Sunday 24 March 2019

Remains of boy found in squalid compound in New Mexico

Jany Leveille is believed to be one of the mothers of 11 children found living in a filthy compound in New Mexico. Photo: Taos County Sheriff via AP
Jany Leveille is believed to be one of the mothers of 11 children found living in a filthy compound in New Mexico. Photo: Taos County Sheriff via AP

Morgan Lee

Searchers found the remains of a boy on property where authorities raided a squalid makeshift compound last week in search of a missing Georgia child, US authorities said last night.

The remains were found on Monday during a search in Amalia, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said. Authorities were awaiting a positive identification of the remains.

The search for Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj (4) of Georgia led authorities on Friday to the compound where they found the father of the missing boy, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, four other adults and 11 children, aged one to 15, living in filthy conditions.

"We discovered the remains yesterday on Abdul's fourth birthday," Hogrefe said, appearing to fight back tears. The sheriff said authorities returned to the compound after interviews on Friday and Saturday.

He said information he and other law enforcement agencies obtained led them to believe the boy might still be on the property. 

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

The father of the boy has been accused of leaving Georgia in December with his then 3-year-old son.

Wahhaj was expected to appear in court today on a previous warrant from Georgia that seeks his extradition to face a charge of abducting his son from that state last December.

According to the extradition warrant, Wahhaj told the boy's mother that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child, who suffered from seizures, because he believed the boy was possessed by the devil.

The mother told police that Wahhaj took the boy for a trip to a park and never returned.

Abdul-Ghani was believed to have been at the Amalia compound as recently as several weeks ago, Hogrefe said.

The warrant said the boy suffered from severe medical issues, including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, a defect caused by lack of oxygen and blood flow around the time of birth. His mother said he can't walk and requires constant attention.

Property owner Jason Badger said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group from the makeshift compound on his land.

However, it took a plea for help and the search for the missing boy to finally draw sheriff's deputies to the desolate site that was walled off by stacks of old tires, wooden pallets and other debris.

Mr Badger said he had concerns about the compound near the Colorado border. But he says the courts and other authorities shot down his attempts to break up the encampment - described as a trailer buried in the ground just south of the New Mexico-Colorado border.

Court records show a judge dismissed an eviction notice filed by Mr Badger against Lucas Morton in June. The records didn't provide further details on the judge's decision.

Morton was among the five adults arrested after the Taos County sheriff raided the compound.

The adults, including the missing boy's father, have been charged with child abuse. A hearing is expected today.

Irish Independent

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