Updated: March 2, 2011 at 12:00 am
Teller County authorities believe a religious group that moved into a home near Woodland Park after being accused of child abuse in North Carolina has left the area and may be headed back to the East Coast.
Teller County Sheriff’s Sgt. Nick Olmsted said Wednesday a U-Haul dealer in Colorado Springs told him the group left for Durham, N.C., on Sunday.
The group, a home-based church known as the Black Hebrews, is being investigated by Durham police after a former member reported seeing “horrific” abuse of children, investigators said Tuesday.
The Teller County Sheriff’s Office searched the rented home at 205 E. Ridge Drive several times last week after being asked to help locate a missing woman and her 5-year-old son.
The woman, Vania Sisk, 25, who lived in Colorado Springs as recently as 2009, has since contacted the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and is no longer considered missing, spokeswoman Lt. Lari Sevene said. Her son, Jadon, who reportedly has not been seen since October and was never reported missing by his mother, has not been found.
Jadon’s disappearance has been “unbelievable,” said the boy’s father, Jamiel Higganbothan, who lives in Atlanta.
“It’s devastating,” Higganbothan said. “It’s a shock.”
Higganbothan, said he met Vania Sisk on an online dating site in 2004 while both were living in Colorado Springs and the two were married a year later. Their son, Jadon, was born in Colorado Springs in 2006 and stayed with Sisk when Higganbothan left for Georgia about three years ago.
Their divorce was finalized about a year and a half ago, Higganbothan said, due to “differences in our lifestyles.” That was around the last time he saw his son, he said.
Higganbothan’s family, however, stayed in touch with Sisk for a while even though the two had split up— baby-sitting the boy and sometimes having dinner with Sisk and her boyfriend, Pete Moses.
“She became more and more discreet as time went on,” Higganbothan.
At the request of North Carolina social services, Teller County deputies took nine children living in the Ridge Drive home into protective custody, but did not find Sisk and her son there. None of the adults sharing the home were arrested and Olmsted said Wednesday the investigation has been closed.
Sisk had been reported missing Thursday after she failed to meet with Teller County Department of Social Services.
An aunt who helped raise Sisk told the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer that Moses, a polygamist, kept her niece from contacting her family after she left Colorado Springs in 2009.
Sisk’s aunt Denise Garing said her niece moved from Colorado Springs 2-1/2 years ago to North Carolina with Moses and multiple women and children.
“They all had to work, because [Moses] didn’t work,” Garing said. A letter from Vania Sisk told family members to stop calling and that the group was going to move to the country and store up guns for some sort of world-ending race war, she said.
“It didn’t sound like her,” Garing said. “It sounded like she was being dictated to write it.”
Sisk’s grandmother Naomi Sisk said Vania has borne Moses three children in the past couple of years, the News & Observer reported.
“It was like they were making a baby farm or something,” she said. “She fell right into Pete, and Pete found her weakest part, and he’s brainwashing her … Her actions are showing that she’s in some kind of cult and she’s brainwashed.”
Naomi Sisk said Moses doesn’t allow the women to eat foods such as pork or watch most TV programs.
“She’s talking vaguely, but she’s talking crazy,” the grandmother said.
Raleigh News & Observer staff writer Jesse James DeConto contributed to this report.