Sect leader given 2 life sentences
DURHAM, N.C. — A man who once purported to subscribe to the tenets of a radical religious sect was sentenced Friday to life in prison without possibility for parole for the 2010 murders of a 4-year-old boy and a woman who tried to leave his group. Peter Lucas Moses, 28, rose before Judge Orlando Hudson on Friday in a Superior Court hearing.
Moses, who was diagnosed as a young man as suffering from bi-polar disorder and other mental health issues, pleaded guilty in June 2012 to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28. Prosecutors had pursued the cases capitally and the pleas came in exchange for taking the death penalty off the table. Moses, said Lisa Miles, his defense attorney, was off his medication when the violence occurred in cases that Hudson described as “some of the worst cases in the history of Durham County.”
At the time of the violence, according to court testimony, 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.
Others who have been arrested and convicted in connection to the murders said Moses had patched together an unusual family at 2109 Pear Tree Lane in southeast Durham. Women who lived with him counted themselves as wives or common-law wives, often referring to him as “Lord.”
In October 2010, according to testimony, Moses shot Jadon Higganbothan, just 4 years old, because he thought the boy was gay and had made an inappropriate gesture toward one of Moses’ children.
Two months later, Moses ordered Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28, killed, according to investigators, when he learned she couldn’t have children and wanted to leave the group.
Three of his followers - Vania Rae Sisk, who was Jadon’s mother; Lavada Quinzetta Harris; and LaRhonda Renee Smith - beat McKoy in a bathroom while religious music played before Sisk shot and killed her, according testimony.
The two bodies were found in June 2011 buried behind a Durham home where Moses’ mother had lived.
According to court documents, a woman who had lived in the house, but left in early 2011, told Durham police about the violence.
By that time, the group had moved to Colorado, but investigators were able to track them there.
Durham police were able to get Sisk to Durham to answer questions about Jadon who had been reported missing by his father.
An investigation continued in two states.
Colorado police found a .22-caliber handgun on the roof of the townhome where the group had been staying and tests later linked it to the deaths of Jadon and McKoy.
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.
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Moses, who has been medicated while in the Durham County Jail, sat quietly in court on Friday as Yvonne McKoy, the mother of the one of his victims, became very emotional.
“This man is evil,” McKoy told the judge. “He took something very dear and precious from me.”
McKoy’s daughter, who was 28 at the time of her death, had been trying to leave the group, according to others.
“She was a good girl, a church girl, a God-fearing girl,” Yvonne McKoy said.
Then she directed her comments to Moses. She wanted to know why he had killed her daughter.
“There is not a day I don’t think about her,” Yvonne 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.
As bailiffs ushered him out of the courtroom to spend the rest of his life in prison, he looked toward another mother, his own.
She waved at him, and he waved back.
Outside the courtroom, Moses’ family described a remorseful man whose mental illness played a large role in the lifelong prison sentence he had just received.
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