Cellmate of Amalia compound suspects: 'We're all just mothers missing our children' | KOB 4

Cellmate of Amalia compound suspects: 'We're all just mothers missing our children'

Ryan Laughlin
August 15, 2018 06:31 PM

TAOS, N.M. – Two days after the controversial decision by a Taos judge not to detain the five child abuse suspects arrested in northern New Mexico before trial, three of the arrested adults are expected to be released at any moment. 


Siraj Wahhaj – facing child abduction charges out of Georgia – will remain behind bars, and Jany Leveille, who is from Haiti, has been detained by immigration agents.

KOB was able to speak with another inmate where the suspects are being detained. The woman, Antonette Cortez, who was released Wednesday, said she's spent more than a week in a cell with the three mothers arrested for abusing their kids.

Cortez said the public's perception of the women is wrong, adding they've been unfairly portrayed.

"When the news would come on, they would just shake their head and say, 'That is so stupid,'" Cortez said. "And they would close the door and they would pray."

She said the women aren't who the media has portrayed them to be, instead stressing that they are "respectful and nice."

"They came to northern New Mexico for a different lifestyle, and that's how people in Taos live," Cortez said. "We all have different lifestyles here, and we're all together and we all don't judge each other. We're all open-minded and accepting here, and I just think they were trying to make a different life for themselves."

When Leveille was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tuesday, Cortez said the situation got particularly emotional for the other women, Hujrah Wahhaj and Subhannah Wahhaj.

"They came out and they cried and they thanked us for being there for them," Cortez said. "Like I said, we're all just mothers in here—just missing our children."

She added she admittedly hadn't heard of the evidence that was presented in court Monday. 

Hujrah and Subhannah Wahhaj are waiting to be released as an appeal by the district attorney is in the works to keep them locked up. 

"We just talked about our lives and just how we're mothers and how we were sad and missing our children," Cortez said.

The biggest hangup in the release of the suspects is housing. As part of their conditions of release, Judge Sarah Backus on Monday ordered that they must find suitable housing with better conditions than the makeshift compound they were living in.

That compound has since been destroyed. 

One defense attorney says it's been difficult finding a place for them to live in Taos. He also said they are hoping to find some charitable organization to help pay for temporary living.


Ryan Laughlin

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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