Black Hebrew leader gets two life sentences for homicides
Authorities wrapped up the “Black Hebrew” double-murder case on Friday, the man behind it receiving consecutive life sentences that his lawyer said will keep him in prison until the end of his days.
Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 28, was escorted out of the courtroom by sheriff’s deputies after Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson described the case as one of the “worst in the history of Durham County.”
Moses pleaded guilty last year to shooting a 4-year-old boy, Jadon Higganbothan, and to ordering the death of a woman, Antoinetta McKoy, who was a member of the religious sect Moses led.
Discussion during Friday’s proceeding focused on McKoy, as her mother, Yvonne McKoy, exercised her right under the state constitution to address the court before Hudson pronounced sentence.
Antoinetta McKoy “was a good girl, a church girl and a God-fearing girl,” her mother said. “She loved the Lord with her whole heart and soul.”
“You’re not God; in life, there are repercussions for the things you do,” she added, directly addressing Moses. “There will come a time I can forgive you, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.”
Moses accepted the rebuke. “I’m sorry for what happened to your daughter,” he told Yvonne McKoy.
The consecutive life sentences were part of what Hudson said was a “negotiated arrangement” between prosecutors and Moses’ defense lawyer, Lisa Miles. They come without the possibility of parole.
Hudson specified that Moses is to “have the benefit of” any substance-abuse counseling or mental-health treatment the state prison system offers.
Witnesses, investigators and prosecutors say that Moses shot Higganbothan in 2010 because he believed the boy was gay. He ordered the death of Antoinetta McKoy later that year because she couldn’t have children and wanted to leave the sect.
Miles said her client had been in the throes of an untreated mental illness, bipolar disorder, which led him to attempt suicide while he was still a teenager.
He was eventually diagnosed, but lost access to the medication necessary to control his symptoms when he lost his Medicaid benefits, she said.
Moses receives treatment now and responds well to it, she said.
“Pete will spend every day for the rest of his life in prison with the sorrow, the guilt and the shame that he is responsible for the loss of life and for the suffering of these victims’ families,” Miles said. “His illness made him do something monstrous; his character will make him atone for that.”
Friday’s proceeding came after four other sect members implicated in the case pleaded guilty and received prison sentences for their role in it.
The four included Higganbothan’s mother and Antoinetta McKoy’s killer, Vania Rae Sisk. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder among other charges and will serve at least 30 years in prison.
Hudson said he was pleased with how prosecutors and Durham police had handled the matter.
“Today, all these cases are over,” Hudson said. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment to get these cases through the system with very little strife, and law enforcement is to be commended.”