TAOS, N.M. – Eleven children were rescued from a makeshift compound in Amalia, New Mexico — about an hour south of Taos. Authorities say it was almost completely off the grid.
Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe says a message was forwarded to them from a Georgia detective they believed came from someone at the compound. The message sent to a third party simply said in part “we are starving and need food and water.”
Investigators then set up surveillance on the property. They later identified two men who appeared to be in living at the compound.
They then served a search warrant and saw what is described as a filthy area surrounded by tires and barricaded by walls.
Investigators then found the 11 children and three women inside. One of the women was pregnant. Investigators believe the women are the mothers of the children. The children’s ages ranged from 1 to 15 years old.
The women were detained for questioning, but were later reunited with their children. Both the children and women are now in the custody of child protective services.
One of the men was identified as 39-year-old Siraj Wahhaj. The man was wanted out of Clayton County, Georgia for allegedly abducting his 3-year-old son. That child was not among the children found.
The second man was identified as Lucas Morten who investigators believe to be the primary person living at the compound. Morten faces charges of harboring a fugitive.