By Andrew Hay
TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – A child’s body found at a New Mexico compound has been identified as Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a missing 3-year-old boy whose father is one of five adults charged with child abuse at the remote settlement, the Taos County Sheriff said on Thursday.
The condition of the body made identification difficult and the cause and manner of death remained unclear, the statement said.
The finding came two days after a Taos County judge received death threats and Islamophobic abuse for granting bail to the five defendants, who are all black and Muslim.
The severely ill toddler went missing in Georgia in December. His mother, Hakima Ramzi, told police her husband, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, took the boy and never returned.
Authorities unearthed the boy’s body at the compound on Aug. 6, three days after they raided the ramshackle home near Amalia, New Mexico, where they found 11 children in “filthy conditions” with no food or clean water.
The children were taken into protective care and their four parents, along with another adult family member, were charged with child abuse on Aug. 8.
Marie Legrand Miller, an attorney for one of the defendants, said she feared for her client’s safety after threats of violence, “Islamophobia” and “overt racism” directed at judge Sarah Backus after her decision to grant bail.
“The ongoing issue is whether my client can get out of here safely,” Legrand Miller said outside the Taos County jail after meeting her client Hujrah Wahhaj, the sister of Ibn Wahhaj.
Prosecutors allege the boy died in February as Ibn Wahhaj carried out a faith-healing ritual on him at the compound.
Prosecutors have accused Ibn Wahhaj of leading firearms training for two teenage boys at the compound to carry out attacks on schools, banks and police.
Lawyers for the five defendants say they are being discriminated against because they are black Muslims who practised faith healing and taught their children how to shoot. Neighbours and relatives dispute allegations that the children were starving.
Ibn Wahhaj must remain in custody while he faces a warrant for his arrest in Georgia for child abduction. His wife Jany Leveille, a Haitian national, is in immigration custody and faces possible deportation for living illegally in the United States for more than 20 years, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Defendants Lucas Morten, his wife Subhannah Wahhaj and her sister Hujrah Wahhaj remain in Taos County jail.
(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, N.M.; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Paul Tait)