New charges have been filed against two defendants arrested by officials in New Mexico at a compound linked to “extremist Muslims,” the Taos County Sheriff said.
The compound, where the group was holding 11 children and allegedly training them to carry out school shootings and other shootings against government institutions they felt were at odds with their beliefs, is located in a remote area of the state.
Officials searching the remote compound in early August removed the 11 children and turned them over to child-welfare workers, while arresting five adults living on the land.
The search was triggered by a missing 3-year-old boy who was the son of one of the adults, Siraj Wahhaj. A body was discovered buried on the land and was later identified as the missing boy.
Possible Life Sentence
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said on Aug. 24 that new charges involving the remains of the child were filed against Wahhaj and his wife, Jany Leveille, who is in the United States illegally.
Both defendants, who are currently in custody at the Taos County Adult Detention Center, were charged with abuse of a child resulting in the death of a child, a first-degree felony that carries a penalty of up to life in prison if convicted.
They were also charged with conspiracy to commit abuse of a child, another first-degree felony.
The sheriff said the charges come from nearly three weeks of conducting interviews and analysis of data that was seized from the compound.
“This has been a very involved and lengthy process, but it is the only lawful way to build a solid criminal case,” said Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe in a statement. “We now know the child died on December, 24, 2017 and was concealed at the compound, which was suspected early in the investigation.”
He said that additional analysis and investigation is expected to culminate in charges against the three other adults, two of whom are sisters of Wahhaj. All three are children of controversial New York City imam Siraj Wahhaj; nine of the 11 children at the compound are grandchildren of the imam’s.
Death of a 3-Year-Old
All five adults were initially charged with child abuse due to the squalid conditions of the compound and the fact that the children weren’t getting enough to eat.
According to dispatches, federal agents had conducted aerial surveillance for months before the raid, reported The Taos News. The dispatches and other records show that the compound was built illegally on someone else’s land.
Leveille allegedly led the group initially to New Mexico, and was a practitioner of occultism. She was born in Haiti.
Tariq Abdur Rashid, whose daughter is married to Siraj Wahhaj’s brother, told The Epoch Times that she convinced her husband that she was a “messiah.” “She set herself up as the interpreter of God’s word,” he said.
Prosecutors said evidence indicated that the 3-year-old boy died during a religious ritual” intended to “cast out demonic spirits,” reported Reuters. The boy was initially kidnapped from his mother in Georgia.
The boy stopped breathing and soon died during a ceremony, prosecutors said. Wahhaj had placed his hand on the boy’s head and was reciting verses from the Koran just before the boy began suffering seizures and foaming at the mouth. He was soon dead.
Ibn Wahhaj’s 15-year-old son recounted to officials that one of the adults told him the spirit of the dead boy would return as “Jesus” to direct the group on where to carry out the violent attacks they were allegedly training for.