National News

Boy’s Body Discovered on New Mexico Compound Where 11 Malnourished Children Were Found

Posted August 7, 2018 10:53 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2018 10:57 p.m. EDT

The body of a young boy has been found at a compound in New Mexico where 11 malnourished children were discovered last week living without fresh water or plumbing, the authorities announced Tuesday.

While the authorities said they were waiting for positive identification of the child, Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe of Taos County noted that the body was found on Monday, which would have been the fourth birthday of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a Georgia boy whose disappearance last December eventually led the authorities to the compound in Amalia, New Mexico.

Hogrefe said at a news conference Tuesday that the body had been discovered in an inner part of the compound at about 11 a.m. Monday, after they received information that led them to believe the child may still have been on the property. He declined to provide further information, citing the continuing investigation.

Donald Gallegos, the area’s district attorney, said that each of the five adults found on the compound, including Abdul-Ghani’s father, Siraj Wahhaj, is each facing 11 third-degree felony charges of child abuse. The charge carries up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine, he said.

Gallegos said they would wait for the Office of the Medical Investigator’s report to determine whether more charges will follow.

Abdul-Ghani was reported missing in Jonesboro, Georgia, in December by his mother, who told authorities that he had gone to the park with his father 10 days earlier and had not returned, the Clayton County Police Department said.

Hakima Ramzi, Abdul-Ghani’s mother, told the police that her son had developmental and cognitive delays, suffered from seizures and was unable to walk because of a brain condition.

Days after he disappeared, the child and his father were involved in a single-vehicle car accident in Alabama while in the company of five other children and two adults, the police said. The group told the police that they were headed on a camping trip in New Mexico.

The authorities obtained a search warrant and raided the compound — which they described as an underground trailer covered in plastic — last Friday, where they found the 11 children, ages 1-15, and three women believed to be their mothers.

The Taos County Sheriff’s Office said that Wahhaj, 39, was heavily armed and initially uncooperative. Eventually, everyone at the site was taken in without incident.

In addition to Wahhaj, the others facing charges are Lucas Morton; Jany Leveille, 35; Hujrah Wahhaj, 38; and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35.

During the news conference, Monique Jacobson, Cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Children, Youth and Family Department, said the 11 malnourished children found on the compound were fed and given clean clothes once they were in custody. Hearings to determine whether the children would remain in state custody are forthcoming, she said.