Boy at New Mexico compound died in ritual ceremony: prosecutors

TAOS, N.M., Aug 13 (Reuters) - A 3-year-old boy whose remains were found buried at a New Mexico desert compound died during a ritual to "cast out demonic spirits," other children living there told investigators, a prosecutor said in court on Monday.

Authorities found the remains at a ramshackle compound north of Taos where 11 other children were found alive but malnourished in a raid on the site 10 days ago.

The prosecutor said during a court hearing for five adults arrested on charges of abusing the 11 children that they had been trained to use weapons and defend the compound in the event of an FBI raid. The hearing was to ask the judge to deny bail to the suspects.

24 PHOTOS
Children rescued from New Mexico compound
See Gallery
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)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The adults, including three women who police said were the mothers of the 11 children, were charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse. Prosecutors said at the time of the arrests that Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and the other women were training the children to use firearms to commit school shootings.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39 and the son a prominent New York-based Muslim cleric, was also charged in the alleged abduction of his son Abdul Ghani from his mother's Atlanta home last December.

A cross-country search for the missing boy and his father led investigators to the 10-acre compound on the outskirts of the community of Amalia near the Colorado border.

The children, ranging from 1 to 15 years of age, were clothed in rags and starving when they were found on Aug. 3, authorities said. The remains of a young boy, believed to be Abdul-Ghani, were found buried at the site three days later.

Authorities encountered Ibn Wahhaj, Leveille and seven of the children last December when they were in a traffic accident in Georgia and police found weapons in the vehicle, including pistols, an AR-15 rifle and ammunition magazines, Taos County Prosecutor John Lovelace said.

According to Lovelace, Ibn Wahhaj told police at the time that he had the guns because he worked for an executive security business and that he was going on a camping trip in New Mexico.

In describing what the children said about the death of Abdul Ghani Wahhaj, Lovelace said, "It was a religious ritual carried out on Abdul Ghani, a ritual intended to cast out demonic spirits from Abdul Ghani Wahhaj."

During Monday's hearing, Taos County prosecutor Timothy Hasson said that Siraj Ibn Wahhaj had sent his brother a letter that was "an invitation to come to the compound and pursue his intent to become a martyr."

He added, "In the 21st century I think we all know what that means."

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis Editing by Robert Birsel and Tom Brown)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.