Local News

Plumber describes finding human remains

Posted June 9, 2011 10:06 a.m. EDT
Updated October 18, 2011 2:39 p.m. EDT

— A horrible smell that a landlord believed was a sewage leak led plumbers to discover what police believe are the remains of a missing Durham woman, according to a 911 call released Thursday.

After the discovery of the remains Wednesday, police quickly charged seven people with murder in the death of Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28, who had been missing since December. Investigators believe her disappearance is linked to that of Jadon Higganbothan, 5, who hasn't been seen since October.

A group of plumbers made the gruesome discovery while looking into what the landlord thought was a sewage problem in the backyard of a house at 2622 Ashe St.

"We noticed something very curious in the backyard buried in plastic bag, and the smell is unusual," the 911 caller said.

The plumber said he and his co-workers first thought it was just a small bag but soon uncovered 2 or 3 feet of it. Then, they decided to call police, he said.

"It has a horrible smell," the 911 caller said. "We don't think it's an animal or nothing. It seems like it could possibly be another human."

Police Chief Jose Lopez said "everything indicates" the remains are those of McKoy.

Sources told WRAL News Thursday that the body has been positively identified as McKoy's and that it had been buried for more than five months. Jadon's remains weren't with it, sources said.

Forensics technicians continued to search the house and yard Thursday.

All seven suspects in McKoy's death – Peter Lucas Moses, 27, Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, Larhonda Renee Smith, 27, Sheilda Evelyn Harris, 56, Sheila Falisha Moses, 20, Pete Leonard Moses, 21, all of 2146 Charles St., and Vania Rae Sisk, 25, of 715 Bernice St. – were arrested by early Thursday.

They all made their initial court appearance Thursday morning and were ordered held without bond in the Durham County jail. Each was appointed a public defender, and their next court appearances will be June 30.

Sheilda Harris is the mother of Peter Lucas Moses, and she rented the Ashe Street home for about a year until February, leaving it vacant since then.

Neighbors said several adults and a small child lived in the house, while four teens – two boys and two girls – stayed in a shed behind the house.

Sisk, the mother of missing Jadon, is believed to have been dating Peter Lucas Moses. He, Leonard and Sheila Moses are siblings.

Police said Lavada Harris and Smith lived with the group at a home at 2109 Pear Tree Lane in Durham at one point. A confidential informant told police in February that both Jadon and McKoy were killed in the Pear Tree Lane house and that their bodies were disposed of.

Police repeatedly searched the Pear Tree Lane house, and a search warrant states that they found a bullet, shell casing and evidence of human blood and "overt cleaning" inside.

A second search warrant stated that Peter Lucas Moses and Sisk were "directly involved" in the deaths of a woman and child.

One Ashe Street resident said he invited the family over for Thanksgiving dinner last fall, but they replied that they didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. Investigators have said members of the group were part of the Black Hebrews, a religious sect that believes it descends directly from the ancient tribes of Israel.

Members of the Moses family have denied any link to the sect.

"The detective made up the group and stuff like that. I mean, people study different religions and stuff like that," said a man who identified himself only as "Jay" following Sheilda Harris' court appearance.

"Jay" said he is Harris' son and said that police also questioned him in the case. He maintained that his mother is innocent and said that police were trying to charge as many people as possible in the case.

"The simple fact of where they found the body, so that's basically why they are charging my mom," he said. "The rest of that other stuff, I don't even (relate to) that side of the family."

Lavada Harris' father described his daughter as a victim of Peter Lucas Moses and is innocent.

"I didn't like him. I've been trying to talk my daughter into cutting ties with him for years now, and she wouldn't listen to any family members," Willie Harris said. "Anytime I try to talk to her, it's like talking to the wall, you know. I couldn't get any response from her."

Peter Lucas Moses, 27, was arrested in April on charges that he kidnapped a 16-year-old girl, hit her several times, pointed a semi-automatic gun at her and threatened to kill her.