Black Hebrew cult members sentenced for murders of woman and child

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJune 28, 2013 

— Four people who police say were members of a black supremacist cult pleaded guilty this week in Durham County Superior Court to conspiring to murder a 28-year-old woman and 5-year-old boy in 2011.

Vania Rae Sisk, 27, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, assistant prosecutor Roger Echols said Thursday.

Sisk was sentenced to two consecutive sentences that range between 15 and nearly 19 years in prison.

Echols, who prosecuted the case along with co-prosecutor Dale Morrill, said the sentencing took into consideration the age of the youngest victim, Jadon Higganbothan, and that the murder of the second victim, Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, was “conducted to conceal the murder of Jadon.”

“She was trying to escape (the cult) and was murdered because they feared she would tell someone what had happened,” Echols said.

LaRhonda Renee Smith, 28, pleaded guilty Thursday to second degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder and accessory after the fact of murder. She was sentenced to two consecutive sentences that range between 11 and 15 years in prison.

“She was the one that actually pulled the trigger on Ms. McKoy,” Echols said.

Lavada Harris, 42, pleaded guilty to two counts of accessory after the fact of murder and was sentenced to two consecutive prison terms of between six and eight years in prison.

P. Leonard Moses, 24, was sentenced to five to six years in prison after pleading guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder.

Police said Sisk, Smith, Harris and P. Leonard Moses were members of a religious cult led by Pete Lucas Moses Jr., 29, who pleaded guilty to Jadon and McKoy’s murders in June 2012.

Investigators had been working for months to build a case against Moses in the disappearance of McKoy, his former high school sweetheart, and Jadon, the son of Vania Sisk, whom police described as one among several of Moses’ live-in girlfriends. In June 2011, Jadon’s and McKoy’s decomposed remains were found stuffed inside of black trash bags, buried in the backyard of a vacant rental house at 2622 Ashe St. in East Durham.

Seven people were initially charged in the case but charges last year were dropped against Peter Moses’ mother, Sheilda Evelyn Harris and his sister, Sheila Falisha Moses.

Peter Moses sentencing hearing is set for late next week.

Echols said he’s not sure what influence Moses used to convince his followers to commit murder.

“You could probably read the 12,000 to 13,000 pages of documents and view the 70 or so DVDs and still not know why,” he said.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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