Crime

Exorcism preceded confession in 2012 death involving International House of Prayer, defense says

A handcuffed Micah Moore was escorted into the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence on Nov. 13, 2012, to face a first-degree murder charge in the death of Bethany Deaton. Now, just weeks before Moore’s murder trial is scheduled to begin, events the night before his confession to the murder have come to light — but are shaded two different ways.
A handcuffed Micah Moore was escorted into the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence on Nov. 13, 2012, to face a first-degree murder charge in the death of Bethany Deaton. Now, just weeks before Moore’s murder trial is scheduled to begin, events the night before his confession to the murder have come to light — but are shaded two different ways. The Kansas City Star

Nearly two years have passed since the night a park ranger found Bethany Deaton at Longview Lake.

She was in the backseat of a minivan, a white bag over her head and a pill bottle within reach. Dead at 27, just weeks after her wedding.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner ruled the death a suicide. The next day, Micah Moore walked into a police station and said he killed her.

But now, just weeks before Moore’s murder trial is scheduled to begin, events the night before the confession have come to light — but are shaded two different ways.

The defense has filed a motion saying Moore’s confession was false and came after a group to which he belonged performed an exorcism to shout out demons.

Moore was among young people living together under the strict control of Bethany’s husband, Tyler Deaton. Most of the Deaton group, whose members allegedly used sex as part of their religious experience, had come to Kansas City to be part of the International House of Prayer.

The motion, filed by defense attorney Melanie Morgan, seeks to exclude Moore’s statement based on lack of corpus delicti — the legal principal that states there must be proof a crime was committed before anyone can be accused.

Moore argues that according to the admission of detectives, “there is no evidence, excepting the completely uncorroborated and unreliable inculpatory statements by Micah Moore, that Bethany’s death was anything other than a suicide.”

The motion includes a suicide note, supposedly written by Bethany Deaton. It says, in part, “I knew it all and refused to listen.”

Jackson County prosecutors declined to comment on the case Monday. It is set for trial Nov. 17 in Independence. But IHOP spokesman Nick Syrett on Monday offered a different scenario for the night before Moore confessed.

In a statement, Syrett denied any “exorcism” occurred. He called it a meeting set up by IHOP to help members of the Deaton group, who had said Tyler Deaton had not allowed them to grieve Bethany Deaton’s death.

During this meeting on Nov. 8, 2012, it came to light that several young men may have been having sexual relations with Tyler Deaton, Syrett said. They told of how Tyler Deaton introduced them to sexual practices and how the frequency of sexual encounters increased after his marriage.

“Within a short time of these young men beginning to share their stories, one of the group, Micah Moore, confessed that he had murdered Bethany Deaton,” Syrett said Monday. “He made this confession to two of our leaders and asked them to accompany him to a local police station.”

Moore’s confession brought immediate attention to IHOP, a church mission that draws hundreds of young people from around the world to its university and 24/7 prayer room on Red Bridge Road in south Kansas City.

The Deatons and Moore were part of a prayer group at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. They and about 20 others learned about IHOP and moved to Kansas City. Court documents tell how the group lived in communal-type households with Tyler Deaton controlling everything from expenses to date night.

After Tyler and Bethany Deaton married in August 2012, they lived in the men’s home with several others, including Moore. The latest motion includes Tyler Deaton having sex with the men.

“Tyler had masterfully managed to convince these men that the relationship was one of intimacy, not sexuality,” the motion says.

The motion also includes details about the Deaton marriage, such as how they kissed only once during their engagement and how he rebuffed her attempts to initiate romance on their honeymoon, becoming angry and scolding her like a child. Bethany Deaton spent the rest of her honeymoon reading the “Twilight” series of novels.

“Bethany was never the same way again,” the motion quotes friends as saying.

A week before she died, Bethany Deaton was admitted to Truman Medical Center after threatening suicide, according to the motion. She was released Oct. 25, 2012.

Five days later, the park ranger found her body.

Two days after Bethany Deaton’s funeral, the defense motion says, the reported exorcism at an IHOP retreat involved “putting their hands on cult members, shouting at demons to leave and scream-praying in tongues, crying and falling to the floor.”

Moore went to Grandview police and told detectives that he murdered Bethany, it has previously been reported. He had already told his story to an IHOP senior official, Shelley Hundley.

According to court documents, Moore said that he and other members of the group had engaged in a series of sexual assaults on Bethany Deaton. He later told detectives that Tyler Deaton told him to kill Bethany Deaton, “saying he knew Micah had it in him to do it.”

IHOP quickly sought to distance itself from the Deaton group, with President Allen Hood calling it a cult, condemning its “disturbing religious practices” and saying it operated under a “veil of secrecy.”

Moore later recanted his confession, but he had already been charged.

The motion says that neither Moore’s DNA nor fingerprints were found on Bethany or her vehicle. Also, handwriting analysis by the FBI concluded that Bethany wrote the suicide note.

According to the motion, it reads: “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.”

To reach Donald Bradley, call 816-234-4182 or send email to dbradley@kcstar.com.

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