Charlotte Observer - North Carolina April 24, 2011
Arrest opens window into black cult
Durham police suspect man charged with kidnapping, assault belongs to radical sect.
By Mandy Locke and Jesse James DeConto
[see news update below]
DURHAM -- Peter Lucas Moses Jr. collected women over the past six years, rekindling a high school flame and romancing others he met in Durham and Colorado.
He patched together a sordid family. He fathered children with the women who could have them and kept his brood under lock and key.
For five years, Moses, 27, and his band bounced from place to place in Durham and Colorado, chased by eviction notices or their fear of police.
Now, Moses is charged with kidnapping, assault and threatening a girlfriend with a gun; a girlfriend, Vania Sisk, faces a marijuana charge.
But police also are searching for two people they believe were killed by Moses and Sisk.
In February, an officer's knock on Moses' door unraveled his world. Durham police were looking for Antoinetta McKoy, reported missing by her family. Moses' high school sweetheart had gone to Durham to visit him in December.
Instead, police met Zayna Thomas, another Moses girlfriend who told them an unimaginable story.
Thomas, identified in court documents as "ZT," said that Moses killed 5-year-old Jadon Higganbothan, Sisk's son. She said that Sisk, under Moses' order, shot and killed McKoy.
Thomas also described beliefs and a lifestyle that Durham police have labeled a cult affiliated with Black Hebrews, a radical sect that believes a race war will result in blacks' dominance.
Thomas, who according to court records is the mother of an infant Moses fathered, acknowledged her role in the investigation by phone last week but declined to speak further.
Moses' father, Pete Moses Sr., denied the allegations.
"He ain't in no cult," the father said. "Them girls just crazy like that."
According to search warrants, police found evidence inside Moses' house on Pear Tree Lane to suggest foul play: spots that looked like blood, a fired bullet and shell casing and signs that areas had been vigorously cleaned.
As police search drainage ditches and forests for the bodies of McKoy and Jadon, families of the women who've survived want their daughters back in their world.
Willie Harris saw his daughter, Lavada Harris, a week ago for what he said was the first time in nearly a year. She seemed small and frail outside a courtroom at the Durham County jail, where she had come to see Moses appear before a judge.
Harris hugged his daughter and told her to come home. She told her father she loved Moses and needed to take care of some things.
"It's like she can't hear me," Harris said. "Like she's under some sort of spell."
Moses spent his early years in Durham. His family moved to the Washington area when he was young, but he moved back in 2000 when his mother divorced his father. He and his siblings lived with their mother in Raleigh through 2005. In 2006, he was living in Durham when he met Lavada Harris.
Willie Harris noticed his daughter changing soon after she began dating Moses.
The Harrises heard that Moses had many girlfriends.
"I told her that she deserved better, that she was too smart to do that," Willie Harris said.
But the more he pressed, the more Lavada Harris retreated.
Her visits became scarce; her phone conversations stilted. When she did come by, several women and children waited for her in the parking lot.
In January 2007, on his birthday, Lavada Harris showed up to tell her father goodbye. The group was moving to Colorado to be near Moses' brother, she told him. He saw the moving truck behind her, women and children loaded inside.
Willie Harris didn't know that Moses had a history of hurting women.
In 2004, Raleigh police arrested Moses and a juvenile on charges of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl, according to court records. Moses pleaded guilty to assault on a female and got two years' probation.
The following year, Moses was arrested and charged with assaulting his mother and his younger brother and sister. Those charges were dismissed.
In 2007, Moses reconnected in Colorado with Vania Sisk, whom he met when she lived in North Carolina, said Sisk's aunt, Denise Garing. Sisk was recently divorced and a single mother to Jadon.
Sisk split from Jadon's father, Jamiel Higganbothan, shortly after Jadon was born, said Higganbothan's aunt, Susan Dean.
Higganbothan's family grew concerned about the child after Sisk moved in with Moses. Soon, Jadon would be out of their reach.
Sisk told Jamiel Higganbothan she was moving back to North Carolina but refused to give him her new address and phone number, Dean recalled.
Sisk pulled away from her family, too. She sent her sister an email recently advising her to stop calling and said the group was moving to the country to store up guns for the world-ending race war.
Antoinetta McKoy reconnected with Moses over the Internet last summer.
She lived in Washington. When she visited Moses in Durham a few times, he told her the other women were his sisters whom he refused to abandon as the fathers of their children had, said McKoy's sister, Janayia Dubose.
