Aug. 7 (UPI) — Officials discovered the remains of a child at a makeshift compound in New Mexico where 11 emaciated children were found last week, the Taos County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
Police searched the complex Friday while looking for a 4-year-old boy whose mother reported him missing. Instead of finding the boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, though, they found 11 other children living in squalor with no fresh water and little food.
The sheriff’s office arrested the boy’s father, 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj, and four other adults also found at the Amalia, N.M., compound, including Lucas Morten, Jany Leveille, and Siraj Wahhaj’s sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj. Officials accused the adults of abuse. The women are believed to be the mothers of the children.
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe did not confirm the identity of the body citing a pending autopsy.
Abdul-Ghani’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, told CNN she hadn’t seen her son in nine months and accused Siraj Wahhaj of abducting the then-3-year-old boy in November.
“My husband said he was taking Abdul-Ghani to the park, and didn’t come back. That was in November 2017. When I would ask him where he was, he said he was on his way, he was coming soon, he was just keeping him for the night. But I haven’t seen him since then,” she said.
Ramzi said Abdul-Ghani has hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and requires medicine to treat the condition.
Eight members of TCSO’s Sheriff’s Response Team and the State OSI Unit executed a search warrant on the compound on Friday after a message was forwarded to the office by a Georgia detective.
“The message sent to a third party simply said in part ‘we are starving and need food and water,’” Hogrefe said. “I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible.”
Siraj Wahhaj was found armed with an AR15 rifle, five loaded 30-round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket when he was taken down, police said.
“Many more rounds of ammo were found in the makeshift compound that consists of a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing, or electricity,” the sheriff’s office said.
Hogrefe added the only food the authorities saw in the “filthy” trailer were a few potatoes and a box of rice.