Additional remains of small child found at Durham house

News Observer, North Carolina/June 9, 2011

Durham - Police have found a second set of human remains, consistent with those of a small child, in the East Durham neighborhood where a missing woman's body was found Wednesday.

Police spokesman Kammie Michael confirmed that a medical examiner was called to the scene on Ashe Street this evening and determined that the second set of human remains are consistent with those of a small child.

Human remains that police think is Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, the suspected victim of a small religious cult, were unearthed Wednesday in the backyard of a vacant rental house at 2622 Ashe St.

The last two suspects in a murder case turned themselves in today.

Vania Sisk and Larhonda Smith joined five people already behind bars. All seven suspects are in Durham County Jail without bonds.

Charles McLean, 64, a stock clerk at Angus Barn, was working on his grandson's bicycle Wednesday morning behind his red-brick home when a plumber working next door at 2622 Ashe St. asked to borrow a shovel.

Pipes that ran from the house under the backyard were clogged and the man suspected it had something to do with a thick black plastic bag that was sticking up out of the ground behind a white storage shed.

"He got to shoveling and the more he dug, the bigger the bag got," McLean said.

Something inside the bag smelled rotten and the men thought someone may have buried a dead dog in the foot-deep hole. Another neighbor had come over and suggested they tear open the heavy-duty garbage bag.

"I told them to leave that alone and call the police," McLean said.

When an officer arrived, he used a nail to rip a long tear in the bag and what the men saw was not somebody's deceased pet.

"It looked like a forearm," McLean said. "It was still intact."

McLean said the officer quickly shooed them away from the scene and called for assistance.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez would not confirm McLean's account of how McKoy's body was found.

"But it sounds familiar," the police chief said.

A medical examiner came to the scene and confirmed that the remains were human, according to police spokeswoman Kammie Michael.

By evening, seven people were charged with murder in the death of McKoy, 28, whose family reported her missing in February.

Five suspects - Pete Lucas Moses Jr., 27, Lavada Quinzetta Harris, 40, Shielda Evelyn Harris, 56, Shelia Moses, 20, and P. Leonard Moses, 20, - were in custody Wednesday night. All but Pete Lucas Moses listed their address as 2146 Charles St.

Pete Lucas Moses had been held in the Durham County jail since he was arrested April 12, accused of assaulting and kidnapping Zayna Thomas, one of several women who police say lived with him in polygamous relationships.

Police have been working for months to build a case against him in the disappearance of McKoy, his former high school sweetheart, and Jadon Higganbothan, the 5-year-old son of Vania Sisk, another of his live-in girlfriends.

Jadon, last seen in October 2010, remains missing. Sisk told investigators she left her son with an acquaintance in Durham on Feb. 20.

A missing person

The case began to unfold in February when a police officer went to Pete Lucas Moses' home at 2109 Pear Tree Lane, looking for McKoy, who had been reported missing by her family after going to visit Moses in December.

Thomas came to the door and related an unimaginable tale.

Identified in court documents as "ZT," she told police that Pete Lucas Moses killed Jadon. She also said Sisk and another woman, Smith, beat McKoy as she tried to escape. She told them that Sisk, under Moses' order, shot and killed McKoy.

According to search warrants, police found some evidence to suggest foul play inside the house on Pear Tree Lane: spots that looked like blood, a fired bullet and shell casing, and indications that areas of the house had been vigorously cleaned.

But, until Wednesday, no bodies had been found and authorities didn't have enough evidence to charge him with murder.

Thomas described a belief system and lifestyle that Durham police have since labeled a cult affiliated with Black Hebrews, a religious sect that believes a race war will culminate in blacks' dominance.

Pete Lucas Moses fathered children with the women and kept his growing brood under lock and key.

McKoy lived in Washington, but reconnected with Pete Lucas Moses over the Internet a year ago. When she visited him 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, McKoy's sister, Janayia Dubose, said.

She also had no concept of his religious beliefs.

"My sister is a devout Christian," Dubose said earlier this year.

Coming to N.C.

In 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 in early December, a few days after she arrived.

"It is unlike my sister to go silent," Dubose said. "When Christmas came and she hadn't returned, we knew something was wrong."

When they tracked down a phone number for Moses, he told them McKoy was fine but wouldn't put her on the phone. Durham police started to investigate in February.

News researchers Brooke Cain and Peggy Neal contributed to this report.

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