The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Leader of Black Hebrew Sect Pleads Guilty to Killing 4-Year-Old

By Hatewatch Staff on June 12, 2012 - 2:58 pm, Posted in Black Separatist

The head of a polygamous sect who killed a 4-year-old boy because he thought the child was gay has pleaded guilty to murder and will testify against others who were arrested as accessories.

Peter Lucas Moses, 27, the leader of a group that reportedly subscribed to Black Hebrew beliefs, pleaded guilty Monday in North Carolina to the 2010 murders of Jadan Higganbothan, 4 (some sources list him as 5 or 6), and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 27. Moses faces two life sentences but will avoid the death penalty because he will testify against his mother, brother and sister.

Moses led a group of women and children who called him “Lord,” authorities have said. They all lived together in a home in southeast Durham. A woman who left the group told police that Moses had killed Higganbothan because he thought the child was gay and believed he had touched one of his own sons inappropriately. Higgenbothan allegedly slapped Moses’ son on the bottom.

Moses ordered Higgenbothan’s mother to “get rid of” the boy, but in October 2010 he took the child into a garage, shut the door and shot him. He had ordered two of the women to set up computers and speakers in the garage so he could drown out the gunshot by playing the Lord’s prayer in Hebrew, according to prosecutors.

The informant also said that Moses ordered the death of McKoy two months after Higgenbothan’s death when he found out she couldn’t have children and that she wanted to leave the group. Prosecutors said she was forced back into the house when she tried to run away and was later beaten and killed. McKoy’s sister said McKoy was frightened of Moses and the Black Hebrews, and that Moses was known for carrying guns. McKoy reportedly told her, “You don’t understand how it works, they kill people.”

Both bodies were found in June 2011, buried in plastic garbage bags behind a Durham house where Moses’ mother once lived. According to autopsy reports, both had been shot in the head. Investigators found Moses’ fingerprints on the tape securing the trash bags, and police in Colorado found a .22-caliber handgun on the roof of a townhouse where the group stayed briefly in early 2011. Tests demonstrated that the gun was used to kill both victims.

The Black Hebrews (also known as Black Hebrew Israelites and Hebrew Israelites) are part of the Hebrew Israelite movement, a black nationalist theology based in the United States that has roots in the 19th century. Hebrew Israelites believe that African Americans are God’s true chosen people and that they, not Jews, are the real descendants of the Hebrews in the Bible. Most Hebrew Israelites are not explicitly racist or anti-Semitic and don’t advocate violence, but a rising extremist sector within the movement has adherents who believe that Jews are imposters and who openly condemn whites as evil and worthy only of death or slavery.

Various Black Hebrew sects exist in the United States and overseas, including in Israel. According to a 2002 article in the Cleveland Scene, some sects have a history of criminality that stretches back to the 1970s. Black Hebrew Israelites were also named in a 1999 FBI report as potential terrorists who might become violent in reaction to the new millennium.

  • Ray

    They didn’t shoot the boy and his mom, the mom of the dead boy is the one who shot the dead woman, some news outlets got it wrong.

    Also, this is not really a “right wing group”, I’m sure they voted for Obama.

  • mario

    I happen to know of the hebrew israelite community in israel, i can say that they are nor radicals and yes you will have bad apples in any organization look at law enforcement. these people are some of the most peaceful people you’d love to meet. in any form of organization we will have people who work against its standards and yet continue behind the curtain doing ill fated things until it comes to light. and there are other groups calling themselves israelites that are exteme in actions and are not a part of the people in israel, but are mistaked as the same people.

  • Josh

    They shot his mom too….

  • Joseph

    Xiao – I’m a father of two young black children. I understand the issue with being black and growing up trying to fit in with the positive role models, or trying not to with the negative role models.

    This and other acts like these make me sick. This wonderful little boy was going to have it hard enough, depending on his demographics. Where was his father??? Why didn’t his mother act???

    I’m also familiar with the prison system and the black nationalists in prison, and I don’t think its’ going to be so bad for this guy. So my little typical male threat, runs a little deeper.

    But I don’t want to have to explain that to you. So yes, I wish I could be locked in a room with him because this little black child’s mother apparantly didn’t care about the issue. I realize that won’t happen, but one can wish.

