Updated Aug. 21 at 11:23 a.m.
A makeshift compound in Northern New Mexico where five adults were arrested, 11 children were taken into protective custody and the body of a missing toddler was recovered earlier this month was razed to a pile of rubble last week, according to property owner Jason Badger. Before the property was destroyed, however, officials recovered other pieces of evidence from the compound.
The Taos County Sheriff's Office confirmed it did not order the destruction of the dwelling. Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said Tuesday morning (Aug. 21) the New Mexico Office of Superintendent of Insurance, which assisted in the Aug. 3 raid of the compound, identified the half-buried trailer as stolen and used a search warrant to retrieve it from the property.
"The trailer was stolen from Alabama but never entered in (the National Crime Information Center)," Hogrefe said. "OSI found it was stolen from an insurance database they utilize."
Earlier, the investigation revealed that the five adults and several of the children, who had lived at the compound in a remote subdivision a couple of miles from Amalia, had made their way through Alabama on their way to Northern New Mexico. At a pretrial detention hearing last week, an FBI agent testified the group was involved in a single-vehicle accident while traveling through the southern state. They were stopped by an officer but later released.
After a bulldozer operator destroyed the dwelling where authorities found the group living in squalor in August, Badger said he and his wife began taking time off from work to clean up the mess. The compound sparked a media frenzy over the past two weeks, causing a major interruption in their otherwise quiet lives in the northernmost reaches of Taos County.
"There's really nothing to take pics of any more," Badger said Friday (Aug. 17). "We're starting to clean up now and have little time off work to get it done. We had to take vacation time to clean up."
Badger is relieved that things are finally beginning to settle down, but the destruction of the compound has also raised questions for the surrounding community: Who ordered the razing and why?
The question has been submitted to Badger,as well as the handful of agencies now involved in child abuse cases filed against each of the five adults arrested at the residence early this month. Allegations described at a pretrial detention hearing this week suggested the adults were also training the children to carry out armed attacks, but associated charges have not yet been filed.
A "stop order" was issued Aug. 7 for the property where the compound was located, bearing the signature of a Taos County building official.
The order cited "unsafe structures, rubbish, abandoned materials" and "building without a permit." It indicated that construction on the property had been performed in violation of a Taos County Solid Waste ordinance and without a land use permit.
On Friday, Hogrefe deferred to the 8th Judicial District Attorney's Office regarding the compound. Hogrefe said "questions of a legal nature" were best answered by the DA.
But District Attorney Donald Gallegos also referred The Taos News to another party: Badger, the property owner. As of press time Monday (Aug. 20), he hadn't responded either.
Additional inquiries were sent on Monday to Deputy District Attorney Ron Olsen and FBI Public Affairs Specialist Frank Fisher in Albuquerque.
"It would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time," Fisher said. "The FBI is coordinating assistance, as needed, with the Taos County Sheriff's Office in (its) investigation."
Fisher said further information could not be provided given that five cases are currently pending against the defendants in Taos District Court.
This is a developing story. For more, check back here at taosnews.com.
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