Judge Emilio Chavez on Wednesday dismissed all of the charges, including child neglect, against three of the five defendants arrested in connection to a New Mexico compound linked to “extremist Muslims.”
Judge Chavez ruled that he could not keep the three in custody because prosecutors missed a 10-day limit for an evidentiary hearing to establish probable cause for the neglect charges.
FBI and other law enforcement officers made the arrests in the desert in northern New Mexico, where 11 children were found living in filth and the body of a 3-year-old named Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj boy was discovered.
Prosecutors could still seek charges against the three: Lucas Morton, Subhannah Wahhaj and Hujrah Wahha.
Prosecutors would have to go through a grand jury to indict.
Right now, however, there is a no word on their next move.
Meanwhile, authorities have filed charges against the dead boy’s father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, and his partner, Jany Leveille.
They were due in court Wednesday afternoon and are accused of child abuse resulting in death – charges that could carry life sentences in connection with the death of the 3-year-old.
Georgia police had been on the search for Wahhaj, who they believe illegally fled the state with his son nine months ago.
The child’s mother, Hakima Ramzi, called the police when her husband did not return home with the child.
According to Ramzi, her son, Abdul-Ghani, suffered seizures and needed regular medical attention.
The child’s badly decomposed remains were found this month inside a tunnel at the high-desert compound near the Colorado state line.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officials have accused Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille of denying the boy proper medicine and health care as he died during rituals designed to cast out harmful spirits from the boy. They have not yet entered pleas.
Chavez ruled that the other three defendants could be released as early as Wednesday afternoon depending on what action prosecutors take.
Prosecutors had pressed for continued incarceration and planned to present new evidence of an anti-government plot and talk of jihad and martyrdom among some members of the extended Muslim family that settled at the compound last winter.
Among the evidence is a hand-written document titled “Phases of a Terrorist Attack” that was seized from the compound and includes vague instructions for “the one-time terrorist” and mentioned an unnamed place called “the ideal attack site.”
Prosecutors wrote in court documents that new interviews with some of the children taken from the site revealed that one of the adults, Lucas Morton, stated he wished to die in jihad as a martyr and that defendants Leveille and Subhannah Wahhaj joked about dying in jihad.
Defense attorneys have noted that their clients have no record of criminal convictions and pose no risk to the public.