During a raid of the property in a remote Amalia, New Mexico, in the search for the missing toddler, authorities found 11 other children ages one-through-15 in filthy, impoverished conditions.
The mom of 3-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj reported the child missing to Clayton County police on December 7, 2017, telling authorities she last saw her son when he left with his father to go to the park on December 1, 2017. Siraj Wahhaj was detained on an outstanding warrant in Georgia alleging child abduction.
Sheriff Hogrefe said Wahhaj had been "heavily armed with an AR15 rifle, five loaded 30 round magazines, and four loaded pistols, including one in his pocket when he was taken down".
Morton was arrested on the charge of suspicion of harboring a fugitive.
Two men were arrested during the search while two women at the compound were initially detained before being released pending further investigation, Hogrefe said.
Police say 11 children ages one to 15 were rescued in the U.S. state of New Mexico after officers raided a dilapidated compound occupied by armed men of "extremist" belief.
After the crash, police say, they were picked up in a Ford box truck registered to Morton.More news: Trump says his son’s meeting with Russians was ‘totally legal’
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Hogrefe says they were the saddest living conditions he's ever seen.
Tarps flapped across covered spaces behind the wall of tires stacked in a half circle around the property's perimeter, which contains a partially buried travel trailer, an earthen berm and other smaller structures. "He's sick, he needs his medications", she said through tears in January. The warrant was the culmination of a two-month investigation in conjunction with law enforcement from Georgia and the FBI.
The missing boy was not found at the compound outside the unincorporated community of Amalia, New Mexico, near the Colorado state line, Hogrefe said, but "it is reasonably believed he was there a few weeks ago".
But then, someone inside the compound was able to get a note to the outside world. "We are starving and need food and water", the message said, Hogrefe was quoted as saying in the sheriff's department news release. "We also knew from the layout of the compound they would have an advantage if we didn't deploy tactfully and quickly", he elaborated.
"I absolutely knew we couldn't wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible", Hogrefe said, who added his agency believed the occupants were likely heavily armed and of an extremist Muslim belief.
Following a two-month investigation into a missing 3-year-old boy, a search warrant was executed at the makeshift compound in the Costilla Meadows subdivision Friday morning. They are believed to be the mothers of all of the kids found in the trailer, sister station KRQE reports. The women were not charged with any crimes. "We certainly didn't want to leave that place and leave a child behind and I'm confident we did not". Instead, deputies found five adults and 11 other children who "looked like third-world country refugees", living in squalor with little food and no clean water, according to Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe.
Both the women and the children are in custody of social services.