On August 3, 2018, five adults were arrested after a raid on a remote, squatter ramshackle compound.
Each defendant was charged with 11 counts of felony child abuse.
Eleven children ages 1 to 15 where found at the compound who appeared to be malnourished and were taken into custody by Children’s Youth and Family’s Department.
The buried remains of a child, who has now been identified as the son of one of the defendants, were also found on the compound.
The state Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) is still investigating to determine the child’s cause of death and an autopsy report has not been released.
The Taos County Sheriff has charged two adults with a first-degree felony of “child abuse resulting in death” that carries a possible life sentence.
At the August 13, 2018 bond release hearing, District Court Judge Sarah Backus ruled that the defendants could be released once they posted an unsecured $20,000 bond because the District Attorney did not provide enough evidence that they were a danger to the community.
As a condition of release, the defendants were required to find living accommodations, they have been unable to do so and all are still in jail.
The Taos District Attorney’s Office also has filed a motion to have Taos District Court Judge Sarah Backus reconsider her bond ruling which is no surprise and is the appropriate action.
A preliminary hearing will now be scheduled on the Sheriff’s charges of first-degree felony of child abuse resulting in death.
A hearing will be scheduled on the motion to reconsider the bond.
COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
It is obvious that the Taos County Sheriff and the Taos District Attorney are trying to get their acts together on this very high-profile case that has attracted national media attention.
The fact the Taos County Sheriff has now charged two adults with a first-degree felony of child abuse hopefully indicates the Taos County Sheriff has significantly more evidence recovered from the compound before it was demolished.
No explanation has been given why a crime scene was demolished without a court order.
Let’s hope investigators took a lot of photos to at least try and preserve some evidence of crimes at the campground.
No doubt the defense will argue exculpatory evidence has now been demolished.
The Taos District Attorney stated that before his office charges anyone with murder of the child, they wanted the Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) to complete its investigation to determine the child’s cause of death.
The OMI report has not been released yet.
The child’s body has already been returned to his home state with a burial having occurred.
Needless to say, a lot more needs to be done by both the Taos County Sherriff and the Taos District Attorney before the preliminary hearing is held by the District Court to decide probable cause to charge murder.
One argument made by the District Attorney at the first August 13, 2018 bond hearing was that all the defendants charged are required to travel to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, once in their lifetimes.
In response to reference to the defendant’s faith, the court stated:
“The State apparently expected the Court to take the individuals’ faith into account in making such a determination … The Court has never been asked to take any other person’s faith into account in deciding of dangerousness. The Court is not aware of any law that allows the Court to take a person’s faith into consideration in making a dangerousness determination.”
In the Motion to Reconsider Conditions of Release filed on August 25, 2018 the Taos DA’s Office is making for a second time the same inflammatory allegation regarding the Defendants faith with the motion arguing:
“The Court in this case should have considered the evidence that these Defendants’ particular views concerning their faith required them to commit violent illegal acts at some unknown time in the future, to attack law enforcement personnel with firearms if such personnel came to their compound, and that they were currently taking active steps to train for that purpose.”
The Defendant’s faith is Muslim, and by alleging that their religious faith “required them to commit illegal acts at some unknown time in the future” is being inflammatory and prejudicial when there is no need to be when there is so much evidence revealing a danger to the public.
The District Attorney is arguing it was the defendant’s religion that was the motivating factor for their conduct to commit “violent and illegal acts” something that is going to be very difficult to prove in a court of law.
The defendants are of the Muslim faith and as such follow the teaching of the Koran.
It was reported that during the August 13, 2018 bond hearing an FBI agent testified that he was told that the children were undergoing firearms and tactical training to attack “corrupt” institutions that would be identified by the dead boy, who was to be resurrected as Jesus Christ.
It is going to be difficult or at best problematic for the District Attorney to explain to a judge or jury how the Defendant’s Muslim faith had anything to do with their motivations of child abuse and murder if their intent was to raise from the dead the child as Jesus.
Do not be surprised if the defense argues that the defendants are being prosecuted for their religious beliefs as opposed for the alleged crimes they have committed.
None of the 11 children who are in the state’s custody testified during the first August 13, 2018 bond release hearing and nothing has been mentioned if statements have been taken from them.
The New Mexico Constitution provides that defendants can be held in jail without bond before their criminal trial “only if prosecutors show by clear and convincing evidence that they are so dangerous that no release conditions will reasonably protect public safety.”
The minimum physical evidence reportedly found at the compound include:
1. An extensive arsenal of guns with no mention of the type of weapons found, books about combat an weapons training.
2. Eleven malnourished kids.
3. The body of a dead child found at the compound.
4. One defendant wanted on a kidnapping charge.
5. Admissions or statements presumably taken from the children made regarding their physical safety and threats made against them by the defendants.
No autopsy report has been released of the child found dead on the property and it should be released before the hearing on the motion to reconsider.
The 11 children who are now in the state’s custody are now part of the general public.
Nothing will prevent the defendants once released from trying to regain custody of the 11 children and exposing the children to further danger or child abuse.
Two of the defendants have now been charged with first-degree felony of child abuse resulting in death that carries a possible life sentence which no doubt will increase the chances of a flight risk.
The physical evidence found at the compound, the pending charges, statements from the 11 children in custody and the body of a dead child found buried at the compound should be more than enough to establish by clear and convincing evidence that Defendants are so dangerous that no release conditions will reasonably protect public safety.
Arguing or even mentioning the Defendants religious beliefs as a motivation for murder is a mistake.
The Taos District Attorney apparently has learned nothing from the first bond hearing before District Court Judge Sarah Backus by again arguing the defendant’s religious affiliation.