Sunday, September 23, 2018

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Mothers of 11 hungry kids found at filthy N.M. compound arrested

  • Compound-Searched-Children-Removed

    Taos County sheriff’s authorities photographed a filthy rural compound Friday in Amalia, N.M., during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy. Deputies found 11 other children ranging in age from 1 to 15 living in filthy conditions and with hardly any food.

    Associated Press

  • Compound-Searched-Children-Removed-1

    This Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, aerial photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy in Amalia, N.M. Law enforcement officers searching the compound for the missing child didn't locate him but found 11 other children in filthy conditions and hardly any food, a sheriff said Saturday. The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.in Taos, N.M. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP)

    AP

  • Compound-Searched-Children-Removed-2

    This Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows Siraj Wahhaj. Wahhaj was jailed on a Georgia warrant alleging child abduction after law enforcement officers searching a rural northern New Mexico compound for a missing 3-year-old boy found 11 children in filthy conditions and hardly any food. The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound in the small community of Amalia, N.M, and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said. Hogrefe said the search did not turn up the missing boy, but that investigators had reason to believe the boy had been at the compound fairly recently. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP)

    AP

  • Compound-Searched-Children-Removed-3

    This Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows Lucas Morten. Morten was arrested on suspicion of harboring a fugitive after law enforcement officers searching a rural northern New Mexico compound for a missing 3-year-old boy found 11 children in filthy conditions and hardly any food. The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound in the small community of Amalia, N.M, and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said. Hogrefe said the search did not turn up the missing boy, but that investigators had reason to believe the boy had been at the compound fairly recently. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP)

    AP

  • Compound-Searched-Children-Removed-4

    This Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, photo released by Taos County Sheriff's Office shows a rural compound after being found in filthy conditions during an unsuccessful search for a missing 3-year-old boy in Amalia, N.M. Law enforcement officers searching the compound for the missing child didn't locate him but found 11 other children in filthy conditions and hardly any food, a sheriff said Saturday. The children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were removed from the compound and turned over to state child-welfare workers, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said.in Taos, N.M. (Taos County Sheriff's Office via AP)

    AP

TAOS, 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.

A message that people were starving, believed sent by someone inside the compound, led to the discovery of the children. A young boy last seen in Alabama in December traveling with one of the men who was arrested has not been found.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the women and the two men face charges of child abuse. He identified the women as Jany Leveille, 35, Hujrah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahha, 35. They were arrested in the town of Taos and booked into jail.

The children, ranging in age from 1 to 15, were removed from the compound in the small community of Amalia near the Colorado border and turned over to state child-welfare workers.

Police are still looking for 3-year-old AG Wahhaj, reported missing from Georgia’s Clayton County, Hogrefe said.

The boy’s mother told police he left with his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, for a trip to a park and never returned. The child was 3 at the time.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj was detained on an outstanding warrant in Georgia alleging child abduction. Lucas Morten was jailed on suspicion of harboring a fugitive, Hogrefe said. It was not clear over the weekend if they had lawyers.

Clayton County police said in a missing persons bulletin that Wahhaj and his son were last seen Dec. 13 in Alabama, traveling with five other children and two adults.

The search at the compound came amid a two-month investigation in collaboration with Clayton County authorities and the FBI. Hogrefe said FBI agents had surveilled the area a few weeks ago but did not find probable cause to search the property.

That changed when Georgia detectives forwarded a message to Hogrefe’s office that initially had been sent to a third party, saying: “We are starving and need food and water.”

The sheriff said there was reason to believe the message came from someone inside the compound.

What authorities found was what Hogrefe called “the saddest living conditions and poverty” he has seen in 30 years on the job.

Other than a few potatoes and a box of rice, there was little food in the compound, which Hogrefe said consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic with no water, plumbing and electricity.

Hogrefe said the adults and children had no shoes, wore dirty rags for clothing and “looked like Third World country refugees.”

The group appeared to have been living at the compound for a few months.

It was unclear how or why they ended up in New Mexico, Hogrefe said.


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