Two suspects released in Durham cult case

L to r from top to bottom: Peter Moses, Vania Sisk, Sheila Moses, Sheilda Harris, Lavada Harris, Larhonda Smith and P. Leonard Moses
June 15, 2012 10:15:28 AM PDT
Prosecutors have dropped charges against two people originally linked by police to the Durham "cult" murders.

Durham County officials told ABC11 that Sheila Moses and Sheilda Harris were released from jail Tuesday.

They were two of seven people charged in the murders of 28-year-old Antoinetta McKoy and 4-year-old Jadon Higganbothan - whose bodies were found buried in plastic bags by a plumber working in the backyard of a home in the 2600 block of Ashe Street last summer.

Investigators said the seven were members of a polygamist religious group led by 28-year-old Peter Moses Jr. known as the "Black Hebrew Israelites."

McKoy and Higganbothan lived with the group. At a court hearing last year, Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline said Moses believed the boy was homosexual and that was unacceptable to his religious beliefs. She said Moses shot Higganbothan in the garage of a home on Pear Tree Lane in front of his mother.

Cline said investigators believe McKoy was killed because she tried to escape from the group and it feared she would tell police about the murder.

Earlier this week, Moses Jr. pleaded guilty to the murders. Prosecutors said his fingerprints were found on plastic used to wrap the bodies before they were buried. The plea means he will avoid the death penalty in exchange for his cooperation with the investigation.

While prosecutors have dropped felony accessory after the fact charges against Sheilda Harris and Sheila Moses, the case against four others continues. Higganbothan's mother - 25-year-old Vania Sisk - and 40-year-old Lavada Quinzetta Harris, plus 40-year-old Larhonda Renee Smith are all charged with murder in McKoy's death and as accessories in Higganbothan's shooting.

Moses Jr.'s brother, P. Leonard Moses, is charged as an accessory in McKoy's death.

The four remaining suspects were in court Friday for a status hearing. They're expected back in court in a few months.

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