A raid on a New Mexico desert compound turned up 11 children wearing rags and living in filth, and also broke open a freakish tale of guns, exorcism, and a search for a missing young boy who suffers from seizures and is nowhere to be found.
The Taos County Sheriff was emotional Tuesday as he told a room of reporters that his deputies found the body of a child on that compound Monday morning.
The women - Jany Leveille, believed to be Morten's wife, Hujrah Wahhaj, and Subhannah Wahhaj, an author of Muslim self-help books - eventually gave themselves up.
The rescue of 11 hungry children in Amalia, New Mexico, on Friday began with a mysterious tip delivered to a detective across the country, in Clayton County, Georgia, from where young Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj vanished in November.
Hogrefe said authorities had conducted surveillance of the compound while looking for the missing boy before he decided on Thursday to get a search warrant immediately after a Georgia investigator forwarded a message in which someone at the compound reportedly told another person that people at the compound were starving and needed water. The remains of a boy were found on the compound on Tuesday, but the authorities have not clarified whether it is Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj.
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Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe did not confirm the identity of the body citing a pending autopsy.
Albuquerque television station KOAT-TV, an ABC affiliate, said the missing boy, named Abdul, was first reported missing by his mother in December after the father left with the child on a supposed trip to a park. His mother said he can not walk and requires constant attention. Documents made public in a court filing Monday said the father told the boy's mother before fleeing Georgia that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child because he believed he was possessed by the devil. The group told police they were headed to New Mexico to go camping, and continued on their way.
"I had no probable cause to go onto this property prior to the day I wrote the first warrant".
A defense attorney said criminal complaints accusing five adults of child abuse are sparse in detail, leading to uncertainty about how much investigative work has been done.
Deputies in Taos County, New Mexico rescued 11 kids living in awful conditions at this makeshift "compound".
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Wahhaj was one of the suspects arrested at the compound. They and the three women all face 11 counts of child abuse.
Eight members of the TCSO's Sheriff's Response Team and four members of the State OSI unit were involved in executing the search warrant on the compound Friday, Hogrefe said.
Both the adults and the children looked like "refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing".
The sheriff's office said 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".
It's unclear whether Wahhaj did in fact do anything to his son, though authorities confirmed that they had reason to believe Abdul-Ghani had been at the compound in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, Imam Siraj Wahhaj said his son and two of the women arrested - Hujrah and Subhannah Wahhaj - are his children.
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The group appeared to have been living at the compound for a few months.