11 kids rescued from compound in northern New Mexico
Aug 08 2018
Three women believed to be the mothers of 11 children found hungry and living in a filthy makeshift compound in rural northern New Mexico have been arrested, following the weekend arrests of two men, authorities said Monday.
On Thursday, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe issued a search warrant for the compound, described as an earthen berm in a local subdivision was allegedly occupied by Morten and Siraj Wahhaj.
The Sheriff's Office named the three females as Jany Leveille (35), Hujrah Wahhaj (38), and Subhannah Wahhaj (35).
A child's body was found inside a compound located near the New Mexico-Colorado border.
The investigation kicked off late last year on the opposite side of the country in Jonesboro, Georgia, where 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj of the state's Clayton County was accused of kidnapping his toddler - who was ultimately not found.
Officials are waiting on an identification of the body, and can't positively say if it's the body of missing 3-year-old Abdul-ghani Wahhaj. The toddler was not found at the compound, but police said they believe he was there at some point. There has been no positive confirmation on whether the child is that of a missing 3-year-old boy from Georgia.
"That was back in end of January or February", he said, and added that while he also saw the 11 other children, he never saw the three women whom law enforcement said also lived at the makeshift dwelling. It said Hogrefe had sworn "an affidavit for arrest warrants charging 11 counts of child abuse for all five adults related to the neglect and abuse of the children involved".
Investigators believe one of the suspects owned an adjacent property but built the compound on the Badgers' property "by mistake", according to the affidavit for the search warrant.
The 11 children, ranging in age from 1 to 18 years-old were placed in protective custody. The child's mother became concerned, especially because the little boy suffers from seizures, developmental, and cognitive delays and is unable to walk due to suffering a Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy at birth.
But at the time, Alabama police didn't hold the group after the traffic accident. Clayton County Police said Tuesday someone with the group in New Mexico tipped off a family member on their whereabouts. He said two women were detained before being released pending further investigation.
Police found many more ammo rounds in the ramshackle hideout, they said, which they described as "a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing, or electricity".
Deputies gave the other children food and water and turned them over to state child services.
Everybody was wearing dirty rags for clothing and no one had shoes or any semblance of personal hygiene, he said.
Morton was arrested on the charge of suspicion of harboring a fugitive. Police received a search warrant last week after seeing a third-party message from someone on the compound that said, "We are starving and need food and water".
Both Wahhaj and Morten initially refused to follow verbal commands when law enforcement arrived at the compound, and Wahhaj remained holed up inside a small, rickety trailer with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, five 30-round magazines and four handguns, Hogrefe said.