A man charged with first-degree murder in the death of a prayer-group friend will have a preliminary hearing today in Independence.
Earlier this month, Micah Moore, 23, reportedly walked into the Independence police department and told officers he'd killed Bethany Ann Deaton at the request of her new husband, a charismatic prayer group leader.
Bethany Ann Deaton was found dead Oct. 30 in a parked van at Longview Lake. Authorities initially believed she killed herself.
Moore told police he killed Bethany Ann Deaton her at the order of group leader Tyler Deaton, allegedly because of fear she would tell her therapist about sexual assaults on her by members of the group.
Moore lived with the Deatons in a communal home shared by male members of their prayer group. He told police that several members had sexually assaulted Bethany Deaton and that they were worried she would tell someone. Moore claims that's when Tyler Deaton ordered him to kill Bethany Deaton, according to a criminal complaint.
Most members of the group, including Tyler Deaton and his wife, attended International House of Prayer, “end times”-focused evangelical mission base. IHOP has drawn thousands of young people from all over the world to Kansas City.
Tyler Deaton has not been charged in his wife's death. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Deaton was under investigation but declined to elaborate.
The hearing is set for 1:30 this afternoon at the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence.
| The Star
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INVESTIGATION | Witness points to a ‘sexual group’ living in a Grandview house
Woman was murdered to cover sexual assaults, authorities allege
Bethany Ann Deaton was killed to hide assaults on her, prosecutors contend.
Bethany Ann Deaton’s death was supposed to look like a suicide.
Sheriff’s deputies found her body inside a van at Longview Lake on Oct. 30. There was a note and an empty pill bottle, and over her head was a white plastic bag.
Now prosecutors say the 27-year-old woman was murdered to keep her from revealing a history of sexual assaults on her by several people living under one Grandview roof.
Micah Moore, 23, of Kansas City, was charged Saturday with first-degree murder.
According to court documents, Moore met with a detective on Friday, 10 days after Deaton’s body was found, and said, “I killed her.” He said he had feared that Deaton was going to tell her therapist about assaults that had occurred over the previous few months.
The statement said Moore admitted that he was with Deaton at Longview Lake and that he “placed a bag over her head and held it there until her body shook.”
Moore and several witnesses whose names were redacted from court documents told investigators that they had been roommates with Bethany Deaton and her husband, Tyler Deaton, in the 7300 block of East 122nd Street. They described a household where Tyler Deaton served as the “spiritual leader” of a “community.”
One witness said he believed Tyler Deaton was attempting to make the witness a member of “their sexual group,” the detective’s statement said.
Another of the witnesses, according to the statement, described “Deaton’s behavior … as ‘angry’ (and) ‘frustrated’ ” in the weeks before Bethany Deaton’s death and said Tyler Deaton had told him three days after her body was found that “he had a dream that he had killed his wife by suffocating her.”
Attempts to reach Tyler Deaton on Saturday night were unsuccessful.
Moore said he was told to kill Bethany Deaton by a person who said “he knew Micah had it in him to do it.” That person’s name was redacted in the detective’s statement.
No one other than Moore has been charged in the case, but the Jackson County prosecutor’s office statement noted that the case is under investigation.
Moore is charged only with murder, though the detective’s statement said that Moore had admitted to a pastor, Shelley Hundley, that he had committed sexual assaults.
Hundley, who is a member of the executive team at the International House of Prayer in south Kansas City, declined to comment Saturday night.
According to court documents, Hundley said that she had talked with Moore at the Grandview Police Department and that he had admitted the sexual assaults. He told her they were recorded on his tablet computer, which was in a backpack in his apartment in the 11100 block of College Avenue. Also on the tablet were poems the assailants had written about the assaults, he said.
Neighbors on the same block as the Grandview house said more than a dozen Jackson County Sheriff’s Department vehicles converged on the house around 6 p.m. Friday. They witnessed at least one person being taken away, apparently in handcuffs. Investigators searching the house also carried out computers, they said.
Jackson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ronda Montgomery confirmed that a person was taken into custody and questioned. The person was released but remains a person of interest, she said.
In the past, 15 cars or more, many with Texas license plates, would crowd the street once or twice a week and the house would fill with people, mostly men, said Terra Lindsey, 32.