    And no, I am not so un-confrontational. I do however realize my blog limits. The this – killing a 4 year old because he is “gay” – should not have happend and prison is too good for this individual.

    Everything we do must be for the future of our children. Killing them is not in that equation.

  • Aron

    (Joseph, I did not mean to imply you were not wise. I was merely mocking Xiao.)

  • Aron

    Xiao Mao, that was obviously the implication. And I see nothing wrong with that.

    Since you are obviously far wiser than Joseph, how would you handle the situation?

  • Xiao Mao

    “I wish I could be locked in a room with this young man.”

    Why, Joseph? So you could “teach him a lesson”?

    Typical male threats of violence- in response to horrible acts of violence, no less.

  • Reynardine

    Arkham: morons.

  • Arkham

    What morons would be in a cult like this?

  • Tobias A. Weissman

    When will man, who is supposed to be the highest of God’s creation, stop this racial ethnic hatred and learn to see the good. The one and most marvelous thing that Gay people are doing today, especially Gay Marriage, is picking up the slack of the wrong conclusion of religious believers when told to “Be Fruitful And Multiply.” This Bible passage doesn’t mean having more offspring. It means producing Ideas which blesses mankind. Quite a difference when there are abundancecy of children who are orphaned and given to Foster homes.

  • Steve

    I am absolutely appalled,quite appalled. Having worked with abused children during my career ( now retired) I thought I had seen almost everything. This case is so demented, so utterly outre, I am, at this moment in time, struck dumb. My brain is just paralyzed. A four year old child murdered for being suspected of being gay. It seems as though evil is just engulfing the world.

  • Charles Dan Austin

    Being Jewish is an ethnic which means you have to be born that way. There are folks whoi can convert to some liberal Judaic Synagogues who open their doors to all. This is a better route than forming a wack-o group that terrorizes children. Even people without faith need to keep a list of the victims of these atrocities!

  • David Aust

    Of course this small murderous cult group is nuts; and most all blacks who think they descended from lost Jews are simply historically wrong. I thought this must be a screwy group in it’s entirety until I clicked the link about their living in Israel, and learned of that groups origins. I don’t find anything so far that indicates the founder thought the former American slaves were so derived. The S.F. Chronicle reports he had a dream he was of a lost tribe of Israel. He may have been; there has been research into at least one tribe, a small number of which were sold as slaves for a brief time in the 1600’s. Other than the Ethiopians, I’ve heard of no attempt to look for them, and no claims by the tribes or their known slave descendants. All, if they had been Jews, had lost literacy; all Jewish adult males were (are) required to be literate, or they could not be considered adults for many purposes. Near universal (male) literacy is what defined the people of the book 2,500 years ago.

  • James Staples (JimRinX

    It’s like I always say…..First they say there’s only “One God” – There’s, of course; the One They Represent, Which Therefore and Of Course Is What Makes Them But Only Them So Freaking SPECIAL;
    Then, when you agree with Them, and point out that God Said That Only God May Judge; and, so, Who The Hell Do They Think They Are?
    Then that’s all…..”Oh, that’s what YOUR GOD Says, Not Ours!”
    But, but, but…you continue your own epigram to circular logic, You SAID That There’s Only ONE GOD!!!!
    It’s the First Sign that someone’s is Theosophically Full Of It!!!

  • CoralSea

    Reynardine — I definitely agree with you in regard to the traits that are dangerous (e.g., controlling others’ lives, extreme punishment, attacking the “other” who doesn’t comport to a certain definition) are authoritarian — and that authoritarianism in this country, is a hallmark of what we consider the radical right — whether they eat organic produce or not.

    My point is simply that a lot of authoritarian, controlling groups display characteristics that some people may consider to be “left” or “right” in political orientation without thinking through the overall nature of the group (remember — some Hippie compounds morphed into authoritarian behavior, although they still espoused “leftist” political beliefs, and most people, I think, would still call them “leftists” Authoritarians of a leftist stripe, I guess).

