New Mexico authorities Thursday said the remains found Aug. 6 at a makeshift compound in Amalia are those of a missing Georgia boy whose father was arrested and charged with child abuse.
The search for Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, who would have turned 4 years old on Aug. 6, began in December when his mother reported him missing from their home in Jonesboro, Georgia.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to Wahhaj’s family,” said Alex Sanchez, the public information officer for the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center, in a statement Thursday. “We certainly understand the heartbreak this news will cause and want to stress our commitment to investigating this death to serve the living.”
The medical investigator’s office said in a previous statement the remains were found “in a state of decomposition that has made identification challenging.”
Sanchez noted on Thursday that investigators used “several means to finally make a positive identification.”
The boy’s father, Siraj Wahhaj, was found along with four other adults and 11 children at a filthy, makeshift compound in northern New Mexico during a police raid on Aug. 3. Wahhaj and the other adults arrested at the compound are facing child abuse charges. The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department took the children, ages 1 to 15, into protective custody.
The FBI had been surveilling the compound for two months after local residents reported potential child endangerment at the site. Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said in a statement that police didn’t have enough evidence to get a search warrant for the compound until earlier this month, when they received a third-party message from someone on the compound that said, “We are starving and need food and water.”
Both the adults and the children were filthy and malnourished when police apprehended them, Hogrefe said. Wahhaj’s son was not among the 11 children initially found, but police on Aug. 6 announced the discovery of a child’s remains buried at the site.
The boy’s grandfather, a well-known New York City imam also named Siraj Wahhaj, told reporters last week that he learned from family members that his grandson’s remains had been discovered at the compound.
The time and cause of the child’s death have yet to be disclosed.