Missouri prosecutors said Tuesday that Micah Moore, the man charged with killing 27-year-old Bethany Ann Deaton, told authorities that he acted on the order of her husband.
Tyler Deaton was the spiritual leader of a group that allegedly used sex as part of its religious mission, according to court documents.
After Moore made his first appearance Tuesday in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence, prosecutors acknowledged that Tyler Deaton is also under investigation in his wife’s death. Her body was found Oct. 30 in a van at Longview Lake with a plastic bag over her head, her death appearing to be a suicide.
According to court documents, Moore, 23, said that he and other members of the group had engaged in a series of sexual assaults on Bethany Deaton at a house in Grandview, where several of the group lived. He later told detectives that Tyler Deaton told him to kill Bethany, “saying he knew Micah had it in him to do it,” according to court documents.
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At the time the first-degree murder charge was filed against Moore, prosecutors redacted the name of the person that Moore said ordered him to commit the crime. But Tuesday, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker acknowledged the name was Tyler Deaton.
Baker also said the victim’s body would now need further examination. It had been sent to Texas for burial, but according to a county spokesman, the body has been returned to the Jackson County medical examiner’s office in Kansas City.
Detectives with the Jackson County sheriff’s office continue to interview witnesses, spokeswoman Sgt. Ronda Montgomery said, and more charges are possible.
Moore, who was handcuffed and shackled and wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, did not speak in court. His attorney asked that his arraignment be waived. His next court appearance was set for Nov. 28.
Deaton, 26, described as domineering and charismatic by acquaintances, led a group of followers from a college in Texas to the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
In a statement released late Monday, the organization’s president, Allen Hood, said Deaton was the leader of “an independent, close-knit religious group” that was operating separately from the International House of Prayer “under a veil of secrecy.”
Hood expressed grief at Bethany Deaton’s death and said the organization would “continue to fully assist all law enforcement agencies in their efforts to uncover the extent and specifics of this horrific crime.”
As usual, the 24-hour prayer room at the International House of Prayer on Red Bridge Road was full Tuesday morning. Much of the praying, as well as the talk around the prayer room and the religious education campus, has been about the startling death of Bethany Deaton, a student said.
“Everybody’s talking about it,” she said.
At Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, students and faculty shared collective dismay and regret that Bethany Deaton’s religious journey to Kansas City had come to tragedy.
Many students had grown concerned by the intensity of the group’s religious doctrine and the growing influence of Tyler Deaton, said a staff member and a student who asked not to be identified.
Concern grew as many of them began leaving for Kansas City in recent years.
The staff member said she was “terribly worried” when Bethany told her she was joining the move to Kansas City. “I wish I had challenged her harder” to remain in Texas, she said.
Christy Little, who went to college with both Deatons at Southwestern University, said she often found herself in theology debates with Tyler Deaton in Bible study.
“There was something about him, the way kids listened to him,” Little said Tuesday by phone from New York. “He was very charismatic, outspoken and very charming and they hung on every word. I used to get so angry the way they were swayed by him.”
She described Bethany Deaton as “very quiet and into service.”
Bethany had been home-schooled until she entered college. There, she graduated with honors.
She and Tyler married in August.
By then, Tyler Deaton had already moved with a group, including Micah Moore, to Kansas City.
On Friday, Moore, after walking into Grandview police headquarters, told detectives about his and other men’s sexual assaults on Bethany Deaton, who had been given Seroquel, a prescription anti-psychotic drug, according to court documents.
Moore said he was told to kill Bethany Deaton because there was fear within the group that she was about to reveal to her therapist activity in the house that Moore and others described as sexual assault. The men in the group had also engaged in sex with Tyler Deaton, according to court documents.
The Deaton house was in the 7300 block of East 122nd Street in Grandview. One unidentified resident returned to the house Monday night with his father. Both of them declined to answer any questions.
“You know this is under investigation,” the father said.
Bethany Deaton completed a six-month internship at the International House of Prayer in 2009, and had been working as a nurse at Menorah Medical Center in Overland Park. Her obituary stated that she and Tyler planned to serve as missionaries overseas.
Bethany Deaton’s family issued a statement.
“We are deeply grieving the loss of our beautiful and innocent daughter,” it read. “We are shocked and horrified by the information now coming forth. The betrayal, the subtle and increasing manipulation, and the brutal victimization which occurred is beyond tragic. We pray for the truth to be revealed. While it is important to understand how Bethany died, it is even more important to understand how she lived.”