Local News

Durham sect leader pleads guilty to killing boy, woman

Posted June 11, 2012 10:09 a.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2012 4:36 p.m. EDT

— The leader of a religious sect charged in the deaths of a Durham boy and a woman pleaded guilty Monday to killing them.

Peter Lucas Moses, 27, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28.

Their bodies were found last June buried behind a house on Ashe Street in Durham where Moses' mother, Sheilda Harris, used to live. Both had been shot in the head, according to autopsy reports.

Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Moses, but they agreed to a sentence of life in prison without parole if he cooperates with investigators and testifies against other sect members. He will be sentenced after their trials.

Harris, Moses' brother, P. Leonard Moses, and his sister, Sheila Moses, are charged as accessories in McKoy's death.

Jadon's mother, Vania Sisk, and two other women who lived with Peter Moses, Larhonda Renee Smith and Lavada Quinzetta Harris, have been charged with murder in McKoy's death and as accessories in Jadon's death.

Jamiel Higganbothan said he was furious that prosecutors went ahead with the plea deal for Pete Moses after he told them he was opposed to the offer of a life sentence.

"Me and my family wanted the death penalty,” Higganbothan said, noting that he initially agreed to the deal but later told prosecutors he had changed his mind.

“I’m really not OK with it at all,” he said of Pete Moses spending his life in prison.

Authorities have said Pete Moses led a religious group of women and children who called him “Lord” and feared him. They lived together in a home on Pear Tree Lane in southeast Durham.

A woman who left the group told police that Moses killed Jadon in October 2010 because he thought the child was gay. Prosecutors said in court that Moses became concerned that Jadon had touched one of his sons inappropriately, and they said that he took Jadon to the garage and shot him.

The informant also told police that Moses ordered that McKoy be killed two months later when he learned she couldn't have children and wanted to leave the group. Prosecutors said she was forced back inside the house as she tried to run away and was later killed in a bathroom.

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 Pete 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 Pete Moses' fingerprints on the tape securing the trash bags in which the bodies were buried, and they wanted high-quality prints of Harris, Leonard Moses and Smith to compare to other partial fingerprints they had found.

Colorado police found a .22-caliber handgun on the roof of the townhouse where the group had been staying, and Durham authorities said Monday that tests showed the handgun was used to kill both Jadon and McKoy.