Remains of unidentified boy found at New Mexico compound

AMALIA, N.M. (AP) — Searchers found the remains of a boy after raiding a makeshift compound last week in search of a missing Georgia child, authorities said Tuesday.

The remains were found Monday during a search in Amalia, near the Colorado border. Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said. Authorities were awaiting positive identification of the remains.

The search for Abdul-ghani of Georgia led authorities Friday to the squalid compound where they found Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the father of the missing boy, along with four other adults and 11 children living in filthy conditions.

"We discovered the remains yesterday on Abdul's fourth birthday," Hogrefe said, appearing to fight back tears.

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Children rescued from New Mexico compound
An aerial view of a compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety after a raid by authorities, is shown in this photo near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Conditions at a compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety after a raid by authorities, are shown in this photo near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
This undated posted provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shows Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, left, and his father Siraj Wahhaj, who police are seeking the public's in finding. Police reports show that the Georgia boy missing after authorities raided a New Mexico compound over the weekend was last seen in Alabama in December. The boy's mother told police he left with his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, for a trip to a park and never returned. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children via AP)
A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, arrested in connection with a raid by authorities on a squalid compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety, is shown in this booking photo, in Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
This Aug. 5, 2018 photo shows debris outside the location where people camped near Amalia, N.M. 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, Aug. 6. (Jesse Moya/The Taos News via AP)
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Lucas Morten, arrested in connection with a raid by authorities on a squalid compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody for their own health and safety, is shown in this booking photo, near Amalia, New Mexico, U.S., provided August 6, 2018. Taos County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

This combination photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Subhannah Wahhaj, from left, Jany Leveille and Hujrah Wahhaj. 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, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff's Department via AP)

This Aug. 5, 2018 photo shows a "no trespassing" sign outside the location where people camped near Amalia, N.M. 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, Aug. 6. (Jesse Moya/The Taos News via AP)
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay

This photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Hujrah Wahhaj. Wahhaj and a few other 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, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff via AP)

Cooking items are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
FILE - This Aug. 3, 2018, file photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing boy in Amalia, N.M. 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, Aug. 6. The boy last seen in Alabama in December traveling with one of the men who was arrested has not been found. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP, File)
This photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Subhannah Wahhaj. Wahhaj and a few other 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, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff via AP)
This photo provided by the Taos County Sheriff's Department shows Jany Leveille. Leveille and a few other 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, Aug. 6. (Taos County Sheriff via AP)
Personal articles are shown at the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
A view of the compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken in protective custody after a raid by authorities near Amalia, New Mexico, August 10, 2018. Photo taken August 10, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Hay
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, center, confers with one of his attorneys at a first appearance in New Mexico district court in Taos, N.M., on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, on accusations of child abuse and abducting his son from the boy's mother. Authorities were waiting to learn if human remains found at a disheveled living compound were those of Wahhaj's missing son. Authorities also allege Wahhaj was conducting weapons training with assault rifles at the compound near the Colorado border where they say they found 11 hungry children living in filthy conditions in a raid Friday. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Various items litter a squalid makeshift living compound in Amalia, N.M., on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, where five adults were arrested on child abuse charges and remains of a boy were found. The remains, which haven't been positively identified, may resolve the fate of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, a missing, severely disabled Georgia boy. Eleven other children were found at the compound during a raid last week. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
Various items litter the kitchen of a makeshift living compound in Amalia, N.M., on Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, where five adults were arrested on child abuse charges and remains of a boy were found. The remains, which haven't been positively identified, may resolve the fate of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, a missing, severely disabled Georgia boy. Eleven other children were found at the compound during a raid last week. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
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The sheriff said authorities returned to the compound after interviews Friday and Saturday led them to believe the boy might still be on the property. 

"We had a good idea of a target location to look for the child," he said

The father of the boy has been accused of leaving Georgia in December with his then 3-year-old son.

Wahhaj was expected to appear in court Wednesday on a previous warrant from Georgia that seeks his extradition to face a charge of abducting his son from that state last December.

According to the extradition warrant, Wahhaj told the boy's mother that he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child, who suffered from seizures, because he believed the 3-year-old was possessed by the devil. The mother told police that Wahhaj took the boy for a trip to a park and never returned.

Abdul-ghani was believed to have been at the Amalia compound as recently as several weeks ago, Hogrefe has said.

The warrant said the boy suffered from severe medical issues including hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, a defect caused by lack of oxygen and blood flow around the time of birth.

The boy's mother said the boy can't walk and requires constant attention.

Property owner Jason Badger said he and his wife had pressed authorities to remove the group from the makeshift compound on his land.

However, it took a plea for help and the search for the missing boy to finally draw sheriff's deputies to the desolate site that was walled off by stacks of old tires, wooden pallets and other debris.

Badger said he had concerns about the compound near the Colorado border. But he says the courts and other authorities shot down his attempts to break up the encampment — described as a trailer buried in the ground.

Court records show a judge dismissed an eviction notice filed by Badger against Lucas Morton in June. The records didn't provide further details on the judge's decision.

Morton was among the five adults arrested after the raid.

The adults, including the missing boy's father, have been charged with child abuse.

Children ages 1 to 15 were rescued from the compound that had been under investigation for months.

Hogrefe said FBI agents had surveilled the area a few weeks ago but did not find probable cause to search the property. An FBI spokesman didn't immediately return a call by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Authorities staged a raid after someone believed to have been in the compound sent out a message for help that said: "We are starving and need food and water."

It wasn't clear who sent the message or how it was communicated. Georgia detectives forwarded the message to the Taos County Sheriff's Office.

Wahhaj was armed with several guns, including a loaded AR-15 assault rifle, when he was taken into custody without incident at the compound, the sheriff said.

Morton was taken into custody on suspicion of harboring a fugitive.

Tyler Anderson, who lives near the compound, believes the group had moved to the area to live off the grid, just as he had done.

Anderson said he had helped the newcomers install solar panels after they arrived in December. But he eventually stopped visiting the compound.

Anderson said the children found inside the compound at first played at neighboring properties but stopped in recent months.

The women, believed to be mothers of some of the children, have been identified as 35-year-old Jany Leveille, 38-year-old Hujrah Wahhaj, and 35-year-old Subhannah Wahhaj.

Jail booking photos show them wearing traditional Muslim veils or hijabs. It wasn't clear whether they had retained attorneys.

The public defender's office in Taos County did not immediately return a telephone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

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AP writers Mary Hudetz in Albuquerque and Kate Brumback in Jonesboro, Georgia, contributed to this report.

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