New Mexico: Police find young boy's remains at compound

08 August, 2018, 16:16 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • Father who took missing Clayton County child found in New Mexico; Kid still missing

Taos County officials examine a disheveled living compound at Amalia, New Mexico where the remains of a child were found, August 7, 2018.

The father was arrested at the compound Friday along with his sisters Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj and two other adults - Lucas Morten and Jany Leveille.

There, in the remote New Mexico community of Amalia, 11 skeletal children lived in squalor.

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.

The remains of a young boy were found on a return visit to the site on Monday, on what would have been the missing child's fourth birthday, Hogrefe said.

Police arrested Morten on suspicion he was harboring a fugitive, officials said.

He doesn't recall seeing the Georgia boy who was missing. The boy's mother said the boy can't walk and requires constant attention. Police said the adults declined to give statements about the missing child, but he is believed to have been at the compound as recently as a few weeks ago.

Wahhaj, 39, was wanted for the abduction of his 3-year-old son Abdul Ghani Wahhaj in Georgia, authorities said.

Alabama police said they were told the group were going camping in New Mexico, the station said. "For me, that was the breaking point, where I thought we finally had enough probable cause to put in an affidavit for a search warrant and present it to a district judge", the sheriff said.

The children were removed and turned over to state child-welfare workers. "But what was most surprising, and heartbreaking, was when the team located a total of five adults and 11 children that looked like third-world country refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing".

Children aged between one and 15 were rescued from the compound that had been under investigation for months.

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The search at the compound came amid a two-month investigation in collaboration with Clayton County authorities and the FBI, according to Hogrefe.

Badger said the children "clearly were not taken care of", and believes the sheriff should have - and could have - acted sooner.

"I've been working this job for 30 years, and I've never seen anything like this", Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper.

Wahhaj was one of the suspects arrested at the compound. He said the younger Wahhaj and two of the women arrested - Hujrah and Subhannah Wahhaj - are his children.

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.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is reportedly the son of Siraj Wahhaj, a prominent imam at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, N.Y., who has posted on social media about worries over the missing boy and other family members.

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

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.

That changed when Georgia detectives forwarded a message to Sheriff Hogrefe's office that initially had been sent to a third party, saying: "We are starving and need food and water".

He proposed the group "swap" the property for land Badger said the group had purchased not far away from his home in Northern New Mexico.

There was little food in the compound, which consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic with no water, plumbing and electricity, he said.

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