Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Who REALLY Killed 4-Year-Old Jadon Higgenbothan?

It's not enough to say 
"we're not all like that".

(Warning: please be advised that the first section of this article chronicles a brutal and horrendous series of events)


Why is it that whenever a heinous crime is discovered perpetrated by a person with a fringe-religious background that religious people immediately say "we're not like that"? Either that, or they hide underneath the "not-a-fanatic" cloak of invisibility. I'm sorry, oh righteous ones, but you are not Harry Potter. In fact, as insufferably self-righteous souls you'd have a hard time convincing people you're not Valdemort.

Responsibility and complicity are words that become fainter with distance, but THEY DO NOT DIE OUT COMPLETELY.
Durham, N.C. - A man is on trial for capital murder after he allegedly shot a 4-year-old boy in the head because he thought the boy might be gay.
That shuffling noise you hear right now is the sound of people, organizations and churches backing away from the central light cast by the atrocious murder.
Peter Lucas Moses Jr., 27, is also accused of murdering a young woman who tried to escape from the house where she had been living with Moses and several other women, who called Moses “Lord.” Prosecutors have said they plan to seek the death penalty against Moses. Three of his “wives” are also charged with murder and with being accessories to murder.
Black Hebrews

"Not-a-cult" can be considered just as much a cloak of invisibility as "not-a-fanatic." The word "cult" fairly drips with the unsightly sweat of "evil." In America, ALL "cults" are demonic: only the thinnest veneer of respect is offered to today's Mormons by "mainstream" evangelical denominations.* So it's not surprising that the word "cult" is used so freely in the case of little Jadon.

Black Voices:
Moses and his wives were members of a religious sect called the Black Hebrews, a group that frowns upon homosexuality. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, The Black Hebrews believe that they are descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel. They live according to their own special rules of conduct. Polygamy is permitted and birth control is forbidden. 
The Black Hebrew movement, however, is not very recent: it's beginnings stretch as far back as the mid 1800s - almost as far back as Southern Baptists (!). In 1980, there were an estimated 80,000 Black Hebrews in the U.S. and an estimated 200,000 Black Jews in this country. It has been suggested that technically there are three groups involving African Americans and Judaism: Black Hebrews, Black Jews and Black Israelites. All have a belief of their roots being the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, with Black Hebrews being the strictest in their social and dietary laws.

So far, the description of the Black Hebrew "cult" makes it seem to be a culture in tune with aspects of both Mormonism and Christianity. But wait ...
Sometime in October 2010, prosecutors told the judge, one of the women told the defendant that Jadon had hit another child’s bottom, and Moses retaliated because he thought the boy might be homosexual – partially because the child’s father had left his mother.
"Partially"? At this point, we have to wonder what fully constituted homosexual behavior in Moses' mind. What had he heard/read from religious leaders about homosexuality? Was it something so bad as to kill Jadon because he might be gay? A fatherless child may swat the bottom of another child, but the instance has a huge leap to being gay: who or what filled in that gap? Who instilled such unreasonable homophobia in Peter Lucas Moses?
Homosexuality, Cline contended, is frowned upon by the Black Hebrews, so the defendant asked the boy’s mother to get rid of him. 
Jadon's mother did not comply with the "lord's" wishes. But he persisted, so four days later ...
Moses then ordered two of the other women to set up computers and speakers in the garage, prosecutors contend, then the defendant took the boy into the garage, where music and the Lord’s Prayer in Hebrew blared, and a gunshot sounded. One of the women told investigators the boy was shot in the head.
As to Antoinette McKoy:

McKoy had been strangled, beaten and tortured by Moses and his other “common-law wives” in the days leading up to her murder. She managed to escape the home where she was held prisoner and begged a neighbor to please call for help, but was refused as the neighbor believed the woman to be mentally ill. McKoy was then dragged back to the home by Moses, and eventually shot to death in the bathroom.
Her corpse was shown to Moses' family. They even partied around it at one point. It was then buried in his mother's backyard.

Looking at this case analytically:

1. Moses thinks Jadon "might be gay." His "wives" including the boy's mother, help camouflage  the sound of the gunshots when Moses shoots him.
2. The wives then pack Jadon's body in a suitcase and put it away until Moses complains of the smell.
3. Antoinette McKoy, tries to escape the house but is thought to be insane by the neighbor she seeks help from. The other wives and Moses drag her back to the house where, after being tortured, she is eventually shot.
4. Antoinette's body is shown to the Moses family and is then buried in the backyard of Moses' mother's house.
5. It is not until another woman escapes the house and goes to the police that the deaths are discovered.

Moses shoots, the wives and family cover up - case closed. 

Aaah, no. 

No matter what the "cult" members said about the confines of the house, or about the cold charisma of Moses, none of them lived in a vacuum. They were taught in public schools (there's been no testimony about home-schooling), they interacted with the rest of the community to buy groceries and even tend the house. While Lucas Moses lived at home, the wives worked. Their children (supposedly) went to school. The Moses family hotly denies being Black Hebrews. 

Protecting people from a cult can seem like a thankless task since most of the members do not want to be protected nor do they want any form of intervention. Concern from family, friends, even churches go up against walls too difficult to scale, too difficult to believe. But there are times when monitoring and intervention is absolutely necessary and human life hangs in the balance.  

The surrounding community must have known something, but preferred not to "be involved." (Another cult-like family comes to mind when mentioning an uninvolved community: the Fred Phelps clan. Topeka gave up years ago.**) Moses' Black Hebrew contacts must have suspected something about his situation since he seemed bolstered in the illegal actions of polygamy.*** And the still-prevalent homophobia of the African American community fed into Moses' religious psyche.

Responsibility. It gets fainter as the sphere of family and social contacts gets wider: family, religious group, social group, community group, racial ties. Biases and prejudices fan out as much as they close in. 

Seven people are charged with the murder of Jadon Higgenbothan - one directly responsible, the others, accessories before or after the fact. But who else is responsible?

Maybe we all are.

*Many Right Wing Christians do not even give Mormonism any respect at all.
** Even after Fred were confronted with running a "Fagan" operation - his two sons were forced to sell church candy and light bulbs door-to-door; when they couldn't make their day's "quota" they were forced to steal (Phelps would beat them mercilessly if they didn't meet the "quota") 
*** Just where can you obtain a CD of "The Lord's Prayer" in Hebrew?