Three of the five suspects arrested at a New Mexico compound earlier this month were released from custody on Wednesday after a judge dismissed all charges against them.
Meanwhile, the father of a toddler found dead at the compound and his partner pleaded not guilty to new charges of child abuse resulting in death the same day.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Jany Leveille pleaded not guilty in the death of little Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, according to the Associated Press. Lesser charges against the two men were dismissed.
District Judge Emilio Chavez also dropped all charges against Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahhaj, stating that prosecutors violated the state’s “10-day rule” by failing to schedule a preliminary hearing within ten days of their arrests. The trio was released from jail on Wednesday night.
“It’s difficult I’m sure for the public to understand why this has to happen this way,” Chavez said on Wednesday. “It’s not the court making this decision, it’s the decision of the district attorney to not seek a hearing in the time required by the rule.”
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille remain jailed.
All five people were arrested in an Aug. 3 police raid on a remote compound in rural New Mexico, where police said they rescued 11 starving children ranging in age from 1 to 15.
Authorities have also identified the compound as an alleged training ground for young school shooters, prosecutors say.
The raid was part of a months-long search to locate Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, who vanished in December, when he was 3 years old, and was later found dead on the property. Prosecutors believe the young boy died during a ritual ceremony to cast out demons.
The child reportedly suffered from seizures and could not walk to due to severe medical issues. He was 3 years old when he went missing in December.
[Photos: Taos County Sheriff's Office]