ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Five extended family members who had been living on a remote New Mexico compound where a 3-year-old boy died before it was raided have been indicted on terrorism-related charges that accuse them of conspiring to attack U.S. law enforcement officers, military members and government employees, authorities said Thursday.
The superseding indictment against the suspects, who have been in federal custody since August on firearms charges, came six months after authorities first descended on their squalid compound near Amalia, just south of the Colorado state line.
A search for a missing Georgia boy — the son of suspect Siraj Ibn Wahhaj — had led law enforcement to the site on the high-desert where they found the child's remains as well as 11 hungry children living in filth.
Authorities also have accused Wahhaj and others of transporting weapons across state lines to New Mexico, and training children at a firing range on the property to carry out school shootings and other attacks that never occurred.
The suspects' attorneys have disputed the allegations, saying they are based on the uncorroborated statements of children.
"The defendants in this case allegedly were preparing for deadly attacks and their targets included law enforcement and military personnel, the very people who are committed to protecting all of us," Michael McGarrity, director of the FBI's Counterterrorism Division, said in a statement Thursday.
All the suspects, except Wahhaj, also have been charged with participating in the kidnapping of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, the boy who died after prosecutors say he had been denied medication for seizures. Jany Leveille, a leader of the group, believed medication suppressed Muslim beliefs, authorities said.
Because authorities say the 2017 abduction ultimately resulted in the boy's death, the kidnapping count against Leveille, Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhana Wahhaj and Lucas Morton carries a potential sentence of life in prison or the death penalty should prosecutors win a conviction against them and decide to pursue the maximum punishment in the case.
The father has not been charged with kidnapping because of federal statutes that generally only allow for charging parents with abducting their own children in international cases.
The results of an autopsy for the boy whose remains were found at the compound property are still pending.
Defense attorneys said they were awaiting more information on the new charges before providing further comment.
"We still don't have all the documents from the government regarding this case," said Amy Sirignano, who represents Morton.
She said in an email sent on behalf of the defense that their clients would plead not guilty at an arraignment scheduled for next Thursday.
The suspects remain jailed after a federal judge ruled in September that they could not be freed on bail as they await trial.
Federal authorities said Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille, who lived as a couple at the compound, had performed daily, hours-long prayer rituals over Wahhaj's young son in the days leading to his death — even as he cried and foamed at the mouth.
An FBI agent also said in federal court that Leveille's two teenage sons had described how she expected the dead child to be resurrected as Jesus and provide instruction to get rid of corrupt institutions that involve teachers, law enforcement and banks.
A prior federal grand jury indictment on firearms and conspiracy charges against the group stemmed from accusations that Leveille, who is originally from Haiti, had been living in the country illegally and that the others had conspired to provide her with firearms and ammunition.