There are official background checks, and then there are teenagers with Google.
Tyler Deaton cleared the first hurdle easily enough when he landed a job in February to teach at a Texas high school. A search of databases for the FBI and Texas Department of Public Safety raised no red flags.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
But students at Lancaster High School near Dallas Googled the new, young pre-calculus teacher and found news stories from Kansas City with allegations that Deaton’s wife, Bethany, 27, was murdered as part of a coverup by a religious cult to hide a series of sexual assaults.
The group’s supposed spiritual leader? Tyler Deaton.
When word spread through the halls of Lancaster last week, district officials suspended Deaton — and the phones started ringing at the Jackson County sheriff’s office.
“We’ve heard from several parents from down there,” Sgt. Ronda Montgomery said Monday. “Everybody wants to know what’s going on.”
Deaton has not been charged in his wife’s death. The person who has, Micah Moore, was part of Deaton’s religious group and lived with the couple at a house in Grandview.
Moore initially claimed that Tyler Deaton had told him to kill his wife, according to court documents. Moore also said that he informed Deaton when the job was done. He has since recanted his confession.
Other witnesses told authorities of a group of young people who were making sex part of their religious experience and that men in the group sexually assaulted Bethany Deaton. Moore said Bethany Deaton was killed for fear she would talk, according to court documents.
The parent of a Lancaster High School senior told The Star on Monday that her daughter was sad to hear the news because all the kids liked Deaton.
“She was hoping it was a joke,” Krissy Johnson said. “I was angry to see how he was able to get close to our kids with this currently going on in his life.
“It makes me wonder if Google needs to be part of the basic background check so the school can pick up on any information the background check missed.”
The Lancaster Independent School District sent a letter Friday to parents, saying it had been made aware of concerns about a teacher at the school.
“The staff member, who was hired in February, cleared a formal background check conducted through the Department of Public Safety and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Databases.
“However, after receiving the concern, we took immediate action, removed him from the classroom and placed him on leave. We are in the process of obtaining additional information as we further investigate this matter.”
The body of Bethany Deaton was found Oct. 30 in the back of a van at Longview Lake, a plastic bag over her head and a suicide note on the van’s console. Police thought she had killed herself.
A little more than a week later, Moore, 23, walked into a police station and said he had killed Bethany Deaton and made it look like a suicide.
When Moore recanted, his lawyer said the confession was “fiction born from a fragile mental state.”
Moore is charged with first-degree murder. A pretrial conference is scheduled May 3 in Independence.
Tyler Deaton founded the prayer group at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Later, several members of the group moved to Kansas City so they could attend the International House of Prayer.
Montgomery said Monday that the investigation is continuing and that detectives had traveled to Texas several times recently to speak to witnesses.