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Peter Lucas MOSES Jr.





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Cult leader - Prosecutors say Moses shot the boy because he thought he was gay and then killed McKoy because he feared she would tell police
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: October 2010 / December 21, 2010
Date of arrest: June 2011
Date of birth: 1983
Victims profile: Jadon Higganbothan, 4 / Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Durham, North Carolina, USA
Status: Pleads guilty. Sentenced to two consecutive life terms without possibility of parole on July 5, 2013

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Leader of Durham sect receives two life sentences for murder

By Anne Blythe -

July 5, 2013

DURHAM — As a bailiff led Peter Lucas Moses out of an emotionally charged Durham County courtroom Friday, the 28-year-old man lifted up his cuffed hands in a half-wave toward his mother.

Orlando Hudson, the county’s chief resident Superior Court judge, had just sentenced Moses to two consecutive life terms without possibility of parole for the 2010 first-degree murders of a 4-year-old boy and a 28-year-old woman who had been living with him.

The hearing exposed two warring descriptions of a killer.

At one extreme was Yvonne McKoy, the mother of Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, whom Moses – according to testimony – had ordered killed because she couldn’t have children and wanted to leave him and the bizarre cast of women who lived with them.

“This man is evil,” Yvonne McKoy told the judge.

Moses’ family and defense attorney were at the other extreme, portraying him more as a victim of Durham’s mental health and court systems. Their views suggested that the murders of Antoinetta McKoy and Jadon Higganbothan, 4, were extreme consequences of inadequate mental health care. They described Moses as a man suffering from bi-polar disorder who had stopped taking his medication after a brush with the law led to an outstanding arrest warrant and the halt of his disability checks.

“These crimes occurred at a time that Mr. Moses lost his Medicaid benefits,” said Lisa Miles, the lawyer representing Moses. “His illness made him do something monstrous. His character will make him atone for that.”

Moses, who was on medication during the hearing Friday, listened quietly as McKoy, the mother of his former high school sweetheart, unleashed a barrage of thoughts and questions about what happened to her daughter.

Moses and Antoinetta McKoy, reported missing by her family shortly after her death in December 2010, had talked about marriage, and she had come to Durham to live with him.

By then, Moses purportedly 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. He had patched together an unusual family at 2109 Pear Tree Lane in southeast Durham. Women who lived with him, according to court testimony, counted themselves as wives or common-law wives and often referred to him as “Lord.”

Jadon’s death

In October 2010, according to testimony, Moses shot Jadon, a boy living in the house with his mother. Women in the house, who also were charged criminally in the cases, told investigators that Moses shot the boy because he thought the child was gay after he touched the buttocks of one of Moses’ children.

Durham investigators began looking into Moses after a woman who had lived with him and other women, but left in early 2011, told them about the violence.

According to court testimony, Moses ordered two of the women to set up computers and speakers in the garage before he killed Jadon. Prosecutors contended that Moses then took the boy into the garage, where music and the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew blared, and a gunshot sounded.

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

Two months later, Moses ordered Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy killed, according to investigators, when he learned she couldn’t have children and wanted to leave the group.

Antoinetta McKoy kept a diary and, after she found out she could not have children, wrote in several entries that she worried that “Lord” might kill her, according to court testimony.

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 cellphone 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.

Moses then beat McKoy repeatedly 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, and took it to the bathroom.

Three of Moses’ followers – Vania Rae Sisk, Jadon’s mother, Lavada Quinzetta Harris and LaRhonda Renee Smith – beat McKoy in the bathroom while religious music played before Sisk shot and killed her, according to testimony.

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.

Though McKoy had been reported missing by her family and Jadon had been reported missing by his father, it was not until June 2011 that the bodies were found.

Other sentences

Sisk 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 deaths.

Harris, who pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder, was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison. Moses’ brother, P. Leonard Moses, also pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder and was sentenced to at least five years behind bars.

“These are some of the worst cases I’ve ever seen as a judge,” Hudson said Friday at the conclusion of the hearing.

