Raided compound near Taos razed

The makeshift compound in Northern New Mexico, where the body of a missing toddler was recovered this month and was at the center of abuses charges against five adults, involving 11 children, was razed last week. Jesse Moya/Taos News

TAOS — Taos County officials said the makeshift compound in Northern New Mexico where the body of a missing toddler was recovered this month has been razed, but neither law enforcement nor the property owner would say who made the decision.

Officials said they recovered additional evidence from the Amalia compound before its dismantling last week. The ramshackle domicile, located a few miles from the Colorado border, was constructed in part with old tires and included caves.

The compound was at the center of a bizarre case in which five adults were arrested on child abuse charges following an Aug. 3 raid. Eleven children were removed, and authorities later found the body of 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. The state Office of the Medical Examiner has not determined a cause of death, though prosecutors have charged he died during a ritual meant to “cast out demonic spirits from his body.”

The five defendants — Siraj Ibn Wahhaj; his sisters Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj; Lucas Morten; and Jany Leveille — were charged with 11 counts of child abuse, one for each of the children taken into protective custody.

District Judge Sarah Backus last week denied prosecutors’ request to hold the five defendants without bail. Siraj Ibn Wahhaj remains jailed in Taos County on a Georgia kidnapping charge. Three others are still in custody in Taos, Subhannah Wahhaj’s attorney Megan Mitsunaga said. Leveille was transferred into the custody of immigration officials. In an email last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Leveille, who is from Haiti, has been in the country unlawfully for more than 20 years.

Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the state Office of Superintendent of Insurance used a search warrant to retrieve a half-buried travel trailer that was allegedly stolen in Alabama but never entered into a national crime database. He said the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance used a separate database to identify the trailer.

A “stop order” was issued Aug. 7 by a Taos County building official for the compound property. The order cited “unsafe structures, rubbish, abandoned materials” and “building without a permit.” It also indicated construction on the property had been performed in violation of a Taos County Solid Waste ordinance and without a land-use permit.

Property owner Jason Badger said he and his wife have worked to clean up the compound after the bulldozing operation last week.

“There’s really nothing to take pics of any more,” Badger said late last week. “We’re starting to clean up now and have little time off work to get it done.”

Hogrefe referred questions about the destruction of the compound to the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. District Attorney Donald Gallegos referred questions to Badger, who didn’t respond to questions Monday.

Additional inquiries were sent Monday to Deputy District Attorney Ron Olsen and FBI Public Affairs Specialist Frank Fisher in Albuquerque.

“It would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time,” Fisher said. “The FBI is coordinating assistance, as needed, with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office in their investigation.”

Fisher said further information could not be provided given that five cases are pending.

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