Court documents: 11 starving children found in compound near Colorado border were being trained for school shootings

Photo: Taos County Sheriff's Office

AMALIA, N.M. (KKTV) - Eleven children found living in squalor in a makeshift compound in a desolate part of northern New Mexico were being trained to commit school shootings, allege new court documents filed Wednesday.

The children are now in state custody, while two men and three women are facing charges.

The FBI and Clayton County, Georgia investigators reportedly had been conducting surveillance on the compound near Amalia for two months, believing a Georgia man wanted on child abduction charges was holed up there. The FBI didn't believe there was enough probable cause to raid the surveillance until Friday when a Georgia detective received a message believed to be from someone on the compound, stating they were starving.

"I absolutely knew that we couldn’t wait on another agency to step up and we had to go check this out as soon as possible, so I began working on a search warrant right after I got that intercepted message – it had to be a search warrant and a tactical approach for our own safety because we had learned the occupants were most likely heavily armed and considered extremist of the Muslim belief," said Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe in a statement posted to the sheriff's office Facebook page.

Taos County deputies were horrified by what they saw when they reached the compound.

"The only food we saw were a few potatoes and a box of rice in the filthy trailer," Hogrefe said. "What was most surprising and heartbreaking was when the team located a total of five adults and 11 children that looked like third world country refugees, not only with no food or fresh water, but with no shoes, personal hygiene, and basically dirty rags for clothing.”

The compound itself was described as a small travel trailer covered in plastic and buried in the ground, with no running water or electricity.

The sheriff's office says suspects Siraj Wahhaj and Lucas Morten initially refused to cooperate with deputies, with Wahhaj heavily armed. Both were eventually taken into custody without incident. Wahhaj was the focus of the Georgia investigation, having been accused of abducting his son, while the sheriff's office believes the property was Morten's. Morten faces charges of harboring a fugitive, and Wahhaj was arrested on the kidnapping warrant.

Wahhaj's 3-year-old son was not among the 11 children found in the trailer; however, in the days since the compound was raided, authorities have found a child's remains on the property. The identity has not been confirmed.

The surviving kids' ages range from 1-15.

The court documents, filed Wednesday in Taos County, says Wahhaj was conducting weapons training with the children in the compound. Additional details from the documents have not yet been released.

Three women -- one pregnant -- were found with the men and children inside the trailer. They are believed to be the mothers of all of the kids found in the trailer, sister station KRQE reports. They were initially detained and released, but as investigators have delved further into the details of the case, they have been arrested. All five adults are facing 11 counts of child abuse and are expected in court Wednesday.

The children are in the custody of New Mexico's Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD).

The investigation is ongoing.