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Durham families describe anguish in 'cult' murder sentencing

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Two people charged in connection with killing a 4-year-old boy and 29-year-old woman, were sentenced in a Durham courtroom Thursday.

Vania Sisk and Larhonda Smith were sentenced in the so-called "cult murders."

Peter Moses, the alleged ringleader of the cult, known as the "Black Hebrews," was expected to be sentenced, but his case was delayed due to an attorney's scheduling conflict.

The three are the final people to be sentenced in the 2010 deaths of Jadon Higganbothan, 4, and Antionetta McKoy, 29.

Moses previously pled guilty in the deaths of Higganbothan and McKoy. He faces two life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Sisk pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, accessory after the fact, first-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder as part of a plea deal. Sisk received two consolidated sentences, each of up to nearly 19 years in prison. A plea deal reduced the amount of time she would have originally served for the crimes. She will received mental health treatment during prison and the judge said she could enroll in a work release program if eligible at some point.

Smith was given two consolidated sentences, each of nearly 15 years. When one ends, the other begins. The judge said Smith will get mental health treatment and work release when she qualifies.

"Black Hebrews" members said McKoy was killed when she tried to leave the group. In court, attorneys said Sisk pulled the trigger that killed McKoy. Moses shot and killed Higganbothan.

McKoy and Higganbothan, the son of Sisk, were killed at a home on Pear Tree Lane in Durham. Their bodies were later discovered in the backyard of Moses' mother's home in Durham. McKoy had been shot twice in the head.

During Thursday's sentencing, Sisk's defense attorney said Moses had control of his followers and controlled all women in the house. The defense attorney said that Moses set himself up as a "king" and "tyrant" and ruled over those in the home.

According to Sisk's defense team, Moses recorded videos where he said men were better than women and that when women submit themselves to their husband, they submit themselves to the Lord.

Jadon's father spoke during Thursday's sentencing hearing. He said there is no excuse for what happened to his son.

McKoy's mother also spoke during the hearing, saying the law has let her down and that the whole thing has been "a nightmare for me."

According to McKoy's mother, Antoinetta connected with Moses over Facebook, but she would not allow her daughter to date him while she was still in high school.

McKoy's sister called Sisk a "monster" and said Sisk should be ashamed for letting this happen to her own child. She also said Sisk should ask God for forgiveness and that she would pray for God to have mercy on Sisk's soul.

Sisk did not look at the McKoy family while they spoke. Smith did make eye contact and then spoke to the family, crying while apologizing.

On Wednesday, Lavada Harris received two sentences of about eight years in prison each for her role in the crimes. Moses' brother, P. Leonard Moses, also received two prison sentences Wednesday for his role in the murders and faces a total of up to 13 years in prison.

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