2 plead not guilty in death of toddler


Associated Press

TAOS, N.M.

The father of a 3-year-old boy found dead in a filthy New Mexico compound earlier this month pleaded not guilty Wednesday to new charges of child abuse resulting in death as lesser charges were dismissed against him and other members of his extended family as the result of a deadline missed by prosecutors.

The dead boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and his partner, Jany Leveille, who also is charged with the same crime, remained silent as pleas were entered on their behalf. The charges could carry life sentences in the death of Abdul-ghani Wahhaj.

Their pleas followed a decision by a judge to dismiss initial child-neglect charges against them. Another judge made the same decision in the cases of the other three defendants earlier Wednesday.

The five were arrested this month at a remote desert compound where 11 children were found living in filth and the body of the 3-year-old boy was discovered.

Authorities say Wahhaj and Leveille denied the boy proper medicine and health care as he died in December 2017 during a religious ritual aimed at casting out demonic spirits.

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