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Woman pleads guilty to murder in Durham cult case

Posted February 18, 2013

— A member of an alleged Durham cult pleaded guilty Monday for her role in the 2010 deaths of a 4-year-old boy, who the group's leader thought was gay, and a woman who had been trying to get out of the religious sect.

Peter Lucas Moses Suspects, victims in Durham case

LaRhonda Renee Smith was sentenced to 23 to 30 years in prison for charges of second-degree murder, accessory after the fact, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting deaths of Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28, and Jadon Higganbothan, 4.

Durham County prosecutors said Smith and two other women were in thrall to Pete Moses, leader of the Black Hebrews, and lived with him in a home on Pear Tree Lane in southeast Durham. The three feared him and called him "Lord," authorities have said.

Moses shot Jadon in the head after he made, what Moses considered, inappropriate gestures toward one of the six children that Smith had with Moses, prosecutors said.

Smith knew about the crime and helped cover it up.

Two months later, Moses ordered McKoy killed, according to investigators, when he learned she couldn't have children and wanted to leave the group.

Smith, Lavada Quinzetta Harris and Vania Rae Sisk – Jadon's mother – beat McKoy in a bathroom while religious music played before Sisk shot and killed her, prosecutors said.

Jadon Higganbothan and Antoinetta McKoy Member of alleged Durham cult pleads guilty to killings

Police in June 2011 found both victims buried behind a house on Ashe Street in Durham where Moses' mother used to live.

Defense attorney Lisa Williams said Smith is remorseful for her role in the murders and had asked to address the families of the victims.

"I think that, had they been in court, she would have made a statement to them apologizing for her actions," Williams said after Monday's hearing.

Williams said her client fully cooperated with investigators and is prepared to testify for the state in the trials of her co-defendants.

Moses pleaded guilty to both murders in June in a deal that allows him to avoid the death penalty. He agreed to cooperate in the trials of other sect members and will be sentenced after their trials.

According to court documents, Durham police tracked the group to Colorado, where they moved in early 2011 and had Sisk return to Durham to answer questions about her missing son. During one search of the Pear Tree Lane house, police found Moses hiding in a cabinet.

During another search, investigators dug a bullet out of a wall that had been patched over and found evidence of human blood and signs that someone had cleaned up in an attempt to hide a crime.

Investigators said they found Moses' fingerprints on the tape securing the trash bags in which the bodies were buried.

Colorado police found a .22-caliber handgun on the roof of a townhouse where the group had been staying. Tests showed the gun was used to kill both Jadon and McKoy.


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  • free2bme Feb 19, 2013

    So sad, innocent lives taken. On top of it our tax money has to support them while they plea their way out of the death penalty. It seems like the judicial system works in the criminal's favor. It seems unfair and that the victims get the raw deal. Just hope one day it will change.

  • smilesobright Feb 19, 2013

    Ok this is ridiculous. Moses has no remorse what so ever so there is no way a deal should have been made. Lock them all up and throw away the key.. and the mother needs a harsher punishment than them all because not only did she do wrong but she failed to protect her child and threw him to the wolves.

  • stymieindurham Feb 18, 2013

    Oh pleaseeee! Two people murdered and what happens? NOTHING! Any bets on how long it takes for one of the liberal "get'm out of jail free" groups comes to the rescue?

  • kellypsnll Feb 18, 2013

    Brainwashed. So sad that people can follow one and believe it is ok to take another life.

  • gregg45 Feb 18, 2013

    its amazing 40 comments on murder, 198 on ni music in a mega church,, wow, people, a 4 year old for your music,, what to do,

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 18, 2013

    Where did these people get the idea that their actions were ok?

    It's like there's some sort of handbook that described acceptable and unacceptable behavior with associated punishments or something...

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Feb 18, 2013

    All involved should absolutely get life in prison and not parole, ever. A child's life was takes as well as a woman. They had a right to live but their life was taken. They even buried them. Life in PRISON!!

  • puzzled Feb 18, 2013

    Oh so your religion is the correct one and the good one and everyone elses is wrong and bad. I get it, I get it.
    I am not sure what you think you get. I have not said anybody's religion is wrong or right. But if you don't believe in God then who, what???? I happen to believe in Him and not in religion. You seem to want to put it down. I still do not appreciate that. It seems to me that you just want to put anyone down who thinks that right is right and wrong is wrong, not matter who or what. No further comments will be made about your comment so no need to bother. I get your drift!!!!

  • jaydosse Feb 18, 2013

    It just struck me that the look on her face is very similar to my previous supervisors glare. Gosh, I wonder if they are related??
    Scary thought. Oh well, so much for idle pondering.

  • dipenkara Feb 18, 2013

    All in the name of GOD