Alleged cult leader pleads guilty to killing boy, woman

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DURHAM, NC — The alleged cult leader of the Black Hebrews, who police say killed a woman and a 4-year-old boy in 2011, pleaded guilty Monday morning to two counts of first-degree murder in Durham County Criminal Superior Court.

The Herald Sun reports

Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 28, entered the plea to the surprise of many on a day when he was scheduled to appear in court only for a status update on his case.

Instead, deputies brought him into the crowded courtroom first thing in the morning, and he pleaded guilty to killing Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinette McKoy, 28.

Moses was not sentenced, and he was returned to jail, where he is being held without bond.

“He pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder and agreed to testify against his co-defendants if he is called upon to testify,” said District Attorney Leon Stanback.

His plea took the death penalty off the table, Stanback said.

“He’s facing two life sentences consecutively without parole,” he said.

Moses will likely be sentenced after the cases against his six other co-defendants are resolved.

Plea deals have not been worked out with the other co-defendants, but Stanback said the other co-defendants might appear in court later this week.

CNN report from July, 2011, after prosecutors said they would see the death penalty against Peter Lucas Moses

WRAL says

Peter Lucas Moses, 27, pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28.

Their bodies were found last June buried behind a house on Ashe Street in Durham where Moses’ mother, Sheilda Harris, used to live. Both had been shot in the head, according to autopsy reports. […]

Authorities have said Pete Moses led a religious group of women and children who called him “Lord” and feared him. They lived together in a home on Pear Tree Lane in southeast Durham.

A woman who left the group told police that Moses killed Jadon in October 2010 because he thought the child was gay. Prosecutors said in court that Moses became concerned that Jadon had touched one of his sons inappropriately, and they said that he took Jadon to the garage and shot him.

The informant also told police that Moses ordered that McKoy be killed two months later when he learned she couldn’t have children and wanted to leave the group. Prosecutors said she was forced back inside the house and was killed in a bathroom.

Black Hebrews

Police have referred to Moses as the leader of a polygamous religious cult.

Police and media reports have identified the group as the ‘Black Hebrews’ or ‘Black Hebrew Israelites.’

Black Hebrew Israelites (also Black Hebrews, African Hebrew Israelites, and Hebrew Israelites) are diverse groups of people mostly of Black African ancestry who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites. Black Hebrews adhere in varying degrees to the religious beliefs and practices of mainstream Judaism, but are not accepted as Jews. Many Black Hebrews consider themselves — and not mainstream Jews — to be the only authentic descendants of the ancient Israelites.

Black Hebrews have no central authority, and the beliefs and practices of Black Hebrew groups vary considerably. At the extremist fringe some groups of Black Hebrews are said to promote black supremacy. Many of the groups are polygamous and many have authoritarian leaders along with cult-like characteristics.

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This post was last updated: Mar. 14, 2013