At the end of it all, two mothers searched for answers.

Moses’ mother and siblings wondered whether a justice system that takes mental illness into account when weighing the severity of sentences or a person’s fitness to stand trial had adequately reviewed the man whose character had been altered without his medication. Moses pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder a year ago to avoid a trial and risk the possibility of the death penalty, which prosecutors had held out as a possibility.

Moses, according to his attorney, had been in the mental health system since he attempted suicide at age 10. He later was committed to psychiatric facilities, where he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and depression. When he first arrived in the Durham jail after his arrest in 2011, Moses, according to his lawyer, “was freaking out all the time.” But after medications were administered during his incarceration, Moses’ personality was very different.

At the hearing Friday in a seventh-floor Durham Superior Court room, Moses was calm and seemed remorseful.

Yvonne McKoy, who traveled to Durham from Washington, was agitated, though.

She wanted to know why Moses had ordered her daughter killed. She wanted to know why he had not told her the truth about what happened when she called, frantically hunting for her daughter. She wanted to know why he had not let Antoinetta return home when she wanted to leave.

“Why, why, why?” McKoy asked.

“He took something very dear and precious from me,” McKoy told the court. “She was a good girl, a church girl, a God-fearing girl.”

McKoy spoke alternately to the judge and to Moses.

“There is not a day I don’t think about her,” McKoy said. “She is resting in God’s arms now. That is the only thing that gives me closure.”

“There will come a time when I can forgive you, but I just haven’t gotten to that stage now. … If I don’t forgive you, God can’t forgive me, and I can’t see my child again. … This is like a nightmare.”

Moses looked at McKoy as she wrapped up her thoughts.

“I am sorry for what happened to your daughter,” he said quietly.


October 2010: Jadon Higganbothan, just 4 years old, is shot in Durham.

December 2010: Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy is killed in Durham. Her family reports her missing.

February 2011: A young woman escapes from 2109 Pear Tree Lane, where Moses was living with three women and eight children. She alerts investigators to the violence.

Investigators go to the house, but find nothing suspicious. They return after learning that McKoy has been reported missing. Women in the house, according to investigators, hide Moses in a bathroom and deny he lives there.

Vania Rae Sisk, Jadon’s mother, tells investigators she does not have a son named Jadon.

June 2011: The bodies are found.

July 2011: Murder charges are filed.

June 2012: Moses pleads guilty.

July 2013: Moses receives two consecutive life terms without parole.


Head of polygamous cult pleads guilty to murder of 4-year-old boy he bizarrely believed was gay

Peter Moses, who also confessed to slaying of ex-girlfriend in plea deal, avoids death penalty

By Christine Roberts / New York Daily News

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The head of a polygamous cult pleaded guilty Monday to the murder of a 4-year-old boy he bizarrely believed was gay and an ex-girlfriend who tried to escape.

Because of a surprise plea deal, Peter Moses, who led a small sect called the Black Hebrews in Durham, N.C., won't face the death penalty for the 2010 shootings of Yvonne McKoy, 28, and Jadon Higganbothan.

Five women lived in the house on Pear Tree Lane with Moses and considered themselves wives.

“The arrangement was the women would periodically occupy the master suite,” Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline told WRAL.

Moses was the father of all the children in the house except for Jadon.

He marked the little boy for death after he decided his father was gay. When Jadon struck another boy in the buttocks, Moses concluded it was a sign of the child’s homosexuality, and decided to “get rid of him,” prosecutors said.

The bipolar cult leader — called “Lord” by his followers — took the screaming boy into a garage and shot him in the head with his mother’s gun while speakers blared music with The Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew, prosecutors charged.

He had members of his harem put the boy’s corpse in a suitcase and stash it in his suite — until it started to smell.

McKoy was killed in much the same way after she revealed she couldn’t have kids and wanted to leave the sect, which preached that blacks will reign supreme after a race war.

