Jury convicts group who kidnapped Alabama 3-year-old; child died days later

Published 9:50 am Friday, October 27, 2023

Last week, a federal jury returned guilty verdicts against Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, his sisters, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhanah Wahhaj, and Subhanah’s husband, Lucas Morton, following a three-week jury trial.

The jury convicted Siraj Wahhaj and Lucas Morton of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, providing material support to terrorists and conspiracy to murder an officer or employee of the United States.

Hujrah Wahhaj, Subhanah Wahhaj and Lucas Morton were additionally convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping resulting in death and kidnapping resulting in death.

In a plea agreement, unsealed last week, the fifth defendant, Jany Leveille, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and being in possession of a firearm while unlawfully in the United States.

According to evidence presented at trial and other publicly available court records, in December 2017, Siraj Wahhaj unlawfully abducted his three-year-old son from his wife in Alabama. Leveille, and the defendants had formed the belief that the child was her son and was possessed by demons. The group took the child to New Mexico, depriving him of his medication and the loving care of his mother, and subjected him to an exhausting regimen of daily spiritual exorcisms.

The child died fewer than two weeks after arriving in New Mexico, before investigators had any knowledge of his suspected location.

Under Leveille’s direction, Siraj and the others established a community centered on the belief that the child would return as Jesus Christ to pass judgment on corrupt institutions, including the FBI, the military and other government and financial institutions. To this end, they established a fortified base and a firing range. Armed with 11 firearms, including an AR-15 Bushmaster assault rifle, high-capacity magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, the group conducted weapons and tactical training and required some of the children to do so as well. The group conducted the training with the intent to “face the nation” and kill those who refused to believe as they did. They spoke of waging jihad and becoming martyrs.

On Aug. 3, 2018, the Taos County Sheriff’s Office Tactical Special Response Team executed warrants on the compound. Siraj Wahhaj armed himself and prepared to defend the compound before ultimately being taken into custody without shots fired. During a search of the compound, law enforcement located the remains of the child in an underground tunnel.

In her plea agreement, Leveille admitted that she and her co-conspirators entered into an agreement to provide material support and resources to prepare for, and to carry out, the killing of federal officers or employees when they came to the compound. Leveille also admitted that she knew she was no longer legally and lawfully in the United States and that she was not allowed by law to possess the firearms or ammunition.

All four defendants will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not yet been scheduled. At sentencing, Siraj, Hujrah and Subhanah Wahhaj, and Lucas Morton each face up to life in prison. Leveille faces up to 17 years in prison.

The FBI Albuquerque Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, Taos County Sheriff’s Office, New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance, and 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kimberly Brawley and Tavo Hall for the District of New Mexico and Trial Attorneys Jessica Joyce and George Kraehe of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section are prosecuting the case.