TAOS, N.M. (Reuters) – Five people charged with felony child abuse were due to make their first court appearance on Wednesday after 11 children were found malnourished inside a ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico.
The defendants include the father of a missing boy whose disappearance led authorities to raid the compound last week. They also include another man and three women presumed to be the mothers of the 11 children, who were taken into protective custody.
On Monday, authorities found a body at the site believed to be the remains of the missing boy, whose abduction from his Georgia home has been reported by his mother in December. His body was discovered on what would have been the missing child’s fourth birthday, the Taos County sheriff said on Tuesday.
Identification of the remains was awaiting an autopsy. Further charges in the case were possible, local prosecutor Donald Gallegos said.
The compound, surrounded by tires and a trench, is located on the outskirts of Amalia, New Mexico, near the Colorado state line, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Taos.
Each of the five adults were charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse, according to the local prosecutor, Donald Gallegos.
The missing boy’s father, who the sheriff said was heavily armed when taken into custody, was identified as Siraj Wahhaj, 39. According to CNN, Wahhaj is himself the son of a prominent Muslim cleric of the same name in New York.
The second man has been alternatively identified by the sheriff as Lucas Morten and Lucan Morton.
The sheriff declined to answer questions about what was going on at the compound, but he said a shooting range had been built at the property.
(Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, editing by Larry King)