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

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.