A Durham, N.C. man is on trial for capital murder after he allegedly shot a 4-year-old boy in the head because he thought the boy might be gay.
Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 27, is also accused of murdering a young woman who tried to escape from the house where she had been living with Moses and several other women, who called Moses “Lord.” Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against Moses. Three of his “wives” are also charged with murder and with being accessories to murder.
According to information presented in court by prosecutors on Friday, July 8, Moses lived in a house in Durham with several women and their children — most of whom were fathered by Moses. But 4-year-old Jaden Higganbothan had a different father, who had left his mother, Vania Higganbothan Sisk, 25. Because Jaden’s father had left his mother and because Jaden hit one of the other children on the rear a couple of times, Moses decided the boy was gay and that they needed to get rid of him. In fact, prosecutors say, Moses had already told Sisk to get rid of Jaden at least once.
But it was after one of the other women told Moses that Jaden had hit another child on the bottom twice that Moses had his wives set up computers and speakers in the garage, playing “The Lord’s Prayer” sung in Hebrew and other music at high volumes, and then took Jaden into the garage and shot him in the head. Moses then had Sisk and two other women — Lavada Quinzetta Harris and Larhonda Renee Smith, both 40 — clean up the mess and stuff Jaden’s body in a suitcase, which was then stored in Moses’ bedroom. When the boy’s decomposing body began to smell, Moses had it removed from the house.
This all allegedly happened in October 2010. Sometime in December 2010, prosecutors allege, Moses shot and killed 28-year-old Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy in a similar fashion after she tried to escape from the house where she lived as one of his wives. A witness — apparently another wife — told police that McKoy had gotten out of the house and run to a neighbor’s house, begging to use the phone to call her family in Washington, D.C. The other women then dragged her back to Moses’ house where they beat her before taking her into a bathroom — again with music blaring — where she was shot to death. Some news reports say Moses shot McKoy, others indicate Sisk killed her, using the same gun used to murder Jaden.
NewsObserver.com reported that McKoy had written several times in her diary that she was afraid “Lord” would kill her because she couldn’t have children, and that she wanted to leave the house.
WRAL.com in North Carolina reported that McKoy’s body was stuffed inside a black plastic trash bag that was then taped shut and kept in the house for some time, and that several days after her murder, Moses threw a party 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.
Jaden’s and McKoy’s bodies in June were found buried in the back yard of a different house where Moses’ mother lived until earlier this year.
Prosecutor Tracey Cline said in court that Moses and his wives were members of a religious sect called the Black Hebrews, a group that “frowns upon” homosexuality. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The Black Hebrews believe that they are descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel. They live according to their own special rules of conduct. Polygamy is permitted and birth control is forbidden. Their leaders decree who will marry whom, performing the weddings and approving annulments. Their dietary laws prohibit the eating of meat, dairy products, eggs and sugar; members who are caught consuming these foods are punished. Members must adopt Hebraic names in place of their former ‘slave names.’ According to Black Hebrew custom, the woman’s responsibilities focus on childrearing and other family obligations. The Black Hebrews’ closed society is isolated from the mainstream and all infractions of their rules are severely punished.”