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Taos sheriff: Sick boy was denied his medications

Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe writes in court documents that two adults arrested at a makeshift compound near the Colorado border earlier this month possibly didn’t believe that diseases are real and didn’t do what was needed to get medical attention for a boy who died on the property.

The remains of Siraj Ibn Wahhaj’s 3-year-old son, Abdul-Ghani, were found at the compound Aug. 6. The boy suffered from Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy, or HIE, a condition that caused severe seizures and required medication.

On Friday, Wahhaj, 40, and Jany Leveille, 35, were charged with child abuse resulting in death and conspiracy to commit child abuse.

According to criminal complaints for both Wahhaj and Leveille, who are married, Abdul-Ghani died at the compound Dec. 24.

Prosecutors have said that Wahhaj and Leveille would read verses from the Quran over the boy to rid him of evil spirits, and the new criminal complaints indicate that they may have believed that diseases aren’t real.

“Affiant asserts that there is no mention of the defendants contacting any medical services for assistance or any efforts by anyone from the compound to revive the child take him (sic) to or call for medical services or even any report of his death,” Hogrefe wrote.

Siraj Ibn Wahhaj

Hogrefe included electronic journal entries by Leveille that were found on a thumb drive that was seized from the compound. According to an entry from Dec. 24, Wahhaj was reciting the Quran over Abdul-Ghani that day “as usual,” but Abdul-Ghani was overly exhausted. Later that day, the journal entry says Wahhaj told Leveille that Abdul-Ghani didn’t have a heartbeat.

Leveille is accused of writing: “How could a Quranic recitation execute a child? This only happens to shayateens (demons). … At last, Allah confirmed that indeed, H.I.E. and diseases of that sort are not real. … The reason he could not talk nor walk, is because his life was replaced by shayateens through the medicines used.”

Abdul-Ghani’s biological mother, Hakima Ramzi, told Hogrefe that Abdul-Ghani’s doctor had told her that if the boy had a seizure lasting longer than five minutes he needed to be taken to an emergency room.

Hogrefe also spoke with state Children, Youth and Families Department forensic pediatrician Dr. Karen Campbell, who told Hogrefe that denying medication for HIE “would result in long uncontrolled seizures and a high probability of death,” the affidavits state.

Hogrefe acknowledges in the complaint that the defendants are poor, but said the medications could have been obtained.

Defendants, from left, Jany Leveille, Lucas Morton, Siraj Wahhaj and Subhanah Wahhaj enter district court in Taos for a detention hearing Aug. 13. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“In addition, affiant asserts that while poverty is not a crime in New Mexico, Medicaid is universally available to those that qualify and confirmed with Dr. Campbell that both medications prescribed to AG for his seizure disorder would be covered by Medicaid,” he wrote.

Eleven children who appeared to be malnourished were found on the compound when Taos County deputies and state officials raided it Aug. 3. Three other adults – Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhanah Wahhaj and Lucas Morton – face 11 counts of felony child abuse.

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