The leader of a religious cult in Durham, N.C. murdered his 4-year-old step son because he thought the child might be gay, according to prosecutors in a court hearing on Friday.
The man is also accused of killing a 28-year-old woman because she could not have children and wanted to leave the cult.
Prosecutors laid out evidence they believe justifies the death penalty against Peter Lucas Moses, 27, who faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antoinetta Yvonne McKoy, 28. Defense attorneys didn’t speak in his behalf at a court hearing Friday.
Three women, including Jadon’s mother, Vania Rae Sisk, 25, — who counted themselves as Moses’ “wives or common-law wives” and called him “Lord” — are also charged in connection with the two slayings.
According to prosecutors, Moses feared that Jadon might be gay because the boy’s father had left his mother.
Moses ordered two of the women to set up computers and speakers in the garage, prosecutors said they were told by the witness. They said he started playing music with the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew, took Jadon in the garage and shut the door, and the women then heard a gunshot.
Prosecutors said the witness told them that the women helped clean up the body of Jadon, who had been shot in the head, and put it in a suitcase in Moses’ master suite. He later told them to get the body out because it was beginning to smell, prosecutors said.
According to the court records, sometime in October 2010, Moses learned that Jadon had hit another child’s rear-end, which he interpreted to be homosexual tendencies.
Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline told the judge that Moses killed Jadon and McKoy because they didn’t fit into his religious beliefs.
“It did not include a 4-year-old who he accused of and thought was a homosexual, and it did not include a woman who could not have children and who was trying to get away from there and we believe at the time was trying to go to the police,” Cline said.
Prosecutors said the murders came to the attention of police in February when a young woman escaped from the house where she had lived with Jadon and McKoy. The woman, whose identity wasn’t released, told police that the two people had died at the house.
When questioned, Jadon’s mother denied that he ever had existed and police were only able to confirm it when they found a copy of Jadon’s birth certificate.
Prosecutors have received the judge’s permission to seek the death penalty against Moses.