Jurors reached split verdicts on Tuesday in a case related to the search for a missing three-year-old boy from Georgia who was later found dead at a squalid compound in northern New Mexico. Four family members were on trial, with three found guilty on federal kidnapping charges and two convicted on related terrorism charges.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the boy’s father, and his brother-in-law, Lucas Morton, were both found guilty of terrorism-related charges, conspiracy to commit kidnapping resulting in death, and kidnapping resulting in death. Prosecutors argued that Wahhaj and other family members had fled with the toddler to a remote desert area to engage in firearms and tactical training for potential attacks against the government. They believed the boy would be resurrected as Jesus Christ and provide instructions.
The case gained national attention in August 2018 when a police raid on the compound led to the rescue of 11 malnourished children, aged one to 15, who were living in poor conditions. The compound consisted of a small buried travel trailer with no water, plumbing, or electricity.
Court documents revealed that Wahhaj was allegedly training children on weapons at the compound for potential school shootings. The discovery of the compound was prompted by the search for the missing three-year-old, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who had disappeared in Atlanta, Georgia.
After days of searching, the decomposed remains of Abdul-Ghani were found in an underground tunnel on the compound. Forensic specialists determined that the child had died several months prior to the recovery of his body.
During the trial, the defendants, who are Muslim, claimed they were targeted by federal authorities due to their religion. Wahhaj represented himself in court and argued that the government presented a false narrative. He stated that his family was close-knit and was trying to protect his son from evil spirits through a ritual known as ruqyah, involving recitation of Quranic passages.
The sentencing date for the convicted individuals has yet to be scheduled.