Sheriff: Body of unidentified child found on New Mexico compound

Glen Norman
August 8, 2018

Authorities in New Mexico have recovered the remains of a young boy inside the ramshackle compound where 11 other children were found alive but malnourished in a raid on the site last week, the Taos County sheriff said on Tuesday.

Asked whether the two men and three women arrested at the compound offered any information regarding the whereabouts of the boy, Hogrefe said they provided some "limited" information that assisted in the discovery of the set of remains, which appeared to belong to a small child.

The women, believed to be mothers of some of the children, have been identified as 35-year-old Jany Leveille, 38-year-old Hujrah Wahhaj, and 35-year-old Subhannah Wahhaj.

At the time, cops were searching for a 3-year-old boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who went missing from Clayton County, Ga., in December and was believed to be in the area.

But it is unclear whether the remains uncovered Monday are those of a missing Georgia boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who was nowhere to be found after authorities stormed the complex on Friday.

Suspect mugshots from northern New Mexico compound
Suspect mugshots from northern New Mexico compound

Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Monique Jacobson told the Tuesday news conference that CYFD was going to file a petition for prolonged custody of the children.

Morten was additionally charged with harbouring a fugitive, and Wahhaj was held, without bail, over the Georgia arrest warrant for child abduction.

The boy was reported by his mother to suffer from multiple health issues, including seizures and a brain disorder that prevented him from walking and required regular medication, according to KOAT.

The latest affidavit also provides more detail on what officers found when they raided the compound on Friday.

Anderson said the children found inside the compound at first played at neighboring properties but stopped in recent months. She said Wahhaj believed "the child is possessed by the devil" and that he meant to deny the boy his medication. Wahhaj told police the group was traveling from Georgia to New Mexico to go camping.

He said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents conducted surveillance of the area a few weeks ago but did not find probable cause to search the property.

The children were removed from the compound and turned over to state child-welfare workers.

All the adults were arrested on suspicion of child abuse.

The cluttered compound had loaded firearms easily within the children's reach, and the group had been there for at least two months, the sheriff said.

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. Both Wahhaj and Morten were taken into custody.

Authorities mounted a raid after receiving a message, possibly from within the compound, that said: "We are starving and need food and water".

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.

Wahhaj was armed with several guns, including a loaded AR-15 assault rifle, when he was taken into custody without incident at the compound, the sheriff said. Abdul-Ghani's father, Siraj Wahhaj, was arrested. 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.

So on Friday, the Taos County Sheriff's Office and state authorities executed a search warrant on the compound.

The Taos County Sheriff said the 3-year-old boy was not among the children which he described as being in heartbreaking condition, starving with no food or fresh water.

Badger said Tuesday that he had concerns about the compound, but that the courts and other authorities shot down his attempts to break up the encampment - described as a trailer buried in the ground.

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