AMALIA, N.M. (AP) — A property owner is questioning why authorities did not search a squalid New Mexico compound sooner for a missing boy, saying he told them in late spring that he had met the child’s father at the site and that the man was wanted in Georgia for kidnapping his own son.
While touring the ramshackle living quarters littered with ammunition, diesel cans, used diapers, household garbage and Qurans on his property, Jason Badger also said he believed he saw the searched-for boy by his father’s side in January, wearing a hooded jacket.
Badger said in an interview that he learned through an online search this spring that Wahhaj was wanted in the disappearance of son Abdul-ghani Wahhaj and reported his earlier encounter to law enforcement authorities in New Mexico and Georgia — and eventually to the FBI.
Authorities did not search the compound for the severely disabled boy until last week in a raid that resulted in the arrest of Wahhaj and four other adults on child neglect charges after 11 other children were found at the compound.
A second search on Monday uncovered a child’s body that hasn’t been positively identified by a state medical examiner, although Wahhaj’s father, also named Siraj Wahhaj, said this week that the body found is his grandson.
“If they knew about it, and then that kid died in that time frame, when they knew, somebody has to be held accountable,” Badger said.
Taos County Sheriff’s Department Steve Fullendorf spokesman downplayed Badger’s criticism of the investigation, saying Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe did everything he could possible under the law and had to follow certain restrictions.
“Mr. Badger doesn’t have to adhere to those same restrictions,” Hogrefe said. “He wants to have his 15 minutes of fame and that’s fine.”
Hogrefe has said the FBI put the New Mexico compound under surveillance in recent months and took photographs, but he could not initially get a warrant to enter because collected did not show the boy or his father.
That changed when a note was forwarded to Georgia authorities saying children inside the compound were starving, Hogrefe said.
The missing boy’s grandfather, who leads a well-known mosque in New York, said his adult daughter, who was in the compound, sent the note to a man in Georgia. That man then notified the grandfather, who said he contacted police.
The five adults, including the imam’s two children and a second adult daughter, have been charged with child abuse stemming from the alleged neglect of the 11 children found living in filth in the compound on the outskirts of tiny Amalia, New Mexico.
Wahhaj’s son, Abdul-ghani, was 3 years old when he was abducted from his mother in December in Jonesboro, near Atlanta, authorities said.