Black Hebrew cult member pleads guilty
Larhonda Smith, one of the women involved in the Black Hebrew cult, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to commit murder Monday in Durham County Superior Court.
If Smith cooperates with investigators and truthfully testifies against any co-defendants, she will be sentenced to about 25 years in prison. If she fails to cooperate and testify, the deal will be off the table.
Smith lived with the alleged cult leader Pete Moses, along with other women and their children in Durham and Colorado. Smith had six children with Moses.
Moses has already pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for shooting and killing 4-year-old Jaden Higganbothan and first-degree murder for involvement in the death of Antoinette McKoy, who tried to escape from the cult. Moses has also agreed to testify against other defendants.
Assistant District Attorney Dale Morrill told Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson that Smith was involved in the death of Higganbothan in October 2010 when she told Moses that the boy had touched another child inappropriately. Moses got a gun, took the child down to the garage and shot him in the head.
The group was living in a large home at 2109 Pear Tree Lane in Durham at the time.
The child’s remains were put in a suitcase and put in the attic of the house, Morrill said.
Smith, along with other adults in the house, helped clean up the crime scene and knew that the boy’s body was in the attic.
Smith’s attorney, Lisa Williams, pointed out that everyone in the house, including Higganbothan’s mother, knew about the boy’s murder and that his body was in the attic.
Smith also was involved in the kidnapping and murder of Antoinette McKoy, 28, Morrill said. McKoy was one of the women living with the group but tried to escape by running out of the house and getting in a car with a neighbor in December 2010.
Smith was one of the women who ran to the car and brought the struggling McKoy back into the house.
After McKoy was brought back, members of the group beat her and attempted to strangle her. After discussing it with each other and Moses, they decided McKoy had to die because she knew about the boy’s murder. Another woman who lived with the group, Vania Sisk, shot and killed McKoy, Morrill said.
Sisk’s case has not yet come to trial.
The bodies of the two victims were found buried in the back yard of Moses’ mother, Sheilda Harris, in June 2012.
Williams told the judge that Smith was remorseful. She asked that Smith immediately be shipped out to the N.C. Dept. of Corrections to begin serving her sentence because when she is at the jail, she is in the same pod as the other female defendants in the case and might not be safe.
Smith also pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to murder.