Alleged cult leader charged in 5-year-old's murder

NBC News-17, North Carolina/June 9, 2011

Durham, North Carolina - Durham Police charged Peter Moses Jr. Thursday night with first-degree murder in the death of 5-year-old Jadon Higganbothan.

Police say additional remains found Thursday in the backyard of a home at 2622 Ashe Street are human and are "consistent with those of a small child." Authorities have not officially identified that it is missing 5-year-old Jadon Higganbothan.

Higganbothan was reported missing in February, along with Antoinetta McKoy. Police say they believe they found McKoy's remains buried behind the same home Wednesday after plumbers called 911.

A plumber who came to the home to check on possible sewage problems called 911 to report the finding.

"We see something buried in a plastic bag and it, um, it has a horrible smell. We don't assume...we don't think it's an animal. It seems like it could possibly be a human," said the male caller.

Seven people have been charged in connection with McKoy's death. Arrested were Moses; Vania Sisk, the mother of Higganbothan; Larhonda Renee Smith; P. Leonard Moses; Lavada Quinzetta Harris; Sheilda Harris; and Sheila Moses.

All seven suspects made their first appearance in court Thursday and remain behind bars under no bond.

The magistrate said no further charges against the other six were expected Thursday night.

Jay, son of Sheilda Harris, said after the court appearance that his mom is innocent.

"It just looks like they are trying to charge everyone that they think was involved, which I know my mom wasn't involved in that," he said.

Lavada Harris' father, Willie Harris, was also at the court appearance and said his daughter is innocent and is a victim because she lived with Peter Moses, the accused ring leader of the Black Hebrews cult.

"I didn't like him. I've been trying to talk to my daughter into cutting ties with him for years. ... I knew it was going to come to this eventually, but you know, there is not too much I can do if she won't listen to her family," said Willie Harris.

Neighbors along Ashe Street continue to try to process news of the gruesome find.

"To know somebody that close that something like that happened, yea, it really makes you feel bad. Nothing you can do about it. If I had known I couldn’t have done anything about it, but," said Annie Lee Dempson, who lives two doors down from the house.

"One body was bad enough. When you hear about two. That’s bad enough because it could get worse and worse if nobody doesn’t stop it and do something about it," said Ray Dempson.

A next-door neighbor said most of the suspects lived at the Ashe Street location until February or March of this year. Some lived in the house, others in the outbuilding, the neighbor said.

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