Seven Charged in Alleged Cult Murder of Woman, Child in North Carolina

The bodies of a missing woman and child were found in a Durham backyard.

ByABC News
June 10, 2011, 11:37 AM

June 10, 2011 — -- The leader of an alleged cult appeared in court today to answer charges in the deaths of a woman and child found buried in the backyard of a house in Durham, N.C. Six other people who police say are members of the alleged cult were also charged with murder.

Pete Lucas Moses, Jr., 27, is believed to be the leader of a cult called the "Black Hebrew Israelites," ABC affiliate WTVD in Durham reported. He was charged with the murders of Antoinetta McKoy, 28, and 5-year-old Jadon Higganbothan. McKoy was reported missing in February and was last seen in December 2010. Higganbothan had been missing since October.

Moses and the six others were ordered held without bond and are expected in court again on June 30.

The bodies were found when a landlord in Durham called a plumber this week to check out a foul smell coming from the backyard of his property. Soon after, the plumber and a neighbor discovered a partially buried plastic bag. Police responded and found the two bodies.

Listen to the plumber's 911 call.

Moses's older brother, who would only identify himself as Jay to WTVD, said there's no cult: "The detectives made up the group," Jay said. "It's not true."

At one point at Moses's home in Durham, there were eight other adults living with at least nine children, police said. McKoy was one of these adults. Police say at least five of the children shared the same father.

On Thursday night, Moses was charged with murder in Higganbothan's death.

"I went from anger to sadness to happy back to sadness," Higganbothan's father Jamiel Higganbothan told WTVD when he heard his son's body had been found. "I have a lot of mixed emotions so I can't really even tell you which emotions that I'm experiencing right now 'cause it's all of them."

A previous police search warrant indicated a belief that Higganbothan's mother Vania Sisk, 25, may have shot and killed McKoy.

Sisk's grandmother, Naomi Sisk, 73, told ABC News that she played an important role in raising her granddaughter and felt "awful" upon reading the news of Sisk's imprisonment.

Naomi Sisk hasn't spoken to her granddaughter in over six years and never met her late great-grandson.

"She needs to get out of that cult, but it's too late now," Naomi Sisk said. "She's like the rest of them in that group, brainwashed."

An informant reported that Moses shot and killed 5-year-old Higganbothan, Durham police said in March. An ex-member of the group alleged that Moses was angry at the boy when he called him into the basement.

According to the warrant, the informant said he "heard loud music and the sound of a gunshot" and never saw Higganbothan again.

Vania Sisk, however, told police that she last saw her son in February when she dropped him off with an acquaintance, but gave the police two different names for this person.

The informant also told the police that Vania Sisk killed McKoy after she attempted to run away from the group. When police began inquiring about McKoy early this year, Moses and his followers moved to Colorado for a short time before returning to North Carolina.

McKoy's sister Janayia Dubose told WTVD that McKoy was afraid of Moses and of the group.

Dubose recalls her sister telling her, "You don't understand how it works, they kill people."

Moses also faces previous charges including counts of assault, kidnapping and failure to appear in court.

The other six charged with murder are Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40; Larhonda Renee Smith, 40; P. Leonard Moses, 21; Sheila Falisha Moses, 20; Sheilda Evelyn Harris, 56; Vania Rae Sisk, 25.

A spokesperson for the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation confirms that they are assisting the Durham police but cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

The group is scheduled to appear in court again on June 30.