A judge on Wednesday dismissed child neglect charges against three of five people arrested at a remote desert compound in northern New Mexico where 11 children were found living in filth and the body of a 3-year-old boy was discovered.
Judge Emilio Chavez ruled that he could not keep the three in custody because prosecutors missed a 10-day limit for an evidentiary hearing to establish probable cause for the neglect charges.
Prosecutors could still pursue charges for the three suspects, Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahha, by asking a grand jury to indict them but offered no immediate indication on how they would proceed.
Authorities are pushing ahead with other charges filed against the dead boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and his partner, Jany Leveille.
Security was boosted at the judiciary complex in Taos, New Mexico where Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Wahha were awaiting release, amid threats against the state judge who cleared the way for the defendants to leave the county jail.
Child neglect charges were dismissed against three of five people arrested at a remote desert compound in northern New Mexico where 11 children were found living in filth and the body of a 3-year-old boy was discovered, due to a missed filing deadline, while authorities are pushing ahead with other charges filed against the dead boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj (pictured), and his partner, Jany Leveille; Defendant Siraj Ibn Wahhaj is seen here in court in Taos, New Mexico, during a detention hearing on August 13
New Mexico forensic investigators announced on August 16 that a highly decomposed body found at a desert compound in New Mexico has been identified as a missing Georgia boy with severe disabilities.
The remains were those of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said.
Abdul-ghani Wahhaj is the son of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, who was due in court along with Leveille on Wednesday, after being accused of child abuse resulting in death.
The charges that could carry life sentences in connection with the boy’s death.
The severely disabled boy’s badly decomposed remains were found this month inside a tunnel at the high-desert compound near the Colorado state line.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officials have accused Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille of denying the boy proper medicine and health care as he died during rituals designed to cast out harmful spirits from the boy.
They have not yet entered pleas.
Jany Leveille, who has been charged with child neglect stemming from the death of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, is seen here in court during a hearing in Taos, New Mexico on Friday
Eleven children were also found living in filth at the compound in Amalia, New Mexico; This photo, provided by the Toas County Sheriff’s Department on August 6, shows the conditions
The boy initially was reported missing last year from Jonesboro, Georgia, by his mother after Siraj Ibn Wahhaj said he was taking the child to a park and didn’t return.
Forensic medical investigators have not identified the cause and manner of the boy’s death as they continue their analysis.
Chavez ruled that the other three defendants could be released as early as Wednesday afternoon depending on what action prosecutors take.
Prosecutors had pressed to keep the three in custody as they planned to present new evidence of an anti-government plot and talk of jihad and martyrdom among some members of the extended Muslim family that settled at the compound last winter.
New Mexico forensic investigators announced on August 16 that a highly decomposed body found at a desert compound in New Mexico has been identified as Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, a severely disabled three-year-old who had been living in Georgia with his mother; In this file photo, the extended family’s makeshift living compound in Amalia, New Mexico is shown as it appeared on August 10
Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, the son of Siraj Ibn Wahhaja, was reported missing from Georgia by his mother last year, after Siraj Ibn Wahhaj said he was taking the child to a park and didn’t return; This file photo from August 10 shows an aerial view of the makeshift compound
Among the evidence is a hand-written document called ‘Phases of a Terrorist Attack’ that was seized from the compound and includes vague instructions for ‘the one-time terrorist’ and mentioned an unnamed place called ‘the ideal attack site.’
Prosecutors wrote in court documents that new interviews with some of the children taken from the site revealed that one of the adults, Morton, stated he wished to die in jihad as a martyr.
The documents also stated that defendants Leveille and Subhannah Wahhaj joked about dying in jihad.
Defense attorney Thomas Clark (right) sits next to his client, defendant Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, as defense attorney Marie Legrand Miller (second from left) and her client Hujrah Wahhaj (left, in a white head scarf) during a hearing on charges of child abuse on August 12
Defense attorneys have noted that their clients have no record of criminal convictions and pose no risk to the public.
Federal immigration authorities say Leveille, a native of Haiti, has been in the United States unlawfully for 20 years after overstaying a visitor visa.
The charges against Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille are tied to an extensive account of Abdul-ghani’s death in a journal that prosecutors attribute to Leveille.
Prosecutors say the boy died in late December 2017 as his heartbeat faded in and out during a religious ritual aimed at casting out demonic spirits.
Security was boosted at the judiciary complex amid threats against the state judge who cleared the way for the defendants to leave the Taos county jail, where Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahha, who are accused of child abuse at a desert compound, are awaiting release; The jail is shown here on August 15, 2018, in Taos, New Mexico