August 4, 2018
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Several children, ranging in age from 1 to 15, are in custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department after Taos County deputies discovered them among haggard conditions at a makeshift “compound” while executing a search warrant Friday, according to the Taos County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.
Three women “believed to be the children’s mothers” were also found at the Amalia, New Mexico compound surrounded by tires, the post by TCSO states.
The warrant was a result of a joint investigation involving authorities from Clayton County, Georgia, the State of Georgia, and the FBI on the abduction of a 3-year-old Georgia boy by his father, Siraj Wahhaj. TCSO says investigators had reason to believe they were at the compound.
TCSO says the missing boy was not found at the site, but two men were arrested, including Wahhaj. He was arrested on his no-bond warrant for child abduction issued in Georgia, while Lucas Morton faces charges of harboring a fugitive.
The females were released after being detained for questioning, the post states. None of them provided information on the missing Georgia boy.
TCSO’s release did not identify the other children or adults found at the compound, but “it is reasonably believed (the missing boy) was there a few weeks ago.”
The release states Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe decided to execute a search warrant when a Georgia detective informed them of a message sent to a third party that stated, in part, “We are starving, and need food and water.”
The TCSO post states there were no major incidents or injuries as the compound was being raided, but the suspects initially refused to surrender to authorities. They had an AR-15 rifle, four pistols and several magazines with them in the compound, which consisted of “a small travel trailer buried in the ground covered by plastic with no water, plumbing or electricity.”
Hogrefe in the post states that five adults and 11 children were discovered and “looked like third world country refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing.”
The TCSO post also states that, upon further search of the property, the only food they could find were some potatoes and a box of rice.
Our NBC partners in Atlanta reported that the boy and his father were last seen in a single-vehicle crash on Dec. 13 in Alabama. They were traveling with other adults and children en route to New Mexico “for a camping trip,” WXIA reported.
WXIA also reported the boy is supposed to take medication as he suffers from seizures and an inability to walk since birth. His mother told WXIA in Atlanta that she wasn’t sure “if her child has any medication with him” at the time he was abducted.
In a statement to KOB, CYFD Secretary Monique Jacobson said, “CYFD has been working around the clock on this case. We will continue to work closely with Law Enforcement on this investigation. The children are in our custody and our number one priority right now is their health and safety.”