    Thus, some people will scream that an abusive, authoritarian group is not really “right-wing” because the people within it tend to pool their resources and are, thus, really a bunch of lefty socialists — so why isn’t SPLC or others referring to them as left-wing extremists when they so clearly are socialists (blah, blah, blah “it’s all a conspiracy to attack conservatives and Christians,” blah, blah).

    I have been following SPLC’s work for a long time because much of my environmental work involves interacting with communities and people in communities who are concerned about contamination and pollution, as well as who the heck will be held accountable and who will fix it. Thus, I deal with a really, really wide variety of people, so it’s good to know the full range of beliefs and behaviors out their. For example, if I’m going to ask to collect water samples on their farm, it would be good to be able to recognize that I may be dealing with “Sovereign Citizens.”

    I appreciate SPLC’s efforts to consider the behaviors as well as the overall ideologies of groups who may potentially engage in hate speech and hate actions before they catagorize them as “hate groups.” Since I am often up-close and personal with people who may hold weird beliefs (e.g., “the government is trying to trick us,” “the government is trying to poison us,” “this is just an attempt to attack capitalism,” “this is agribusiness’ effort to stamp out organic farming” etc.), I don’t really care whether these folks are “left” or “right”–I care about whether I will be able to find a way to work with them and not get shot.

    Authoritarian behavior becomes a problem when you get a person or group who — for example — wants to thwart the cleanup of contamination for whatever reason. If I am trying to help them avoid exposure on their own land, it is sad for their families if they refuse to have their private drinking water wells tested; if an issue involves other people outside their circle of family, then the nature of their authoritarianism, and whether I can come up with a way to work with it to achieve a good outcome for everyone, is all that I care about.

    Have I managed to explain this in a manner that is clear? The right-wing “difficult people” (I am using that term in place of “extremists”) predominate at this time, and the anti-government beliefs some of them hold is a real problem when one is discussing environmental cleanup standards, but the “flavor” of specific beliefs and behaviors matters less–in my narrow area of practice–than whether the people I have to work with are totally looney and unreasonable and/or dangerous to approach.

    I do think it is fair to say that, at this time, the vast majority of the extremists who are most likely to engage in hate speech and potentially engage in violent, hate-motivate behavior, embrace ideologies and motivations selected from the right-wing extremist side of the buffet rather than the left-wing side (too much Tofu, perhaps????) But if one looks at certain traits in isolation (Moses was black — so that makes him left-wing? Really? Black automatically = lefty? I don’t think so), you get disputes at “left” and “right” such as those in this comments section.

    Wayne — along these same lines, I think that if SPLC appears to be “not so lenient” in the way it discusses Christian Identity, it is because this belief system/group and its splinter groups have a much more substantial track record of hate speech and hate actions, while the Black Hebrews are not as visible in terms of hate (or that is my take — one doesn’t hear a whole lot about them. If I am wrong, sorry.). And as odious as this Moses guy is, his violence, although in no way excusable, was perpetrated against people within his group, not on whatever hapless racial minority or homeless person its adherents decide to harass or beat.

  • muaythai

    These guys aren’t right or left- they’re completely insane.

  • Swaneagle

    Realize Christain Identity has the backing of a racist white infrastructure that “Black Nationalist” simply don’ t have, i.e. white bigots might feel widespread killing of black unarmed youth by cops to be in their favor as well as disproportionate jailing of black males in US.

  • Genovato

    Are these growing sects affiliated with the Black Jews that traveled to Israel and burn their passports so that they could not be deported?

  • Clay Williams

    A four-year-old CHILD being GAY!!?? How stupid, and full of hate can one be! And NO death penalty? What is the most severe punishment the “Mother, Sister and Brother” will get?-Lunch with the Governor?? Sick, sick, sick…

  • Wayne

    “The Black Hebrews (also known as Black Hebrew Israelites and Hebrew Israelites) are part of the Hebrew Israelite movement, a black nationalist theology based in the United States that has roots in the 19th century.”

    I like how SPLC refers to the Black Hebrews as a “black nationalist theology” yet isn’t so lenient in terms for Christian Identity.

  • Joseph

    I agree with CoralSea. Right, left, shooting a child because he thought he was gay – is a little south of heaven and east of hell if you ask me.

    I wish I could be locked in a room with this young man. I detest child abuse, molestation, a child is the product of a man, woman, and God. To me, they are blessings to us all and can teach us all something about ourselves.

