Remains of boy found at Taos County compound returned to family in Georgia

August 26, 2018

TAOS — The remains of a young boy found at a Northern New Mexico compound raided by law enforcement earlier this month were returned to his family this week and buried in his home state of Georgia.

Steve Fuhlendorf, a spokesman for the Taos County Sheriff’s Office, said the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator confirmed Tuesday the release of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj’s remains but said the child’s cause of death still had not been determined.

“All the evidence that could be collected has been collected,” Fuhlendorf said.

The Associated Press reported the boy was buried Thursday in a grave behind a mosque in Atlanta.

Prosecutors with the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Taos are expected to file additional charges against five adults arrested at the makeshift compound after medical investigators confirm the boy’s cause of death. So far, the suspects face child abuse charges. They are accused of keeping 11 children in squalid conditions at the compound. Abdul-Ghani’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40, also faces a charge of kidnapping the boy.

Abdul-Ghani’s mother had reported him missing from his Georgia home in December. The boy suffered from a medical condition since birth and needed medication, the mother told authorities. An arrest warrant was issued for Wahhaj, who was accused of taking the boy.

Testifying at a hearing on the case earlier this month, FBI Special Agent Travis Taylor said two of the children told him Abdul-Ghani died during an Islamic prayer ritual known as a ruqya.

Wahhaj would place a hand on the boy’s forehead and recite two prayers from the Quran, the children told the agent.

According to Taylor’s testimony, the children said the boy’s heart stopped during one ritual performed in February.

Taylor said Wahhaj’s second wife, 35-year-old Jany Leveille, believed the child would be resurrected as “Jesus” and would then instruct the other children as to which government institutions they were to either convert or destroy.

Investigators found Abdul-Ghani’s body Aug. 6, which would have been his fourth birthday, inside a tunnel dug at the compound.

The boy’s grandfather, Siraj Wahhaj, a well-known religious leader at the Masjid At-Taqwa mosque in Brooklyn, N.Y., visited Taos briefly last weekend, according to a source in contact with the family.

Efforts to reach the imam for comment were unsuccessful.

This story first appeared in the Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

Update hourly