SANTA FE – A second member of an extended family facing firearms, kidnapping and terrorism-related charges in connection with an 2018 raid on a remote compound where a child’s decomposed body was found has been ordered hospitalized for mental health treatment.
The case, which revolves around the mysterious death of a 3-year-old boy at the family’s ramshackle settlement in northern New Mexico, has been thrown into disarray by mental health issues and the coronavirus pandemic that has swept through correctional facilities.
Five defendants are pleading not guilty to federal charges. Their trial, once scheduled for autumn, has been placed on hold until competency issues for all defendants are resolved amid multiple mental-health evaluations, the U.S. attorney’s office spokesman Scott Howell said Tuesday.
A federal judge last week determined that Lucas Morton, 42, is incompetent to stand trial and should be committed to a federal medical center for treatment and re-evaluation within four months, according to court records obtained Tuesday. An attorney for Morton declined to comment.
In October 2019, a similar order was issued against co-defendant Jany Leveille after a judge found she was unable to understand the charges against her because she was suffering from mental illness. Prosecutors say that diagnosis has not changed.
Leveille was described in court documents as a leader of the group of extended family members who had been living at a high-desert compound. Taos County sheriff’s officials raided it in August 2018, saying they found 11 hungry children, a firing range and firearms.
In a second search days later, they recovered the remains of a 3-year-old boy in an underground tunnel. He was the son of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, one of the five suspects and Leveille’s partner, and had been reported missing by his mother in Georgia.
Authorities said the child, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, had suffered from untreated disabilities as Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj performed daily prayer rituals over him. Authorities said Leveille believed medication suppressed the group’s Muslim beliefs. The child had died the previous winter, according to authorities.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj has petitioned a U.S. District Court to be released from a correctional center pending trial to avoid exposure to COVID-19. He has asked to stay at a halfway house in Albuquerque while wearing a GPS monitor.
Federal prison records show that Hujrah Wahhaj is being held at a jail in Los Angeles. The U.S. attorney’s office says that Subhanah Wahhaj – Morton’s wife and the mother of four children – remains in custody, though it is unclear where.
In late 2018, an FBI agent testified that Leveille’s two teenage sons had described how she expected Abdul-Ghani to be resurrected as Jesus and provide instruction to get rid of institutions that involve teachers, law enforcement and banks. The boys were among those living at the compound and who had been trained at a firing range on the property in military tactics, authorities said.
Attorneys for the group in the past have disputed prosecutors’ allegations, saying much of it is based on the uncorroborated statements of children whom authorities interviewed without a parent or guardian present.
One attorney also said the scrutiny of the prayer ritual performed over the sick child had resulted in the group’s faith being used against them.
Leveille, who is from Haiti, is charged with possessing a firearm while living in the country illegally, while the other defendants have been accused of conspiring to provide her with firearms and ammunition.
All in the group, except the dead boy’s father, are charged in the kidnapping of Abdul-Ghani. U.S. law generally does not allow authorities to charge parents with kidnapping their own children, except in international cases.