CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - A possible heartbreaking update in the months-long search for a missing 3-year-old Clayton County boy. Authorities in New Mexico on Tuesday said they have found the remains of a young boy.
Taos County Sheriff's deputies have not yet determined if the remains belong to missing 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj. The boy’s father was arrested over the weekend in New Mexico, but there was no sign of the little boy.
“Yesterday at 11:19 a.m., we did find the remains of a young boy. Those have been turned over to the Office of Medical Investigations. No positive identification of that child has been made at this time. Their independent autopsy investigation will conclude that,” said Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe, Taos County, New Mexico.
Clayton County Police have been searching for the toddler and 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj since December 2017. At that time, Siraj Wahhaj said he was taking the little boy to the park, but they never returned. The child's mother became concerned, especially because the little boy suffers from seizures, developmental, and cognitive delays and is unable to walk due to suffering a Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy at birth.
The search for the father and son took authorities to Amalia, New Mexico. Clayton County Police said Tuesday someone with the group in New Mexico tipped off a family member on their whereabouts. The police in both jurisdictions were made away of the texts from the unidentified person on Thursday leading to search warrants for the property to be obtained by the Taos County Sheriff's Office. Investigators said that's where they found Siraj Wahhaj living in a filthy trailer in what police described as some sort of makeshift compound in some of the worst conditions they've ever seen.
Eleven children ranging in age from 1 to 15 years old were also taken into protective custody and later turned over to New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department for their own health and safety during Friday's raid.
The Taos County Sheriff said the 3-year-old boy was not among the children which he described as being in heartbreaking condition, starving with no food or fresh water.
The sheriff brought in a special response team to raid the property over the weekend because they believed Wahhaj and another man, Lucas Morten, were heavily armed and are considered extremists of the Muslim belief. Both Wahhaj and Morten were taken into custody. Deputies also detained and charged three women believed to be the children's mothers.
Investigators said none of the adults would give statements to the current whereabouts of the little boy.
Wahhaj was booked on his no bond warrant for child abduction. Morten was charged with harboring a fugitive.
A defense attorney said criminal complaints accusing five adults of child abuse are sparse in detail, leading to uncertainty about how much investigative work has been done. Aleks Kostich of the Taos County Public Defender's Office said Tuesday his agency is gathering information and assigning attorneys to the defendants. He didn't provide further comment, citing the early stage of the case.
Investigators believe the child was at the compound just a few weeks ago. The investigation into locating him is urgent and ongoing and involves the Clayton County Police Department, FBI agents, and multiple New Mexico authorities.
A New Mexico man who lived near a makeshift compound that authorities raided in search of a missing Georgia boy believed the group had moved to the area to live off the grid, just as he had done.
Tyler Anderson of Amalia said Tuesday he had helped the newcomers install solar panels after they arrived in December. But he eventually stopped visiting the compound that authorities have since described as filthy.
Anderson said the 11 children found inside the compound at first played at neighboring properties but stopped in recent months.
He also said he never met the three women living at the site and doesn't recall seeing the boy who remains missing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report