Two in 'cult' murder case sentenced


Seven people were originally charged in the shooting deaths of 4-year-old Jadon Higganbothan and 28-year-old Antoinetta McKoy. Now, none of them will go to trial.

On Thursday, Higganbothan's mother and another woman -- who were members of a polygamist religious group led by 28-year-old Peter Moses Jr. known as the "Black Hebrew Israelites" -- learned their punishment for their roles in the two murders.

Ringleader Moses Jr. was also scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, but the judge moved his hearing to next week because his lawyer was delayed in Georgia.

Last year, Moses Jr. pleaded guilty to the two murders after prosecutors said his fingerprints were found on plastic bags used to wrap Higganbothan and McKoy's bodies before they were buried in the backyard of a Durham home rented by Moses' mother. In 2011, a plumber working in the yard on Ashe Street discovered the bodies.

At a court hearing that year, then-Durham District Attorney Tracey Cline said Moses shot Higganbothan in the garage of a home on Pear Tree Lane in front of his mother, Vania Sisk.

Cline also said investigators believed McKoy was killed because she tried to escape from the group and it feared she would tell police about the boy's murder.

Sisk was sentenced to 30 years in prison as part of her plea deal.

Her attorney told the judge how Sisk was under the command of Moses Jr., who was also her boyfriend, and how she watched him shot her son and later ordered her to kill her housemate -- McKoy.

"He was able to exert a level of control over his followers that is difficult, if not impossible, for people outside that group to understand," her attorney said.

Higganbothan's father spoke directly to his ex-wife in court Thursday and said there was no excuse for what happened.

"No excuse to me whatsoever ... no matter how scared ... no matter what it was," Jamiel Higganbothan said.

McKoy's sister, Janaiya Dubose, also spokeout against Sisk's plea deal.

During LaRhonda Smith's sentencing Thursday, she tearfully apologized to McKoy's family for what happened and recalled her friendship with the victim.

The plea deals for the remaining suspects range from 6 to 30 years in prison.

Moses' sister, Sheila Moses and his mother, Sheilda Harris, were part of the seven originally charged, but were cleared of all charges in 2012.

On Wednesday, Moses' brother P. Leonard Moses, and Lavada Harris entered plea deals.

The ringleader's brother was sentenced to 58-79 months in prison for McKoy's murder and accessory after the fact.

Harris, who was charged with accessory after the fact in both murders, was given consecutive sentences of 73-97 months for McKoy and another 73-97 months for Higganbothan.

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