The owner of the New Mexico property raided by authorities last week said he had notified police about seeing a child that appeared to be the Georgia toddler who had gone missing last year, NBC News reported, raising questions about why it took so long for authorities to raid the compound and discover the appalling conditions.
Jason Badger owns the land in Taos County where investigators discovered child remains on Monday following Friday's raid of the compound where 11 children were found starving. Badger said he called police about four months ago after he realized that a missing child poster of Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj he had seen looked like a boy who lived on the remote compound.
Remains, possibly belonging to Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, were found on what would have been the boy’s fourth birthday. His mother, Hakima Ramzi, said she has not seen her son since his father disappeared with him from Jonesboro, Georgia, in December.
The identity of the remains is still pending and "could take many weeks," according to Kurt Nolte, the chief medical investigator at the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator.
Five adults, including the missing boy's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, were arrested during the raid. The children, ages 1 to 15, were found wearing rags and living in squalid conditions on the remote property in Amalia, near the Colorado border. Wahhaj is believed to be a Muslim extremist.
Were authorities aware of the missing boy?
The Taos County Sheriff's Office spokesman Steve Fuhlendorf told NBC News that officers had followed up Badger's tip, but that Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj wasn't spotted in aerial and ground photos taken.
"It's not that it was being ignored at all, but there are certain things under those circumstances that under the law, that they're allowed to do," Fuhlendorf said. "We still don't know if they actually saw the boy in question. All we know is that they thought they saw somebody that may have looked like him, and that was not sufficient to be able to get a search warrant and go in and proceed from there."
Badger and his wife reported the group to authorities multiple times and even attempted to evict the compound's residents who had set up their compound on the couple's parcel of land.
But Fuhlendorf said the couple didn't file the proper paperwork to enforce the eviction.
What was the condition of the compound?
The group was living in a half-buried RV. The property had no access to electricity, gas service or running water. There were some large water containers and a propane tank. Badger told USA Today that he had not seen the condition of the group's living quarters before the raid.
At first, the men were easy to work with, Badger said. They had agreed to swap titles with the owner so they could stay put on their land, but Badger became frustrated when the residents couldn't pay the small title change fee.
In May, Badger heard that authorities were watching the compound where prosecutors have alleged Wahhaj conducted weapons training and taught the children to commit school shootings.
The property owner said he notified local law enforcement, as well as the authorities in Georgia, where an arrest warrant had been issued for Wahhaj.
Badger said he even signed a consent for authorities to search the property since it actually belonged to him.
On May 15, law enforcement in New Mexico received an alert about the missing child.
According to court documents, the FBI spotted men, women, and children walking around, WAGA-TV reported. One child appeared to walk with a limp.
What finally led to the raid?
It wasn't until Aug. 2 that the sheriff believed the situation had become dire enough to issue a search warrant.
Imam Siraj Wahhaj, the father of Siraj Wahhaj, tipped police about the group's whereabouts, WAGA reported.
The elder Wahhaj leads the Masjid al Taqwa mosque on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, New York. Bombers linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombings in New York City attended the mosque led by Wahhaj.
He told CNN that his daughters had texted a man in Atlanta who passed the message on to him.
"We are starving and need food and water," the message said.
The imam alerted Georgia police who contacted the authorities in New Mexico.
On Aug. 3, the compound was raided and the five adults were taken into custody.
The 11 children are in foster care.