The search for a missing boy out of Clayton County led police to a remote compound in the high desert of New Mexico.
But deputies did not find 4-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj at the compound. Instead, they found his father, Siraj Wahhaj, along with another man, three women and nearly a dozen starving children.
The small travel trailer they were living in was buried in the ground and covered with plastic.
“No running water. No electricity. It was… they were in bad shape,” said Sgt. Jason Rael with the Taos County Sheriff’s Office.
The children had no food or fresh water. They were found without shoes, wearing what the Taos County Sheriff described as “basically dirty rags.”
And the only food deputies found was a box of rice and a few potatoes.
“It was disheartening to see that, in this day and age, that people could live that way,” said Sgt. Rael.
They found plenty of weapons, though: four handguns and a rifle and, the sheriff’s office says, lots of ammunition.
Deputies arrested Wahhaj and another man, Lucas Morten, who is being charged with harboring a fugitive. The three women, Jany Leveille, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahha, were arrested as well.
They are believed to be the mothers of the 11 children.
Wahhaj was arrested on a warrant out of Georgia alleging child abduction. Morten faces a charge for harboring a fugitive.
In addition, all five adults are facing charges of child abuse.
The Associated Press (AP) reports the children range in ages from 1 to 15. They were turned over to state child-welfare workers.
Police are still looking for the missing toddler. His birthday is on Monday.
According to AP, the child was reported missing on Dec. 10 out of Clayton County, which is south of Atlanta.
The boy’s mother told police he left with his father for a trip to the park and never returned.
Clayton County police say that Wahhaj and his son were last seen Dec. 13 in Alabama, traveling with five other children and two adults. They were involved in a single-vehicle crash in the state.
Anyone with information on the missing child is urged to immediately contact authorities.