Missouri Religious Group Investigated in Slaying of Bethany Deaton

PHOTO: Bethany Deaton, seen in this undated handout photo, was found dead in the rear seat of a van in Kansas City, MO on October 30, 2012 and her cause of death was changed from suicide to homicide in November, 2012.
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A religious community whose members studied at the International House of Prayer University in Kansas City, Mo., is under investigation in connection to the sexual assault and death of its leader's wife.

Bethany Ann Deaton, 27, was found dead Oct. 30 in the back of a van in Jackson County, Mo., with a bag over her head, pills next to her body and a note that said Deaton "chose this evil thing."

Police initially considered her death a suicide.

But Micah Moore, 23, last week confessed to killing Deaton, the wife of the community's religious leader, Tyler Deaton, 26. Moore told police that he and others in the group's shared home had sexually assaulted Bethany Deaton, and that he had been instructed by Tyler to kill her, according to police records.

"Moore stated that Tyler Deaton told him to kill Bethany Deaton, saying he knew Micah had it in him to do it," a police report by detectives read. "Moore said he told Tyler Deaton he had killed Bethany after it was done."

Moore told detectives that he had filmed the alleged sexual assaults on his iPad, and that the group was afraid Bethany would tell her therapist about the assaults. Moore also said there were poems written about the alleged sexual assaults.

He did not say who wrote the note left next to Bethany's body.

"My name is Bethany Deaton. I chose this evil thing," the note read, according to court documents. "I did it because I wouldn't be a real person and what is the point of living if it is too late for that? I wish I had chosen differently a long time ago. I knew it all and refused to listen. Maybe Jesus will still save me."

Moore has been charged with first-degree murder and had his first appearance Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court. Moore's attorney requested during the hearing that his arraignment be waived. His next appearance is scheduled for Nov. 28.

No charges have been filed against any other members of the community, including Tyler Deaton.

The Deatons and other members of the community had moved to Kansas City from Texas, where they had studied at Southwestern University. In Missouri, Moore and the Deatons studied at the International House of Prayer University.

A statement from the school said he group had fewer than 20 members, and had operated "under a veil of secrecy" since relocating from Texas to Kansas City more than five years ago.

"This group has always operated independently of the university, and it is important to all of us that this group's secrecy and disturbing religious practices are fully exposed," the statement read. "Mr. Deaton led his religious group entirely independently from IHOPU, though he and some of his members were enrolled in our university."

The Deatons and Moore lived in a house with at least four other men in Kansas City, three of whom told police that they all had sexual relationships with Tyler Deaton. A fourth said he felt "groomed" to fit into the group of men, and that Tyler Deaton had once gotten into bed with him and held him.

"He stated that he realized now that Tyler was attempting to make him a member of their sexual group," the detective's report said.

Another roommate said Tyler Deaton had told him that the sexual activity "was part of a religious experience," according to the report.

Tyler Deaton was described by one roommate as a "spiritual leader" who had "control over members of the household," the detective's report said.

The man's name was not made public, but he told police that he believed the community would lie for Deaton so that he could remain the leader of the group.

The roommate described Deaton as "angry" and "Frustrated" in the weeks before his wife's death, and said that Deaton had described a dream in which he pictured himself killing his wife by suffocation, according to the detective's report said.

The Jackson County prosecutor's office said today that police are still investigating the case. Tyler Deaton could not be reached for comment.

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