Peter Lucas Moses, 28, was given two life sentences on Friday for the 2010 murders of a woman who tried to leave the cult he led, and of a four-year-old boy Moses believed to be gay.

At the time of the killings Moses lived in a one-bedroom house in Durham, North Carolina, with five women and nine children. He considered three of the women to be his ‘wives’, and he was father to eight of the children, with the exception being Jadon Higganbothan.

The adults in the house were members of the ‘Black Hebrews’ cult, of which Moses was leader. MembersĀ referred to Moses as “Lord”, and espoused the belief that a race war was inevitable.

Prosecutors reported that Moses suspected Jadon’s father was gay because he had left the boy’s mother, Vania Sisk, who then went on to become one of Moses’ wives. Moses became concerned Jadon was also gay, and was angered when he saw the boy strike one of his sons on the backside.

Court testimony revealed that in October 2010 the women living in the house had been told to set up speakers in the garage. Moses then ordered them out and took Jadon inside, after which they heard religious music and a gunshot.

Moses was also sentenced for the killing of 28-year-old Antoinetta McKoy, who tried to leave the cult in 2010 after learning she could not have children. Moses arranged for her to be kept inside the house and killed.

An autopsy found that both McKoy and Jadon were shot in the head. Their bodies were found buried in shallow graves in the back garden belonging to Moses’ mother, Sheilda Harris.

Prosecutors originally sought the death penalty for Moses, but after he made a surprise plea change to ‘guilty’ in November 2012 this was amended to two life sentences without chance of parole.

At the sentencing on Friday, Judge Orlando Hudson said: “These were some of the worst cases in Durham. These are some of the worst cases I’ve seen as a judge.”

Four others, including Jadon’s mother, have pleaded guilty in the killings.