Woman pleads guilty in polygamist sect murders; Victims, suspects members of Black Hebrews
Evidence found in Colorado Springs connected cult
Jadon Higganbothan. (Photo courtesy: Courtesy Jamiel Higganbothan)
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Last Updated: 91 days ago
DURHAM, N.C. - A member of a polygamist cult is pleading guilty to her role in the North Carolina shooting deaths of a 4-year-old boy who offended the group's leader and a woman who sought to leave.
LaRhonda Renee Smith pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy to commit murder in the 2010 slayings of 28-year-old Antoinetta McKoy and 4-year-old Jadon Higganbothan.
Smith was sentenced to between 23 and 30 years in prison as part of a plea deal where she agreed to cooperate with authorities and to testify in the murder cases.
Prosecutors said Smith and two other women were followers of Pete Moses, who led a black supremacist group called the Black Hebrews. The adults and their children lived together in North Carolina and later in Teller County, Colorado.
Moses shot Jadon in the head after the boy slapped another boy in the behind -- a gesture that Moses thought indicated Jadon was gay, prosecutors said.
An informant told police in North Carolina that Peter Moses was angrily pacing the house in October 2010, called for Higganbothan, took him to the basement and turned on loud music. Then a gunshot was heard, according to the search warrants.
The informant told police he later saw the boy's body wrapped in plastic, stuffed in a suitcase, and placed in the attic of the home.
Smith, according to prosecutors, knew of Jadon’s murder and helped clean up evidence.
Another woman in the sect, Antoinetta McKoy, 28, disappeared about two months later. Prosecutors believe she may have witnessed Jadon's murder and wanted to leave the sect.
McKoy's and Jadon's bodies were found in June 2011, buried behind a home in Durham.
The sect moved to Colorado in February 2011.
According to WRAL-TV, Colorado police found a .22-caliber handgun on the roof of a townhouse where the group had been staying. Tests showed the gun was used to kill both Jadon and McKoy.
Jadon's mother and two other adults remain in Durham County Jail on charges connected with McKoy's and Jadon's deaths. Moses is serving two consecutive life sentences without possibility of parole for his part in the killings.
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.