The Taos County medical examiner has not yet determined whether the child remains found at a New Mexico compound belong to Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, a missing Georgia boy whose father was arrested Friday during a raid.
Kurt Nolte, the chief medical investigator, said in a release that identifying the remains will be “challenging” and “could take many weeks.”
“The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) continues to work to identify the human remains found at the Amalia complex near Taos. The remains are in a state of decomposition that has made identification challenging,” Nolte said in a release. “Investigators often try to compare remains to radiologic images, fingerprints, DNA or other identification materials. At this time, investigators are using all known methods to make an identification, but this will not be a quick process. If we must rely on DNA results, identification could take many weeks.
“While we certainly understand the urgency in identifying the remains, our mission at OMI is always to investigate deaths to serve the living. We must take the time needed to ensure all aspects of the investigation, including identification and determination of cause and manner of death, are handled properly,” Nolte continued. “We appreciate the public’s patience as we proceed with a thorough investigation.”
The boy’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, has not seen her son since his father abducted him from Jonesboro, Georgia, in December. The child’s remains were found on what would have been the boy’s fourth birthday.
What’s the background?
Last week, authorities raided a New Mexico compound where they arrested five adults, including the missing boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj. Eleven children, ages 1 to 15, were found starving and living in squalid conditions on the remote property in Taos County, New Mexico, near the Colorado border.
Wahhaj was charged on Wednesday with training children to commit school shootings, according to court documents obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press. Prosecutors alleged that Wahhaj conducted weapons training at the compound in Amalia.
“We’ve still got a lot of work ahead of us to prepare for the hearings but are on track,” Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said in a news release Thursday. “And we are still waiting for reports from the Office of Medical Investigations to see what happens next.”
Wahhaj is believed to be a Muslim extremist and the son of a New York City imam who was linked to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
What’s the timeline?
Dec. 1: Wahhaj told his wife, Ramzi, that he was taking the toddler to the park, but he never returned, according to WAGA-TV.
Dec. 10: Clayton County Police were called to a motel in Jonesboro, Georgia, where Ramzi reported her son missing. She told police authorities that her son needed constant care and required medication for seizures. Ramzi told police her son had developmental and cognitive delays and that he was unable to walk. He suffered Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy at birth.
Dec. 13: The father and son were last seen in Chilton County, Alabama, after being involved in a car accident.
Dec. 20: Ramzi filed for divorce, according to documents obtained by TheBlaze.
Dec. 29: Authorities received a tip that Wahhaj and his son could be in New Mexico.
Dec. 31: An emergency custody order was filed by Ramzi’s attorneys.
For eight months, authorities searched for the missing child.
Aug. 2: Georgia police received text messages from inside the compound that read, “We are starving, and need food and water.” The authorities in Georgia alerted the Taos County Sheriff’s Office, and Hogrefe issued a search warrant.
Aug. 3: Authorities raided the compound where five adults and 11 children, dressed in rags and living in filth without food and water, were found.
Aug. 7: The remains of a child were discovered on the property. The identity of the remains has not been confirmed.
Some of the children who were found living at the compound told investigators that Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj had died and was buried on the property.
What does the boy’s mother say?
“Ms. Ramzi is in a state of shock regarding the latest allegations against her estranged husband,” M. Khurram Baig of The Baig Firm, said in a statement, according to WAGA. “She had no idea that her husband of 15 years could ever be capable of such horrible things. She feels a tremendous sense of sadness for the other children and their plight even as she is dealing with her own painful loss.
“As you know, her son, Abdul-Ghani, has been missing since December of 2017, taken without her knowledge or consent by Mr. Ibn Wahaj. For nine months, she worked with both local and federal authorities to try and find her son. She is currently struggling to come to terms with the distinct possibility that, after all this time, Abdul-Ghani is now likely deceased,” M. Khurram Baig said.
What are the charges?
Authorities charged Wahhaj with 11 counts of child abuse and one count of custodial interference. He pleaded not guilty in court Wednesday.
Wahhaj was also charged with training children to commit school shootings, according to court documents obtained by The Associated Press. Prosecutors alleged that Wahhaj conducted weapons training at the compound in Amalia.
Lucas Allen Morten, Janey Leveille, 35; Hujrah Wahhaj, 38; and Subhannah Wahhaj, 35, were bound over until their hearings. They have been accused of child abuse and harboring a fugitive, according to Taos County Sheriff.
The women are reportedly the mothers of the children found at the compound. The children have been placed in protective custody.