After she left the compound to call her mother, she was dragged back by Moses’ other “wives,” mercilessly beaten and nearly strangled with an electrical cord.

A witness told authorities that the other women in the house, led by Jadon’s mother, Vania Sisk, insisted McKoy had to be killed. They took her into a bathroom, turned on the same music and shot her.

Moses then showed off her body at a party, before the remains were tossed in a trash bin.

The horrors came to light when another woman escaped the sect and told police two people had been killed in the home. The bodies were discovered by a plumber in the backyard of house where Moses’ mother had lived.

Prosecutors said they had intended to seek the death penalty for Moses, but he will instead face two consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole because he has agreed to testify against the six co-defendants in the case.


Cult-like group behaviors come out in court

By Erin Hartness -

July 8, 2011

Prosecutors laid out the case Friday against a Durham man charged with killing a 4-year-old boy and 28-year-old-woman, saying he led a “religious” group of women and children who called him “Lord” and feared him.

Peter Lucas Moses, 27, faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty against him. Defense attorneys didn't speak in his behalf at a court hearing Friday.

Prosecutors said Moses killed Jadon because he thought the child was gay and McKoy after he learned she couldn't have children and wanted to leave the group.

Prosecutors said the case came to police's attention in February when a young woman escaped from a house at 2109 Pear Tree Lane house, where she had lived with McKoy, Jadon, eight other children and three women charged in connection with the two slayings – Jadon's mother, Vania Rae Sisk, 25, Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, and Larhonda Renee Smith, 27.

The woman, whose identity wasn't released, told police that two people had died at the house, Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said. Court records have revealed that Durham police had a confidential informant in the case.

The women counted themselves as Moses' "wives or common-law wives," Cline said. 

"The arrangement was the women would periodically occupy the master suite with" Moses, Cline said, adding that she wouldn't go so far as to say the group was a cult.

Living with them, all in one were room, were Sisk's four children and Lavada Harris' five children, prosecutors said. Moses is the father of all the children, except for Jadon.

Witness told police of child's death

Moses feared that Jadon might be gay because his father had left Sisk, and Moses told her to "get rid" of the child, prosecutors said.

"In the religious belief of that organization, homosexuality was frowned on," Cline said.

Sometime in October 2010, Smith told Moses that Jadon had hit another child's bottom, and Moses became angry and started walking around the house with a gun that belonged to Sisk, prosecutors said.

"He starts screaming, 'I told you to get rid of him!'" and told Sisk, "'How am I going to do this?'" Cline recalled the witness' account.

Moses ordered two of the women to set up computers and speakers in the garage, prosecutors said they were told by the witness. They said he started playing music with the Lord's Prayer in Hebrew, took Jadon in the garage and shut the door, and the women then heard a gunshot.

Prosecutors said the witness told them that the women helped clean up the body of Jadon, who had been shot in the head, and put it in a suitcase in Moses' master suite. He later told them to get the body out because it was beginning to smell, prosecutors said.

The other children, who have been placed in foster homes by Social Services, have told authorities they feared that Moses would do to them "what he did to Jadon," Cline said. "The children are fearful of Pete Moses Jr."

Prosecutors: McKoy killed after beating

Moses killed McKoy in a similar manner on Dec. 21 or 22, 2010, prosecutors said.

Family members said that Moses encouraged McKoy, whom he had known as a teenager, to join him and that after she left, they didn't hear from her again.

McKoy found that she couldn't have children and wrote dairy entries begging "Lord" not to kill her, prosecutors said.

On the day she died, prosecutors said, McKoy ran to a neighbor's house and asked to use a cell phone to call her mother in Washington, D.C. The neighbor said she didn't call police because she thought that it was a group home and that McKoy might be mentally disturbed.

Prosecutors said the neighbor told them that the other women came out of the house, and Moses struggled with McKoy and dragged her back inside.

Moses beat her throughout most of the day, with the women joining in at least once, and tried to strangle her with an extension cord, according to the witness.

