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Two charged in death of boy in New Mexico compound case

Two people, including the father of 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, were charged in connection with the boy's death.
Image: Siraj Ibn Wahhaj
Siraj Wahhaj in court in New Mexico on Aug. 13, 2018. He has been charged in connection with the death of his 3-year-old son.Roberto E. Rosales / The Albuquerque Journal via AP, Pool file

Two people arrested after authorities found 11 children in filthy conditions at a makeshift New Mexico compound earlier this month have been charged in connection with the death of a 3-year-old boy whose body was discovered at the site.

The Taos County Sheriff’s Office said Friday that arrest warrants were served on Siraj Wahhaj, the father of 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj whose body was found on the property in Amalia, and on Jany Leveille, who was one of five adults who had been charged in the case.

The arrest warrants for Wahhaj, 40, and Leveille, 35, are for one count each of abuse of a child resulting in the death of a child and conspiracy to commit abuse of a child, which are first-degree felonies, the sheriff’s office said. The first of those counts carries the possibility of up to life in prison.

Authorities first raided the compound, where guns and an underground tunnel were found, on Aug. 3, and the boy’s body was found when police returned three days later.

Prosecutors have alleged the boy died in a religious ritual because his father believed his son was possessed by demons.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said in Friday’s statement that investigators believe the child died on Dec. 24 and his body was concealed at the compound, "which was suspected early in the investigation."

Eleven other children, ages 1 to 15, were also found on the property. They are in custody of the state. Court documents say they were kept in filthy conditions without food or clean water.

All five adults, including Wahhaj and Leveille, have been charged with 11 counts of child abuse. Wahhaj, who was wanted on a warrant in Georgia, where he allegedly abducted his son, was also charged with interfering with a parent's custodial rights. Another man in custody also was charged with harboring a fugitive.

Leveille, originally from Haiti, is also being held on federal immigration charges, the sheriff's office said.

Messages left with an attorney listed for Wahhaj were not immediately returned Friday. The attorney listed for Leveille in online court records could not be reached Friday after business hours.