Death penalty sought in cult case

Peter Lucas Moses Jr. is accused of killing a boy, 4, and a woman, 28.

staff writerJuly 9, 2011 

— In a hearing Friday, prosecutors announced plans to seek the death penalty and revealed details of their case against Peter Lucas Moses Jr., accused of murdering a 4-year-old boy and a 28-year-old woman because of his beliefs and association with a radical religious sect.

Moses, 27, faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28.

Prosecutors laid out their theories in broad brushstrokes for Judge Jim Hardin on Friday in Durham County Superior Court as part of a legal proceeding in capital punishment cases. The theories are built largely on the accounts of one person who lived in the house, an informant who began talking with police months ago.

District Attorney Tracey Cline summarized bizarre scenarios that investigators had pieced together for what happened to Jadon and McKoy, who both lived at 2109 Pear Tree Lane, where the defendant had patched together a sordid family.

Moses subscribed to the tenets of the Black Hebrews, a radical sect that believes a race war is coming that will leave blacks dominant and supreme, according to court documents.

Women who lived with the defendant and counted themselves as his wives or common-law wives - women who also face criminal charges in the case - referred to Moses as "Lord," prosecutors contend.

Vania Higganbothan Sisk, Jadon's mother, who faces a murder charge in the case, was one of those women.

Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, and Larhonda Renee Smith, 40, also face criminal charges in connection with the homicides. At least eight other children lived at the house, according to investigators.

Jadon's death

Jadon's interaction with one of those children, prosecutors contended in court Friday, led to his death.

Sometime in October 2010, prosecutors told the judge, one of the women told the defendant that Jadon had hit another child's bottom, and Moses retaliated because he thought the boy might be homosexual - partially because the child's father had left his mother.

Homosexuality, Cline contended, is frowned upon by the Black Hebrews, so the defendant asked the boy's mother to get rid of him.

Moses then ordered two of the other women to set up computers and speakers in the garage, prosecutors contend, then the defendant took the boy into the garage, where music and the Lord's Prayer in Hebrew blared, and a gunshot sounded. One of the women told investigators the boy was shot in the head.

Some of the women cleaned up his bloodied body, prosecutors said, then put it in a suitcase in the master bedroom until Moses complained about the smell.

McKoy's death

Though prosecutors are not sure of the date when the violence occurred, they argue that McKoy, a woman who knew Moses in high school, was killed weeks, maybe even months after the boy.

McKoy, who kept a diary, found out she could not have children and wrote in several entries that she worried that "Lord" might kill her, according to prosecutors.

McKoy tried to escape the house right before her death, according to a neighbor whom investigators interviewed.

On one day in late December, she ran to the neighbor's house and asked to use a cell phone to call her mother in Washington.

The neighbor thought the woman was mentally troubled and had run away from a group home, and did not call police.

The other women came out of the house where McKoy had been living and wrestled her to the ground, then dragged her back inside, the neighbor told investigators.

The defendant then beat McKoy repeatedly that day and tried to strangle her with an extension cord. McKoy, according to the informant, begged for her life.

The defendant then got the gun that had been used to kill Jadon, the informant told investigators, took it to the bathroom, and then one of the women shot her while playing the same music that had blared from the garage when the boy was shot.

McKoy's body was kept in a large trash bin inside the house, according to prosecutors, before it was buried in a shallow grave alongside the boy's, at an Ashe Street house where Moses' parents lived for a time.

Investigators discovered the remains in June, months after their investigation began as a missing person case.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919 836-4948

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