Two of seven members of a suspected Durham, NC cult were released from jail Thursday after authorities dropped charges against them.
Sheilda Harris and Sheila Moses are the mother and sister of Pete Moses, 27, the leader of the suspected cult who pleaded guilty earlier this week to killing Antoinetta McKoy, 28, and Jadon Higganbothan, 4, in 2010.
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Authorities dropped felony accessory after the fact charges against the two women, but it was not clear why.
District Attorney Leon Stanback said Friday he couldn’t comment about the dismissals because other cases were pending. However, he said the decision to drop the charges was not part of the plea agreement with Pete Moses.
Jadon’s father, Jamiel Higganbothan, said Friday he is OK with the charges being dropped, adding that he thinks authorities “got the people who were directly responsible.” […]
Prosecutors had planned to seek the death penalty against Pete Moses, but they agreed to a sentence of life in prison without parole if he cooperates with investigators and testifies against other sect members. He will be sentenced after their trials.
An informant told police that Vania Sisk, mother of Jadon Higganbothan, shot and killed McKoy.
Their bodies were found in June last year outside the former home of Sheilda Harris, the mother of Peter Moses.
Prosecutors say Moses shot and killed Jadon in October 2010 because he thought the child was gay.
The remaining four defendants are:
— Lavada Quinzetta Harris, who is believed to be the one who shot and killed 4-year-old Higganbothan on the order of Peter Moses;
— Vania Sisk, who is believed to be the one who shot McKoy after McKoy tried to escape from the house where they all lived on Pear Tree Lane. Sisk was Higganbothan’s mother.
— LaRhonda Renee Smith, who is believed to participated in the murder of McKoy.
— P. Leonard Moses, who is also charged in McKoy’s murder.
The four co-defendants had short status conferences Friday morning. Their cases were put back on the docket for September, Echols said.
Authorities think Moses controlled several women who lived with him, considered themselves his wives and referred to him as “Lord.”
Moses subscribed to the tenets of the Black Hebrews, which believes a race war is coming that will leave blacks dominant and supreme, according to court documents.
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.