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3-Year Old Died In Ritual Ceremony To Cast Out Demons At New Mexico Compound, Prosecutors Say

Judge grants bail to defendants charged with child abuse after prosecutors failed to show "convincing evidence" they were a danger.

By Jill Sederstrom

A 3-year-old boy whose body was found at a New Mexico compound in the desert died during a ritual ceremony to "cast out demonic spirits," a prosecutor said Monday.

After his death, his family believed the boy would "return as Jesus" to help them identify targets to later attack, the prosecutor said, according to Reuters.

The young boy, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, was allegedly taken in December from his mother's home in Atlanta by his father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 39.

Wahhaj, who has been charged with the abduction, then traveled to New Mexico with his extended family that included his wife, Jany Levielle, his brother-in-law Lucas Morton and sisters Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj. There, using old tires and wooden pallets, they created a compound where they stayed with their 11 children.

All five adults are each facing 11 counts of felony child abuse after investigators found the children living in filthy conditions, with little food, and no electricity, water or plumbing at the compound.

On Monday, state District Judge Sarah Backus decided to grant the defendants bail, after a lengthy detention hearing.

"The state alleges that there was a big plan afoot," Backus said, according to Reuters. "But the state hasn't shown to my satisfaction, in clear and convincing evidence, what that plan was."

She set bail at $20,000 for each and said if they are able to post the bail, they'll be held on house arrest with ankle monitors, the New York Post reported.

Wahhaj would have to remain in custody, however, due to a fugitive warrant that was out against him in Georgia for taking the boy. The FBI raided the compound on Aug. 3 as part of the effort to locate the boy.

Prosecutors had argued that bail should be denied and used details of the ritual ceremony as well as allegations that the young children in their care had been trained to use weapons in the event of a raid on the compound to try to convince the judge that the defendants were a danger to society.

During the hearing, FBI Agent Travis Taylor said one of the children told him that Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, the 3-year-old disabled boy, had died in February during a ritual ceremony designed to heal him, according to the Associated Press.

During the ceremony, Abdul-Ghani reportedly stopped breathing and lost consciousness before he died, Taylor said, according to Reuters.

Taylor also testified that a 15-year-old son of Ibn Wahhaj said one of the adults told him the spirit of the boy would revisit them to help them target later attacks on the financial system, law enforcement, and the education system.

Prosecutors also have alleged that the compound was serving as a training ground for young school shooters.

Defense attorneys, however, argued that the prosecution was unfairly targeting the group and labeling them as armed militants, according to the AP.

After the hearing, defense lawyer Thomas Clark said he believed his clients were being targeted and labeled "evil" for their Muslim beliefs.

"If these people were white and Christian, nobody would bat an eye over the idea of faith healing, or praying over a body or touching a body and quoting scripture," he said, according to Reuters.

Three of the defendants, including Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, are the adult children of prominent Brooklyn cleric Siraj Wahhaj.

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