The witness described how McKoy begged for her life, but Sisk got the gun Moses used to kill Jadon and took it to the bathroom, prosecutors said. The women told Moses "you cannot let her go" and said they feared him going to jail, Cline said.

They turned on the same music in the bathroom and took McKoy in there, prosecutors said. Sisk shot McKoy several times, killing her, they said.

The group threw a party a few days later, prosecutors recalled the witness saying, and Moses showed McKoy's body to several relatives, including his mother Sheilda Evelyn Harris, 56, his brother P. Leonard Moses, 21, and his sister, Sheila Falisha Moses, 20.

McKoy's body was also kept in the house for some time, taped up inside black garbage bags placed in a garbage bin, prosecutors said the witness told them.

Later, Jadon and McKoy's bodies were buried in the backyard of a house at 2622 Ashe St., where Moses' mother lived until early this year, prosecutors said. Plumbers led police to discover the remains in June.

Prosecutors said that police found .22-caliber shell casings and a projectile and blood in the garage and master bathroom of the Pear Tree Lane home. They also found a .22-caliber gun on the roof of a Colorado townhouse, where the group moved in February, prosecutors said.

Women face charges linked to deaths

Sisk, Lavada Harris and Smith face first-degree murder charges in McKoy's death and as accessories in Jadon's death. Police said two of the women are pregnant.

Sheilda Harris, P. Leonard Moses and Sheila Moses are also charged as accessories in McKoy's death.

Sheila Moses and Sheilda Harris were granted a $500,000 secured bond at Friday's court hearing.

Defense attorney Mani Dexter said that prosecutor's case against Sheila Moses is based on one person's word and that she's trying to get custody of her children back from Social Services.

Prosecutors said that police went to the Pear Tree Lane house in February but found nothing suspicious. They went again when they received word that McKoy's family had reported her missing in D.C. in December.

Then, the women denied that Moses lived there, but officers found him hiding in a bathroom cabinet, prosecutors said.

Cline said the suspects told contradictory stories about what happened to McKoy: One woman said she didn't know what happened, another said that McKoy planned to move in but didn't, and Moses said that McKoy got mad about money and left.

Sisk did not acknowledge having a 4-year-old child named Jadon, and police only verified his existence because of Social Services reports, Cline said. The children were homeschooled.

McKoy's mother, Yvonne McKoy, said Friday that she is still numb and can't believe her daughter is gone. 

“I’m just grateful to God that justice has been served and God is going to do what God is going to do," Yvonne McKoy said.


Polygamist sect in North Carolina called Black Hebrews investigated after two members go missing

By Lukas I. Alpert / New York Daily News

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Police are investigating a small polygamist sect in North Carolina after two members - one a 5-year-old boy - disappeared.

Investigators believe they were slain by members of the group, known as the Black Hebrews, but the bodies have yet to be found and the suspects have gone on the lam.

Court documents reveal that police have evidence that the missing boy's mother, Vania Sisk, and a man named Peter Moses Jr. "were directly involved" in the killings, but neither have been officially charged.

The chilling case began when relatives of Antoinetta McKoy, 28, reported her missing earlier this year.

"I'm just hoping they find the body so we can know where to go from there," McKoy's brother-in-law Kevin Shields said.

McKoy had been living with Sisk and Moses in Durham as part of the group which believes it is one of the ancient tribes of Israel and practices polygamy.

When cops began looking into McKoy's disappearance, they discovered that 5-year-old Jadon Higganbotham was missing as well.

A former sect member later told cops a spine-tingling tale.

Court documents show the one-time member said Moses had shot the boy in a fit of rage in October and then stashed his body in a suitcase in the attic.

When it "began to stink," Moses ditched the suitcase. In February, McKoy was shot and killed by Sisk in a fight over car keys, the documents revealed. Her body was buried at an undisclosed location.

Cops arrested Moses in February on unrelated charges and he was released on bail. But by the time investigators developed enough info about the disappearances, both Moses and Sisk had disappeared.



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