ALBUQUERQUE – Five former residents of a ramshackle New Mexico desert compound where a 3-year-old boy’s body was found last month made their initial appearance in federal court Tuesday on firearms-related charges amid accusations by prosecutors that a group member had been training children and others in military tactics.
The brief hearing focused on allegations against Jany Leveille, who authorities say is Haitian and came to the United States in 1998. She is accused of illegally possessing firearms and ammunition – charges filed in connection with what authorities said was her unlawful immigration status.
The four others – accused of assisting her – include her partner, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj; Lucas Morton; Morton’s wife, Subhannah Wahhaj; and her sister, Hujrah Wahhaj.
None of the five entered pleas. All said they had seen the federal complaints against them.
A judge scheduled a detention hearing for Wednesday. Public defenders also are expected to be appointed for all five.
In court documents released Friday, a child who had lived at the compound told the FBI that he and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj had been training with weapons at the site where authorities say 11 children were found living in filth.
“(He) wanted to get an army together and train them to conduct what he called ‘jihad,’” the criminal complaint said, citing the boy’s FBI interview.
The boy said he understood the term “jihad” meant to kill people, authorities said.
Another child said he and the other boy had received training from Wahhaj, including how to use firearms and clear buildings, according to court documents. He also told authorities he watched Leveille and Wahhaj hold a religious ritual over 3-year-old Abdul-ghani Wahhaj when his heart stopped.
Leveille wrote in a journal that the boy died Dec. 24, according to court documents. The boy’s mother, who lives in Georgia and had reported him missing, had told authorities he suffered from serious medical problems.
An FBI agent reiterated accusations drawn from accounts by children that Leveille expected Abdul-ghani to be resurrected as Jesus and provide instruction to “get rid of” corrupt institutions that involve teachers, law enforcement and banks.
In court filings, the FBI said firearms were transported in a vehicle registered to Leveille during a portion of their journey from Georgia to New Mexico in late 2017, and guns were later stored under Leveille’s bed.
Taos-based District Attorney Donald Gallegos dropped initial charges of child abuse resulting in death against Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj last week, saying he was seeking more time to assemble and analyze evidence, and that he intended to seek grand jury indictments.
Days earlier, state judges dismissed child neglect charges against the five adults, noting that the local district attorney’s office missed crucial deadlines to present initial evidence of a crime.