    I wrote a paper in high school about how similar my ghetto was to River Oaks (in Houston). It was an anti-hate paper, and one of the examples I used was the fact that I saw a little white baby, and a littel black baby, playing with each other in the free clinic I drove my sister to – one day. They didn’t care what color they were, they didn’t care who had more or who had less, they just played – for about 5 minutes until their respective mothers noticed them and pulled them apart.

    Back to this one though, maybe this is rooted in the Falasha Jews of Ethiopa?

    Either way it goes, it looks like this may be been the beginning of another Dr. Malichi Z York wannabe masonic cult here.

  • Reynardine

    No, it isn’t, Coral Sea. But tyrannical behavior is, ipso facto, authoritarian, punitive, and social-dominance oriented, which is why social psychologists like Bob Altemeyer associate it with rightwing mindset in English-speaking societies.

    Over three decades back, I worked for the Census Bureau in a district in the then-agricultural Redlands of Dade County, and you’re right- it doesn’t make any difference if you get sudden lead poisoning over politics or avocados.

  • CoralSea

    With religious cults, particularly the bizarre ones (e.g., believe the mothership is coming to get them), I don’t think the political concepts of “right” or “left” are necessarily relevant. Particularly when one is dealing with relatively small groups, one may find militia-type activity cheek by jowl with communal living or communal sharing of wealth, odd ideas about science or government, and other variables that can be all over the map if one thinks of militias as “right” and communal arrangements as “left.”

    Again, as an environmental consultant who likes working in rural areas (some people don’t), one runs across some very interesting mixes in terms of little, insular clusters of people who exhibit would could be considered cultish traits. They really do pick and choose.

    I guess if I was going to categorize them (and happily, it isn’t up to me to do so; for some reason most of them like me because I am helping them with their environmental problems, even when they know I don’t agree with some of their beliefs), it would be less along the lines of having guns or wanting to “stick with their own kind (racially)” or insisting on all-organic produce and pooling some of their money, which, frankly, you could find on either the “right” or the “left.” It would be the way SPLC does it — by their behavior. Getting shot by a lefty who is protecting his or her communal/vegan living arrangement really isn’t any different than getting shot by a righty who finds out I voted for Obama.

    If they are hurting, terrorizing, or isolating the people over whom they have control (e.g., women, children, other men) or pose a threat to others or the public (or actively spread lies about others) — that’s bad. Right and left don’t enter into it. (Think child abuse — I think most people are concerned about the child abuse first. Issues regarding religious or political beliefs come into play BECAUSE of the abuse).

    However, if they hold whacky beliefs–correction, if they hold beliefs that I, or consentual reality, think are whacky–but they don’t force them on others, in the U.S., at least, they have a right to exist and be whacky.

    Again, right or left isn’t necessarily relevant in many of these cases.

  • Reynardine

    And let us not forget anti-colonialists, gay people, and “cultural Marxists” generally.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    No, radical nationalists and religious fanatics are not “left.” The conservatives have managed to spread the idea that non-white nationalist groups and other groups they don’t like(such as radical Muslims) are somehow “left.” This is because they see the world in conspiratorial terms, where Hollywood execs, atheistic Communists, and radical Muslims are conspiring to destroy the poor, persecuted white males.

  • Reynardine

    What makes them leftists? Because they’re black? Then Alan West is a leftist. Robert Altemeyer pretty much demonstrated that the kind of social structure you saw here is not leftist.

  • Aron

    Sam, if Tom Metzger has given these folks his explicit approval, I hardly think they could be considered ‘radical leftists.’

  • Sam

    I applaud work you are doing, and am so grateful to know there is a place where people are monitoring and exposing this hatefulness. But in all fairness, wouldn’t this (and a few other groups you’ve listed) be considered “radical Left”?

  • Jane Schiff

    I seem to recall an infant’s death by abuse/neglect by a Black Hebrew sect around
    1985 or so.

  • Reynardine

    Do you know, these are some of the people you really want to hurt…

  • Ian

    Do we know the name of the sect? The website is not working for me.

    Also, can anyone suggest a good book for an overview of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement for non-scholars?