Tuesday his agency is gathering information and assigning attorneys to the defendants.

Morton was arrested along with Ibn Wahhaj and the three suspected mothers.

Abdul's mother told the authorities that Siraj Wahhaj wanted to exorcize his son because he considered that his disability was due to a demon.

Three women who are believed to be the mothers of the children - Jany Leveille, 35, Huraj Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35 - were originally not charged, in hopes that they would cooperate with CYFD investigators, according to the new affidavit.

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Before fleeing with his son, Wahhaj reportedly told Ramzi that he wanted to perform an exorcism on his son, believing that Abdul-Ghani was possessed by the devil.

The adults and children appeared like "refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing, " the sheriff said.

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. Morten was charged with harboring a fugitive.

The sheriff declined to answer questions about what was going on at the compound, but he said a shooting range had been built at the property.

Alabama police said they were told the group were going camping in New Mexico, the station said.

Tyler Anderson of Amalia said Tuesday he had helped the newcomers install solar panels after they arrived in December.

In the aftermath of the raid, Badger visited the compound.

It is not clear who sent the message. He said the younger Wahhaj and two of the women arrested - Hujrah and Subhannah Wahhaj - are his children.

The arrests were part of an operation connected to a months-long search for an abducted three-year-old, according to the Taos County sheriff's office.

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

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

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