The FBI on Friday arrested five former residents of a ramshackle compound in New Mexico on firearms and conspiracy charges as local prosecutors dropped charges in the death of a 3-year-old boy at the property.
Taos County District Attorney Donald Gallegos said his office will now seek grand jury indictments involving the death.
He said seeking indictments will allow more time to gather and analyze evidence, and enable his office to avoid calling juveniles from the compound as witnesses in court.
Three of the adults from the compound had been released Wednesday after state judges dismissed child neglect charges, noting that prosecutors missed deadlines to present evidence and that charges may have been improperly filed by the sheriff and prosecutors.
(L to R) Lucas Morten and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj were two of the five former residents arrested in connection with a raid by authorities on a squalid compound in rural New Mexico where 11 children were taken into protective custody
Deadlines loomed in state court next week to show evidence backing up charges of child abuse resulting in death against Jany Leveille and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the father of the boy whose body was found in an underground tunnel at the compound near the Colorado border.
Those charges were dropped in lieu of taking the case to a grand jury set to convene in late September.
'Going to a grand jury allows us to get that information and vet it and not be under the 10-day window, which is quite burdensome,' Gallegos said, describing state rules on due process for jailed defendants that require a quick showing of probable cause that a crime was committed.
All five people arrested by the FBI will remain in custody pending a Tuesday hearing in federal court.
Joe Shattuck, an Arizona-based criminal defense attorney who has practices in New Mexico, described the firearms possession and conspiracy as 'low hanging fruit' that keeps all five defendants behind bars.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj sits in court in Taos, New Mexico on August 13, during a detention hearing. Federal prosecutors say the FBI has arrested five former residents, including Wahhaj, of a ramshackle compound in northern New Mexico on firearms and conspiracy charges
Jany Leveille, from left, with her attorney Kelly Golightley, and Siraj Ibn Wahhaj with attorney Tom Clark listen to the prosecutor during a hearing on a motion to dismiss in the Taos County Courthouse on August 29, 2018
'The feds are looking to get their thumbs into the pie - they may want to get deeper into the case later,' said Shattuck, who is not involved in the case.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Albuquerque said compound resident Jany Leveille has been charged with being an alien unlawfully in possession of firearms and ammunition.
The other four people are charged with conspiring with Leveille. They include Lucas Morton; his wife, Subhannah Wahhaj; and her sister Hujrah Wahhaj
Federal immigration authorities have accused Leveille, a native of Haiti, of residing illegally in the U.S. for 20 years after overstaying a visitor's visa, though she was authorized to work in the U.S. from April 2017 through April 2018.
Local law enforcement authorities previously said the firearms they found at the compound were all legally owned.
Kelly Golightley, a defense attorney for Leveille, said she was unfamiliar with the new charges and could not immediately comment.
'I need to investigate my cases more thoroughly to determine if charges were properly filed,' she said.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, from left, and Jany Leveille talk with with attorneys Kelly Golightley and Tom Clark after a hearing on a motion to dismiss in the Taos County Courthouse on August 29, 2018
Wahhaj, left, talks with her attorney Marie Legrand Miller during the hearing on August 29, 2018
Eleven children were taken into state custody in an Aug. 3 raid on the squalid compound, where a half-submerged camper was surrounded by walls of used tires and adobe walls topped with broken glass.
Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe said the property was under surveillance since May, and that he launched the raid based on an intercepted message that children were starving. A district court judge says authorities have failed to provide evidence that the children were physically neglected.
Authorities say that Abdul-ghani, the deceased boy found at the property, initially was reported missing by his mother last year from Jonesboro, Georgia, after Siraj Ibn Wahhaj said he was taking the child to a park and didn't return.
Forensic medical investigators have not yet identified the cause and manner of the boy's death.
Law enforcement officials previously accused Wahhaj and Leveille of denying the boy proper medicine and health care before he died in December 2017 during a religious ritual aimed at casting out demonic spirits.
In filings in federal court on Friday, an FBI agent reiterated accusations drawn from accounts by children at the compound that Leveille expected Abdul-ghani to be resurrected as Jesus and provide instruction to 'get rid of' corrupt institutions that involve teachers, law enforcement and banks.