“My kids asked why there were so many people in the house and they told them they did Bible study,” she said.
When deputies were dispatched to a shelter house at Longview Lake shortly before 10 p.m. Oct. 30, they found Bethany Deaton’s body in the back seat of a van. A small notepad on the console of the van had an apparent suicide note:
“My name is Bethany Deaton. I chose this evil thing. 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.”
An empty 100-count bottle of acetaminophen PM was in a cup holder, and an unopened bottle was on the van console.
Her body was sent to her family in Texas. The funeral was Friday.
An online obituary described her as a “precious jewel” who was “a lover of books, writing, nature, deep conversations, dance, worship and, most of all, Jesus.”
She studied English and Spanish and graduated magna cum laude from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 2005, the obituary states. She moved to Kansas City to be an intern at the International House of Prayer.
She earned a nursing degree in August 2012 and married Tyler Deaton on Aug. 18. They planned to serve overseas as missionaries.
“Even as we celebrate Bethany’s life, we deeply grieve our loss,” the obituary said. “We pray that God will help us understand the many unanswered questions that continue to be investigated.”
The Star’s Judy Thomas contributed to this report. To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to email@example.com
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Man says prayer group leader told him to kill wife
Less than three months after he stood as a groomsman in the wedding of two friends he had known since college in Texas, Micah Moore walked into a suburban Kansas City police department and unloaded a dark secret: He had taken the woman's life at the request of her new husband, a charismatic prayer group leader.
Police said Bethany Deaton's death initially appeared to be a suicide. Officers found a note and empty bottle of over-the-counter pain medication along with her body in a minivan parked by a lake on Oct. 30.
It wasn't until Moore confessed nearly two weeks later that police announced she had been killed. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on a first-degree murder charge Wednesday.
In the criminal complaint filed in support of the charge, police detailed a stunning series of allegations that Moore made as part of his confession.
Moore, 23, lived with Deaton and her husband, Tyler, in a communal home shared by male members of their prayer group. He told police that several members had sexually assaulted Bethany Deaton and that they were worried she would tell someone. Moore said that's when Tyler Deaton ordered him to kill Bethany Deaton, according to a criminal complaint.
Tyler Deaton has not been charged in his wife's death. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said Deaton was under investigation but declined to elaborate. Deaton does not have a listed phone number and did not respond to requests for comment The Associated Press made through Facebook and phone and email messages to his father.
Moore's attorney, Melanie Morgan, declined to comment.
Tyler and Bethany Deaton moved to Kansas City in 2009 from Texas to attend a six-month internship at the non-accredited International House of Prayer University. The two had met as freshmen at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, in 2005, and two years later Tyler started a prayer group, a former longtime member of the group told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was afraid of retaliation from Tyler Deaton.
Tyler Deaton was listed at one point as a division coordinator for IHOPU's "friendship groups," but the school said that was a mistake. It issued a statement distancing itself from Tyler Deaton after Moore, a student at IHOPU, was arrested.
"Since Bethany's death it has come to light that over five years ago, both she and Mr. Moore joined an independent, close-knit, religious group in Georgetown, Texas," the school said in a statement. "This religious group of fewer than 20 people was led by Tyler Deaton. They relocated to Kansas City over the last few years and operated under a veil of secrecy."
IHOPU is the educational arm of International House of Prayer of Kansas City, an evangelical Christian group focused on missions and preparation for the end of time.
The Deatons' prayer group had at least two houses, with women living in one and men in another. Bethany Deaton, 27, moved into the men's house with Tyler Deaton after they married in August.
According to the criminal complaint, Moore told police that men in the house began drugging Bethany Deaton and sexually assaulting her soon after she moved in. He said she was seeing a therapist and group members became concerned she would tell the therapist about the assaults.
Moore and other men who lived in the house told police that several group members also were having sexual relations with Tyler Deaton, unbeknownst to his wife. One man, whose name was blacked out of the criminal complaint, told police that Tyler Deaton said after Bethany Deaton died that he had had a dream he killed his wife by suffocating her.
Moore told detectives Tyler Deaton instructed him to kill Bethany Deaton because he knew Moore had it in him to do it, and that Moore reported back to Tyler Deaton after she was dead. Moore told police that he had placed a bag over Bethany Deaton's head and held it there until her body shook.
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