The Associated Press reports that the father accused in the death of his 3-year-old son in a New Mexico compound has pleaded not guilty to child abuse resulting in death, as did his partner. Lesser charges were previously dismissed against the two and their extended family because the prosecutor missed a deadline.
Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, the father, and his partner, Jany Leveille, have remained largely silent in court. If convicted, the two face life sentences in prison.
The couple pleaded not guilty after the judge dismissed the previous child neglect charges. A different judge also dismissed charges against three additional defendants the same day.
Defense counsel made a point with the court that prosecutors failed to execute the required preliminary hearing within 10 days of arrest.
The three additional defendants in the case were released from jail. All five of them were arrested at the desert compound where 11 children were found to be living in terrible conditions. A search of the property revealed the body of the dead 3-year-old.
Police allege that Wahhaj and Leveille did not give the boy proper health care and medicine preceding his death in December of 2017. The boy died during a religious practice that was meant to cast out evil spirits, but authorities haven’t determined his exact cause of death. The boy was initially reported missing by his mother last year in Jonesboro, Georgia.
*Photo credit The Associated Press