She also had no concept of his religious beliefs.
"My sister is a devout Christian," Dubose said. "There's no way she would have been fooled by any sort of cult."
Last December, McKoy traveled to North Carolina again to talk to police about someone stealing her identity, Dubose said. She packed a few changes of clothes and her Bible, Dubose said.
McKoy last talked to her family a few days after she arrived. in early December.
"It is unlike my sister to go silent," Dubose said. "When Christmas came and she hadn't returned, we knew something was wrong."
Dubose and her family reported her missing. They tracked down a phone number for Moses, and when they called, he told them McKoy was fine but wouldn't put her on the phone.
Durham police have identified Moses' group as Black Hebrews. The group's beliefs are rooted in Black Judaism, in which black Christians believed African slaves freed in America were God's chosen people. The Hebrew Israelite sects, of which Black Hebrews are a part, believe that a race war is coming that will leave blacks dominant and supreme.
Cast of characters
Peter Lucas Moses Jr.: Center of the supposed cult. He had lived with at least four lovers and fathered many children. He is a longtime Triangle resident with a history of violence.
Vania Higganbothan Sisk: One of Moses' lovers and mother of Jadon, a 5-year-old whom Moses is suspected of killing. Sisk is suspected of killing Antoinetta McKoy at Moses' urging.
LaRonda Smith: Has lived with Moses since at least 2006.
Lavada Harris: Durham resident who lived with Moses.
Zayna Thomas: Lived with Moses and has become an informant for police. Moses was charged with kidnapping her, abusing her and threatening her life should she leave him.
Sources: Court documents, police in Colorado and Durham, interviews with relatives of group members
(Raleigh) N&O news researcher Brooke Cain contributed.
This article was found at:
WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, N.C. May 10, 2011
Cult leader linked to missing boy appears in court
DURHAM (WTVD) -- Suspected cult leader Peter Moses, who police believe is linked to the disappearance of a woman and a 5-year-old boy, appeared in court Tuesday on unrelated charges
Moses, 27, faces numerous charges including one count of second-degree kidnapping, one count of assault by pointing a gun, one count of assault on a female, one count of communicating threats and failure to appear in court on earlier charges.
During his court appearance Tuesday, a judge raised Moses' bond from $50,000 to $75,000, saying the charges against him are very serious.
Defense attorneys had asked the judge to lower his bond to $30,000 or $40,000 and offered to place Moses on electronic house arrest. They criticized prosecutors for not presenting enough evidence to hold their client in jail.
"The bottomline is, the state rushed to arrest this man," attorney Woodrena Baker-Harrell told the court during the hearing. "They arrested. They rushed to indict him. They indicted him. And now we're in court and we still don't have a single shred of evidence against this man."
According to search warrants obtained by ABC11, Moses - who is believed to be the leader of the "Black Hebrew Israelites" cult - is possibly a suspect in the death of 5-year-old Jadon Higganbothan, who was last seen in October 2010. A second missing person, 28-year-old Antoinetta McKoy, is also believed to be dead.
A police informant claims Moses killed Higganbothan and then ordered Higganbothan's mother, 25-year-old Vania Sisk, to kill McKoy. No bodies have been found.
Moses and Sisk were arrested during a raid last month and have been asked to submit DNA to investigators. They both submitted hair, saliva and fingerprints.
Sisk is charged with failure to appear in court on an earlier misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. The state has yet to bring charges against Moses and Sisk in connection with the disappearances of Higganbothan and McKoy.
Higganbothan and McKoy reportedly lived in a home with Sisk and several other women and children, who were members of Moses' so-called cult, before the group suddenly moved to Colorado.
Authorities have searched a Durham residence on Pear Tree Lane several times looking for evidence that could help them crack the case. Police searched a second home on So Hi Drive Monday in addition to a sewer system in the neighborhood. It is not known if anything was found.
A Durham search warrant made public last month says blood, a spent bullet, and shell casings were found at the home in a previous search. The warrant also states there were signs of "overt cleaning in the areas of the residence where these crimes were stated to have occurred."
Click here to read the warrant (.pdf)
Meanwhile, Durham police continue to maintain their investigation is a missing person's case.
This article was found at:
Black Hebrew cult leader suspected of murder arrested along with mother of missing boy
Police still searching for missing boy and woman presumed killed by Black Hebrew polygamy cult leader