Police in New Mexico have found the remains of a young boy buried inside a remote desert encampment, where 11 starving children were discovered last week.
The body has not yet been formally identified, but is believed to be that of four-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, whose mother reported him as abducted by his father, Siraj Wahhaj, in December.
Wahhaj, 39, is due to appear in court in New Mexico on Wednesday charged with child abuse, in connection with the 11 filthy and hungry children.
His two sisters, Subhannah, 35, and Hujrah, 38, were charged alongside him, as was Subjannah’s husband Lucas Morten. Wahhaj’s wife Jany Leveille, 38, was also facing charges of child abuse and expected to appear before the judge.
The saga began in December, when Wahhaj told the boy’s mother he was taking their severely disabled child, who suffered from seizures and was unable to walk, to the park.
He never returned to their home in Georgia, and the boy’s mother reported it to the police, saying Wahhaj intended to perform an “exorcism” on his son because Abdul-Ghani was “possessed by the Devil.”
She later said that was a mistranslation, and Wahhaj merely intended to pray for their son.
New Mexico authorities had long suspected the father and son might be at the compound after learning about the abduction in May, said Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe. Family members told The Telegraph that Wahhaj owned land there.
But there was not enough evidence for a search warrant, and surveillance of the property did not identify the pair there.
That changed on Thursday, when they received a note from a child inside the compound, saying they were starving and thirsty.
After a day-long standoff with Wahhaj and Morten, both of whom were heavily armed, the police entered the compound on Friday and rescued the children, arresting all five adults.
Interviewed by police, at least two of the children said the toddler, Abdul-Ghani, was at the compound in poor health and died there. They said “Uncle Lucas,” believed to be Lucas Morten, washed the child's dead body twice, then buried him in a tunnel on the compound.
"I had no probable cause to go onto this property,” said Sheriff Hogrefe. “In hindsight I wish there was. But we would not have been there lawfully.”