While searching for a 3-year-old child that had been kidnapped from Georgia, police instead found 11 children ranging from a year old to 15 who had been living in deplorable conditions in Amalia, New Mexico.
According to ABC NEWS, Siraj Wahhaj and Lucas Morten were both arrested after eight members of the Taos County Sheriff’s Office swarmed a disgusting compound in rural New Mexico on Friday described by police as a compound “surrounded by tires and an earthen berm” after search warrant had been secured to look for the missing Georgia toddler. Although authorities were not able to locate the 3-year-old, who police believe had been kidnapped by Wahhaj, they did locate eleven other children who were living in squalor, with no water, little food and only clothed in rags. The children have been turned over to New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, according to Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.
“The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer,” said Sheriff Hogrefe. “But what was most surprising, and heartbreaking, was when the team located a total of five adults and 11 children that 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.”
Lucas Morten was arrested on suspicion of harboring a fugitive, while Siraj Wahhaj, 39-years-old, was jailed on a Georgia warrant alleging child abduction.
Three women who are believed to be the children’s mothers, were initially detained but not charged and released. Police are still investigating the women’s connection to the case.
Sheriff Hogrefe said authorites had been conducting surveillance on the compound when they were searching for the missing boy, identified as AG Wahhaj, but decided to get a search warrant on Thursday after a Georgia investigator forwarded a message from someone at the compound who had reportedly told another person that people at the compound needed water and were without food.
Although the 3-year-old was not found, investigators believe the boy had been at the compound recently. It’s still unclear if the boy and Siraj Wahhaj are related.
The compound consisted of a small travel trailer buried in the ground and covered by plastic. There was little food and no absolutely no water, plumbing or electricity, according to Hogrefe.
“The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer,” the sheriff said.
“We all gave the kids our water and what snacks we had,” Hogrefe said in a statement on Facebook. “It was the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen.”
The adults and children appeared like “refugees not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene and basically dirty rags for clothing,” the sheriff said.
Join the conversation!
We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.