Five adults accused of keeping 11 children in sordid conditions at a remote compound in Northern New Mexico appeared for an arraignment Wednesday (Aug. 8) in Taos Magistrate Court, but prosecutors …
Updated Aug. 11 at 9 a.m.
The father of a toddler whose remains were likely found Monday (Aug. 6) at a remote compound in Northern New Mexico allegedly trained another child who was living there to commit school shootings.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and four other adults have been accused of keeping Wahhaj's son, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, and 11 other children in sordid living conditions at the makeshift camp near Amalia.
The five appeared for an arraignment Wednesday (Aug. 8) in Taos Magistrate Court. As the courtroom session began, however, prosecutors announced they would be refiling the cases in Taos District Court and had filed motions to keep all five defendants jailed.
The motions allege Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and his four co-defendants had trained one of the 11 children to commit school shootings. "A foster parent of one of the eleven children stated the Defendant had trained the child in the use of an assault rifle in preparation for future school shootings," each motion states.
Tim Hasson, a prosecutor with the 8th Judicial District Court in Taos who prepared the requests, cited rule 5-409 in the New Mexico legal code to hold Siraj and the other defendants – Lucas Allen Morton, 40, Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35.
As of Wednesday, the five faced 11 counts of child abuse each, but new charges may be filed following a hearing on the motions set for Monday (Aug. 13).
Siraj Wahhaj also faces a 2017 charge in Georgia for allegedly kidnapping his son, who was then 3. A warrant for the 40-year-old's arrest was issued in January out of Clayton County, Georgia.
The boy's mother said their child suffered seizures and walked with a limp. He would have turned 4-years-old Monday, the day the body was unearthed from an unmarked grave at the compound.
The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator, however, has not yet officially confirmed that the remains found at the compound are those of the missing boy.
According to court documents filed by Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, the FBI had the compound under aerial surveillance for about two months, but never moved in on the property. Among the adults and children they could see on the ground was a boy walking with a limp, according to a search warrant Hogrefe's office prepared.
The sheriff said the situation changed after his office was alerted by a Clayton County police detective, who said he had received a message from one of the "females asking for help, stating the family was starving and needed money and food."
An affidavit filed by Hogrefe Aug. 7 details the raid on the compound Aug. 3 and what law enforcement found there.
Hogrefe said on Friday (Aug. 10) that they had prepared for what was expected to be one of the most dangerous assaults of his career. As they approached the property, located in a sweeping and sparsely populated valley near the Colorado border, he said they knew they were likely being watched.
The sheriff said his team and special agents from the New Mexico Special Office of Insurance approached from the front of the property, sending teams tactically to different points of entry, with other officers providing long-range cover from the roadway.
Hogrefe found Siraj Wahhaj in a "partly buried camper trailer," along with two women and several children. The sheriff yelled commands for the wanted man to surrender, but Wahhaj refused to come out with his hands up. When Hogrefe opened the door, he could see the suspect "was armed with a loaded revolver in his pocket," and was "wearing a belt with 5 loaded 30 round AR15 magazines in pouches on the belt." The sheriff placed Wahhaj under arrest. Beside the suspect was a loaded AR-15 rifle.
Wahhaj would not give his name or identify anyone with him. He also declined to say anything about his son's whereabouts.
Morton, also known as Lucas Morten and Lucas Mortensen, was arrested at the front of the property next to a white van. He was charged with harboring a fugitive, but later picked up child abuse charges.
After the team discovered all 11 children and detained the three women, they conducted a search of their surroundings. Until then, they had only seen the property from aerial photos taken by the FBI.
They found a 100-foot tunnel on the north side of the buried trailer, about 3 to 4 feet in diameter with two dugout "pockets" containing bedding, according to Hogrefe's affidavit. Another enclosure made of straw and tires housed a makeshift toilet.
"The living conditions, health and well being of the children were deemed deplorable as they had no clean water, food, electricity, dirty clothing, poor hygiene and had not eaten or taken nutrition in what was believed to be days," Hogrefe described in the document.
The three women gave their names and those of the children. As for the missing toddler, they only said he was not their son and that the men at the compound had instructed them not to talk about the child. The women were initially taken to the nonprofit Communities Against Violence in Taos, but were later arrested on child abuse charges. The children were turned over to the state Children Youth and Families Department.
Two of the children interviewed by a state caseworker said that the missing Georgia toddler had been at the compound "in poor health and died there," according to Hogrefe.
One of the rescued kids also told investigators that "Uncle Lucas" had washed the child's "body twice and then buried him." Hogrefe said he believes this would have been consistent "with Muslim beliefs."
The property's owner, Jason Badger, who was in a dispute over the family squatting at the compound had filed a case against Morton. Badger said he had seen the boy alive there in late January.
Other items found at the compound included a Marlin 30-30 with a scope, other guns, ammunition, a laptop, a camcorder, and a Penguin child's nebulizer used to turn medicine into mist.
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