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Photographs by AP/MARY ALTAFFER

New York cleric Siraj Wahhaj says Thursday that the remains of a child buried near a compound in New Mexico are those of his missing grandson.

Cleric says N.M. body his grandson's

TAOS, N.M. -- A severely disabled Georgia boy who authorities say was kidnapped by his father and marked for an exorcism was found buried at the ramshackle compound in the New Mexico desert that has been the focus of investigators for the past week, the boy's grandfather said Thursday.

New Mexico authorities, however, said they had yet to identify the remains, discovered Monday.

The boy, Abdul-ghani Wahhaj, would have turned 4 on Monday. Prosecutors said he was snatched from his mother in December in Jonesboro, Ga., near Atlanta.

The search for him led authorities to New Mexico, where 11 hungry children and a youngster's remains were found last week at a filthy compound shielded by old tires, wooden pallets and an earthen wall studded with broken glass.

The missing boy's grandfather, Siraj Wahhaj, is a Muslim cleric who leads a well-known New York City mosque.

A Georgia arrest warrant accused the boy's father, Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, of kidnapping his child, who suffered from seizures and required constant attention because of a lack of oxygen and blood flow at birth.

The child's father was among five adults arrested in the raid at the compound. In court papers, prosecutors also said Wahhaj had been training children there to carry out school shootings.

Plea deals in '16 fatal fire called lenient

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Tearful relatives of the 36 people killed in a 2016 Northern California warehouse fire testified Thursday that the involuntary manslaughter plea deals the two defendants reached with prosecutors are too lenient, with one calling it a "sweetheart deal."

The man who rented the warehouse and turned it into an artsy living and entertainment space, Derick Almena, 48, pleaded no contest to the charges in exchange for a nine-year prison sentence. Max Harris, 28, who collected warehouse rent and scheduled its concerts, also pleaded no contest in return for a six-year term.

Cyrus Hoda, the brother of fire victim Sarah Hoda, 30, said the resolution smacked of a "sweetheart deal" to him, labeling Almena and Harris as "culture vultures" trying to become San Francisco Bay Area arts players by luring people to a dangerous place to live and party.

The warehouse burned quickly on Dec. 2, 2016, during a music concert. Alameda County district attorney Nancy O'Malley said the two men had turned the warehouse into a "death trap" by cluttering it with highly flammable knick-knacks, blocking the building's few exits and failing to take adequate safety precautions before inviting the public inside.

Judge James Kramer approved the plea deal last month that allowed the two men to avoid life in prison if convicted at trial.

Provost 1st woman to head Border Patrol

WASHINGTON -- Carla Provost, who has been serving as acting chief of the Border Patrol, will take over as leader of the agency on a permanent basis, Customs and Border Protection announced Thursday.

Provost is the first woman to lead the Border Patrol in its 94-year history.

While Provost has been leading the Border Patrol for over a year, her choice as a chief of the border agency is a significant milestone for women there. Currently, women in the Border Patrol, which has nearly 20,000 agents, make up only about 5 percent of the agents, one of the lowest proportions among federal law enforcement agencies.

"When it comes to women obviously there is always more that we can do," she said. "I know that I am the first female to lead the agency but I definitely know that I will not be the last one."

Provost joined the Border Patrol in 1995 as an agent in Douglas, Ariz. She worked in El Paso, Texas, and El Centro, Calif., before transferring to D.C. headquarters in 2015, where she focused on efforts to clamp down on corruption, misconduct and mismanagement.

Tennessee executes rapist, killer of girl

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee carried out the execution Thursday of a man condemned for the 1985 rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl, marking the first time the state has applied the death penalty since 2009.

Inmate Billy Ray Irick, 59, received a three-drug injection at a maximum-security prison in Nashville and was pronounced dead at 7:48 p.m., authorities said in an emailed statement. He was convicted in 1986 in the death of Paula Dyer, a Knoxville girl he was baby-sitting.

The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday afternoon for the execution, denying Irick's request for a stay. But Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a blistering dissent, recounting details from a recent state court trial of a case brought by inmates contesting Tennessee's execution drugs.

"In refusing to grant Irick a stay, the Court today turns a blind eye to a proven likelihood that the State of Tennessee is on the verge of inflicting several minutes of torturous pain on an inmate in its custody," Sotomayor wrote.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports.

Bree Seville uses a small brush Thursday to sweep the stairs at the burned-out home of her fiancee’s mother in the Keswick area of Redding, Calif.

A Section on 08/10/2018

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