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Leader of Durham sect receives two life sentences for 2010 killings

Posted July 5, 2013

— The leader of a Durham religious sect was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for the 2010 murders of a 4-year-old boy and a woman who tried to leave his group.

Peter Lucas Moses led a polygamist group that lived in a home on Pear Tree Lane in southeast Durham. He took several women as his "wives," and they referred to him as "Lord," according to authorities.

In October 2010, he shot Jadon Higganbothan because he thought the boy was gay and had made an inappropriate gesture toward one of Moses' children.

Two months later, Moses ordered Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28, killed, according to investigators, when he learned she couldn't have children and wanted to leave the group. Three of his followers, Vania Rae Sisk, Lavada Quinzetta Harris and LaRhonda Renee Smith, beat McKoy in a bathroom while religious music played before Sisk shot and killed her.

The two bodies were found in June 2011 buried behind a Durham home where Moses' mother previously lived.

Moses pleaded guilty a year ago to two counts of first-degree murder in order to avoid the death penalty. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson called the case the worst he's ever seen and handed down two consecutive life sentences.

Hudson also ordered Moses to receive mental health treatment after learning that he tried to commit suicide at least three times, first when he was 10 years old, and was later committed to psychiatric hospitals, where he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Pete Moses Murder victim's mother rebukes Durham sect leader

Yvonne McKoy told Moses in court that he "took something very precious from me" when he ordered the other women to kill her daughter.

"There is not a day I don't think about her," Yvonne McKoy said, adding, "You're not God. You're not God."

"I begged you to let me talk to her. You lied to me. You deceived me. You told me you wanted to marry her, that she was going to be OK," she told Moses. "Where is she now? She's dead.

"There will come a time when I can forgive you, but I haven't gotten to that point yet," she said. "I'm asking God to forgive you."

Moses apologized to her, saying, "I am sorry for what happened to your daughter."

Defense attorney Lisa Miles said the murders weren't a reflection of Moses' character and were only a result of his untreated mental illness. At the time of the murders, she said, Moses was off his medication because his Medicaid benefits had been cut.

"His illness made him do something monstrous. His character will make him atone for that," Miles said.

Sisk, who was Jadon's mother, was sentenced last week to a minimum of 30 years in prison for her role in the deaths of her son and McKoy. Smith was sentenced to at least 24 years in prison for her role in the two deaths.

Harris and Moses' brother, P. Leonard Moses, received shorter sentences after pleading guilty to being accessories after the fact of murder. Harris will serve at least 12 years, while Leonard Moses will serve about five years.

According to court documents, a woman who had left the sect in early 2011 told Durham police about the murders. Police then tracked the group to Colorado, where they had moved, and had Sisk return to Durham to answer questions about her missing son.

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

During a search of the Pear Tree Lane home, 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 also found Pete Moses' fingerprints on the tape securing the trash bags in which the bodies were buried.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jul 8, 2013

    @Dnut, the death penality is not a deterrent. In fact, the states that kill the most prisoners have more murders per capita.

    So, if you're pro-death penalty, you either ignore the *fact*...the numbers...that show it's not a deterrent or you just want someone to die. Or, was it some certain handbook-for-living that you read a few parts of, maybe?

    In any case, that's a closed-minded, sadistic way to go through life.

    Here you go:
    "Death Penalty states had 4.9 murders per 100,000 people, while non-Death Penalty states only had 2.8 murders per 100,000 people."


  • NCSU_JIM Jul 5, 2013

    what a waste this guy knew exactly what he was doing. he should be sent to death row. he blames everything on society and that is no excuse to kill little kids!

  • Dnut Jul 5, 2013

    Oh, I get it, it's shift change at wral for the sensors, so the on coming shift of sensors, don't like something, they post what they want...

  • Dnut Jul 5, 2013

    Guess wral, decided no more posts here huh?

  • lwe1967 Jul 5, 2013

    Just make sure that some liberal judge doesn't take pity on him and declare that he can get out of jail and turn him loose on us again!

  • LastSon1981 Jul 5, 2013

    Less one assume, I think it is reasonable that the "degree" you are striving for with such vigor is called a GED? atheistswillrule
    You can google all the big words you want but the fact that you keep jumping from wanna be intellectual to name calling lets me know you are a fraud. Ofcourse you are because this is the internet where nobodies like you can feel like big men. I could of told you I was spec ops or an U.S. Marshall or Secret Service. Which is basically what you did. Anyone intelligent person at least intelligent enough to get a degree knows you atleast need a GED to get into the military. I called it right the first time youre not a shrink. Because thats the nick name of a profession you arent you are a wanna be so that makes you a strink. I called you a pany waist because thats what you are. You get into arguements and try to win them by throwing around big words you googled.

  • atheistswillrule Jul 5, 2013

    Do something with your life being a strink aint it for you. The ones at the prison were pany waist but you take the cake. 1981

    Less one assume, I think it is reasonable that the "degree" you are striving for with such vigor is called a GED? Not to stand in judgement, but if you say " strink" as opposed to "shrink" ( which even then is considered slightly recherche as a descriptor) and then call someone " pany" waist. PANY???? Yes PLEASE get ANY degree that you can young man. ANYTHING is an improvement. I must say, your opinions in regard to prison sentencing, considering your background, shows just how much America loves equality.

  • djhartm Jul 5, 2013

    @Squidy "No baby, liberal folks are going to stay RIGHT here and make sure that NC gets some freedom and some basic human dignity. "

    Really? Human dignity?

    Come-on you didn't just use that statement to describe liberals did you?


    Is that the same 'decency' you so adamantly fight for under the guise of 'women's rights' to murder fetus' at will? Lashing-out at all those who dare impose some warranted restrictions around the process?

    How arrogant and pompous; as if 'human decency' was the exclusive trait of liberals.

    Please do stay! You will see that your distorted worldviews are shrinking here, not growing in acceptance. Day-by-day will you!

    And as for lack of debating skills; who is it that resorts to belittling and name-calling as a mode du jour more often? Let me give you a hand, you back & re-read your own sniveling post.

  • LastSon1981 Jul 5, 2013

    Congratulations! You just keep on working on that "degree". I'm certain that you will make waves. Sure the BOP hires vets....they are used to being bossed around, not thinking and low pay. What a winner.

    Thanks I am a winner I was for years when I sacrficed my life for the low pay so you could go to get your lil' college degree in a country that wasn't under sharia, I've had friends die for that low pay. Thank you for insulting them. Following orders and being bossed around is 2 different things. I'm sure a true "EXE" with a "DEGRE" would know that. Do something with your life being a strink aint it for you. The ones at the prison were pany waist but you take the cake.

  • LastSon1981 Jul 5, 2013

    Baby, you got a lot of attitude for somebody who's claim to fame in the prison system is doing " squat and cough" tests!

    You say that like it's easy. I've seen what happened when the mental health "professionals" come into contact with a inmate not in restraints. The big talk you are doing now goes the way of the birds.