A New Mexico judge dismissed, for now, child neglect charges Wednesday against three defendants arrested at a remote compound in northern New Mexico where 11 children were living in filth and the body of a missing 3-year-old Georgia boy was found, according to media reports.
Judge Emilio Chavez ruled in Taos County that the three defendants could no longer be held because prosecutors missed a 10-day limit for a hearing to establish probable cause for the neglect charges.
Prosecutors, however, could still try to obtain charges by seeking an indictment from a grand jury.
In a separate hearing, the court was expected to deal with new charges against Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the dead boy’s father, and his 35-year-old partner Jany Leveille, who are accused of child abuse resulting in death, KOB-TV reports.
The victim, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, was allegedly abducted by his father from Jonesboro, Georgia in December.
Warrants for Siraj’s arrest claimed he took his son to perform an exorcism on the child, who was seriously disabled, and was denying him medication.
The sheriff said when they had learned about the possible compound, the FBI conducted surveillance of the area, but had no legal basis to conduct a raid. Abdul-Ghani was never spotted during the surveillance.
Law enforcement offices finally raided the compound Aug. 3 after Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe’s office received a message, thought to have come from someone inside, saying, “We are starving and need food and water.”
“I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible,” Hogrefe said, according to The Associated Press.
Officers who went into the compound found that two men, three women and 11 children ranging in age from 1 to 15 were living off of potatoes and a box of rice amid a cache of guns, including an AR-15 rifle, according to officials.
Siraj was arrested with another Atlanta man, Lucas Morten, along with Leville, Hurah Wahhaj, 38, and Subhannah Wahhabj, 35.
After the raid, officials also presented several pieces of evidence, including alleged manuals on how to build untraceable weapons. In addition, according to testimony, some of the 11 children were handling ammunition and a least one child was armed, WXIA-TV reported.
In a 2006 federal court filing obtained by the Associated Press, Wahhaj identified himself as “the son of the famous Muslim Imam Siraj Wahhaj.” In the filing, the younger Wahhaj said he was harassed by customs agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport before and after a trip to Morocco, the AP reported.
Contributing The Associated Press
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