As expected, officials late last week confirmed the remains of a child found buried on a remote New Mexico compound in early August were those of a missing Georgia boy. For the last two weeks, family members of 4-year-old Abdul-ghani Wahhaj have told the media the body was his, and medical examiners confirmed the identity last Thursday.
Authorities found the body Aug. 6, days after raiding the desert compound, arresting five adults—including the boy’s father—and taking 11 hungry children into state custody. The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator said officials believe the boy died in February. They are still investigating the cause and manner of his death.
Abdul-ghani’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, reported her son missing last December. The boy suffered from seizures and could not walk. Ramzi said her husband, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, had taken their son from their home in the Atlanta area and not returned. Wahhaj reportedly told her he wanted to perform an exorcism on the child.
Von Chelet Leveille, a brother of one of the women on the compound, told reporters this week he learned of Abdul-ghani’s death last winter in text conversations with his sister, Jany Leveille. He said his sister told him the boy died during an Islamic healing ritual and his body showed few signs of decomposition for months, leading the group to believe he would be resurrected as Jesus.
“It was crazy to me,” he said. “They kept saying to me, ‘You’re not here, you’re not seeing what we’re seeing.’”
Following public outcry, the New Mexico attorney general’s office this week told the Albuquerque Journal it was working to challenge a decision by a state district court judge to release three of the adult suspects pending trial. Prosecutors claimed they posed a risk to public safety due to reports they trained children to use firearms. They had not yet been released as of Thursday, in part due to a lack of safe housing arrangements. —K.C.