Published: Wed, August 08, 2018
World News | By Joan Terry

Moms of 11 children found at New Mexico compound arrested

Moms of 11 children found at New Mexico compound arrested

Police were led to what they said was a "filthy" compound in New Mexico with two Muslim men, three women, and 11 children.

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.

Stacks of tires, piles of trash and plastic sheets surrounded the squalid New Mexico compound, shrouding what was happening inside - five adults, including a fugitive wanted in the disappearance of his young son, living with 11 emaciated children.

He and four other adults are charged with the abuse of 11 children found in a filthy, makeshift compound.

Deputies were executing a search warrant related to a joint investigation involving the abduction of a 4-year-old Georgia boy by his father, Siraj Wahhaj.

"We discovered the remains yesterday on Abdul's fourth birthday", Mr Hogrefe said, appearing to fight back tears.

Hogrefe, in an August 4 statement, said that officials found the "occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief".

The second man has been alternatively identified by the sheriff as Lucas Morten and Lucan Morton. The boy's mother said the boy can't walk and requires constant attention.

The boy's father was among five people arrested after the raid near the border with Colorado.

Police said Sunday that investigators believed the missing boy was at the compound in recent weeks. 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 an Alabama officer, according to the report, they were headed to New Mexico on a camping trip and were later picked up in a truck registered to Morton. "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.

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In a January Facebook post, Imam Siraj Wahhaj called for the safe return of his three children and 12 grandchildren.

So far, all five adults have been charged with 11 counts of child abuse, according to the sheriff.

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.

They never returned. After months of investigating, the sheriff's office found the elder Wahhaj on this compound near Amalia, New Mexico. The three women taken into custody at the compound are believed to be the children's mothers, deputies said.

Authorities said in the news conference that they have not positively identified the remains as missing Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj.

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".

Sheriff Hogrefe said the adults and children - ages 1 to 15 - had no shoes, wore dirty rags for clothing and "looked like Third World country refugees".

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.

Hogrefe said that although New Mexico authorities learned Wahhaj could be in New Mexico in May, local authorities couldn't confirm that he was at the Amalia compound and that's why they didn't move in sooner.

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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