What we learned about New Mexico child abuse suspects from court hearing


New details emerged Monday about the fate of one of the children found at a New Mexico desert compound raided by police 10 days ago.

They also said that the remains found at the site belonged to Abdul-Ghani and that the other children said the boy had died during a "religious ritual. meant to cast out demonic spirits", where Siraj Wahhaj had put his hand to his son's forehead, and recited verses from the Koran.

The revelation came Monday in a pretrial detention hearing to determine if the boy's father, Siraj Wahhaj, and his four co-defendants, should remain in custody.

Prosecutors' account of an exorcism-like ritual, allegations of weapons training for children and references to martyrdom and conspiracy were aimed at persuading a judge to deny bond for the five adults charged with child abuse in the case.

They have all pleaded not guilty.

But only Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, 3, was officially reported as missing because his mother told police that his father had taken him, and that the boy suffered from serious seizures and required regular medication.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39, the son a prominent New York-based Muslim cleric, also was charged in the alleged abduction of his son Abdul-Ghani from his mother's Atlanta home last December. Police stated they found the boy's body wrapped in linen inside one of the tunnels on the compound. They each face 11 counts of child abuse while Siraj Ibn Wahhaj faces an additional count alleging custodial interference. "But when black Muslims do it, there seems to be something nefarious, something evil".

Judge Sarah Backus said the state, despite assertions by prosecutors that one of the defendants was training the children to attack various institutions with guns, didn't prove the group was a danger to the community.

"If these were white Christians, faith healing is of no effect because we have freedom of religion in this country".

Eleven other children, ranging in age from one to 15, were found starving and dressed in rags and were taken into protective custody, authorities said.

Jany Leveille believed she had a message from God that they needed to move from Georgia to New Mexico, the child told the agent.

There was testimony that one of the children at the compound was armed when law enforcement arrived on August 3, but Leveille, one of the women defendants, told the child to stand down.

According to statements given to police, Abdul died during a ritual at the compound in February.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and wife Jany Leveille, also arrested at the compound, were the biological parents of 9 of the 11 children that police found. Wahhaj's two sisters and brother-in-law comprise the other arrested adults. The remains of a young boy were found on the compound on August 6, the same day Abdul Ghani would have turned four.

The father of a boy kidnapped in Georgia would not be released because an arrest warrant has been issued for him in that state.

Over the next few months, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement were aware that Wahhaj was on the compound and a small child matching the description Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj was seen limping around the camp.

During the four-hour bond hearing, witnesses, including the Taos County Sheriff, testified. He pointed to what appeared to be a child's drawing of a human silhouette target that was peppered with bullet holes at a makeshift shooting range at the compound.

The Badgers said they realized the boy they saw may be the missing child in late April or early May after they searched Siraj Wahhaj's name and saw a warrant out for his arrest.

Family members say the remains of a boy found at the compound last week are those of Wahhaj's disabled son, though state medical examiners have not yet identified the body conclusively.