Authorities have found human remains near the filthy New Mexico desert compound where a man whose son is missing from Clayton County was arrested Friday.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said Tuesday the remains had been found a day earlier and appeared to belong to a young boy. They have been turned over for an autopsy for identification, the sheriff said in a news conference streamed online by Taos News.
“I want to stress that no positive identification of the remains has yet been determined,” he said.
Monday was Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj’s 4th birthday. On Tuesday, family in Georgia learned of the unidentified remains.
A family member told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the child’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, who has been spreading the word about her missing son for months, was too upset to talk.
The father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, was arrested Friday in the makeshift compound in the northern New Mexico desert, along with four other adults. Child welfare workers took custody of 11 children.
Wahhaj had been wanted since December, when the child’s mother told Clayton police he took the boy away after speaking of performing an “exorcism” on his son because Abdul-Ghani was “possessed by the Devil.”
The boy had struggled his whole life with neurological problems from hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. He can’t walk and suffers from seizures, police said.
Taos County authorities raided the compound after someone apparently inside sent a message to a Clayton detective saying: "We are starving and need food and water.”
The small compound is composed of an old partially buried RV, a wall of tires and an earthen berm.
The 11 children found there were all relatives of Wahhaj, according to family.
The sheriff’s office said there was almost no food and the kids had no hygienic products and wore dirty rags. On Tuesday, officials said at the news conference the children were all in state custody and child welfare authorities intended to file paperwork to maintain custody.
Wahhaj is jail on 11 child cruelty charges, along with the four other adults: Lucas Allen Morton, Jany Leveille, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj.
Each charge is a third-degree felony, which the district attorney over the county, Donald Gallegos, said makes every count punishable by three years in prison.
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