Murder confession followed IHOP church’s ‘exorcism session’

Micah Moore’s confession to the murder of Bethany Deaton, the wife of his spiritual leader, came after a group exorcism session, his attorneys claim in a motion to exclude the admission from his trial on November 17.

41 Action News, Kansas City, Oct. 28, 2014

The Kansas City Star reports

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.

[Morgan] 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 that 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 save me.”

Handwriting analysis by the FBI concluded that Bethany wrote the suicide note.

Among other things the motion details Bethany Deaton’s troubled mental state in the months, weeks and days before her death.

It also outlines a number of reasons why Micah Moore’s initial confession, which he later recanted, could not have been true.

Motion to exclude Micah Moore's statements regarding the death of Bethany Deaton based on lack of Corpus Delicti Motion to exclude Micah Moore’s statements based on lack of Corpus Delicti

Her body was discovered in the backseat of a locked minivan, with a loosely tied bag over her head, a suicide note, and an empty 100-count bottle of acetaminophen.

Her death, in October 2012, was ruled a suicide.

Almost two weeks later Moore confessed to police that he killed Deaton to prevent her from revealing that she was being sexually abused by several men in the religious community both were part of. After an autopsy, the coroner changed the cause of death to “undetermined.”

At a hearing scheduled two weeks later Moore’s lawyer, Melanie Morgan, recanted that confession, saying it was “bizarre, nonsensical and most importantly, untrue.” She said the confession was fiction born from a fragile mental state.

41 Action News, Kansas City, Nov. 28, 2012

At the time Moore’s attorneys released the following statement:

The purpose of today’s scheduled preliminary hearing was to determine whether there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and whether there is cause of believe that Micah Moore was somehow involved. We are aware of no evidence that a crime has occurred — the facts suggest Bethany Deaton’s death was an unfortunate suicide and Micah Moore had nothing to do with that suicide.

Driven to the police station by representatives of his church community, Micah told a fictional account that was bizarre, nonsensical and most importantly, untrue.

They were statements of a distraught and confused young man under extreme psychological pressures as a result of his friend Bethany’s untimely suicide and the sudden removal of his spiritual leader, Tyler Deaton, from their extremely close-knit religious community.

The doctrines taught in that community affected Micah’s mental state and unfortunately dominated his thinking. Micah’s fiction to police led to the filing of the complaint in this case.

We trust the local authorities will focus their investigation equally into disproving Micah’s story as much as they would be inclined to try to substantiate it. In the end, the truth will show that Micah Moore is innocent.

In December 2012 Micah Moore was indicted for first degree murder, superseding the earlier charge.

This occurred even though, as Morgan’s latest motion states, that Micah Moore — after he had some time to sleep — unequivocally withdrew his earlier statements to police, telling them he did not kill Bethany Deaton.

The motion shows that neither Moore’s DNA nor fingerprints were found on Bethany or her vehicle. Moore also incorrectly described the scene in the van where Deaton’s body was found.

Contrary to Moore’s initial statements, there was no evidence that Deaton had been sexually assaulted — or that such assaults had been recorded on video.

The motion says

Based on what Detective Cole admitted to during her deposition, there is no evidence outside of Moore’s statement that he killed Bethany to substantiate that a homicide occurred. Not only was that statement recanted during the interrogation itself, every other statement that was made was found to be false, contrary to other evidence or simply uncorroborated.

Tyler Deaton

Deaton and her husband, Tyler Deaton, had married in mid-August that year. Tyler was the leader of a prayer group whose 20 or so members moved to Kansas City from Texas to be part of the International House of Prayer University, a ministry of the controversial International House of Prayer (IHOP) church.

The group lived in a communal-type arrangement, with Tyler Deaton — whom acquaintances describe as both charismatic and domineering — controlling everything from how members spent their free time to when they were required to worship, Moore’s attorneys say.

According to the Associated Press

Moore told investigators Tyler Deaton had ordered him to kill Bethany to keep her from revealing the group’s secrets, including that Tyler Deaton was having sexual relations with other male members.

Moore’s attorneys, however, describe Bethany Deaton as a deeply disturbed woman whose husband of only two months rejected her physical advances and had her shunned by the rest of the group, driving her to suicide.

“At a time when she had been physically rejected in the most humiliating way a woman can be rejected, she was also being socially rejected,” the motion asserts.

The probable cause statement shows that several members of the prayer group told investigators that they had sexual relations with Tyler Deaton.

One of the men claimed Deaton told him the sexual activity was part of a “religious experience.”

Another stated that Tyler had told the group he was frustrated after his recent marriage, saying that he was unable to have sexual intercourse with his wife.

The Kansas City Star writes

“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.

Micah Moore

Malanie Morgan’s defense motion states that two days after Bethany Deaton’s funeral, an exorcism session took place during an IHOP retreat. It involved people “putting their hands on cult members, shouting at demons to leave and scream-praying in tongues, crying and falling to the floor.”

Micah Moore than reportedly confessed to two of the church’s leaders, and asked them to accompany him to a local police station.

In a statement, IHOP spokesman Nick Syrett denied any “exorcism” occurred. According to the Kansas City Star 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.

“That this was a planned ‘exorcism’ meeting is simply not true,” he told the Associated Press.

What Led Up To Micah Moore’s False Confession

As with any unexplained death, after Bethany Deaton was found, she was transported to the medical examiner’s office for examination and he concluded her death was a suicide.

Meanwhile, law enforcement notified her next-of-kin, which included her husband of just two months, Tyler Deaton. Over the next several days, more information about Bethany’s troubled mental state was revealed to those outside the small “community” in which she lived, including leadership at the International House of Prayer (IHOP), a local religious organization which all members of the community belonged.

The community, as it was referred to, comprised a group of approximately 20 young people, many from Texas and graduates of Southwestern University, a small college in Georgetown, Texas, living in a communal type arrangement in Grandview, Missouri. Spread between four homes – a men’s home, a women’s home and two married homes – the group led a very structured existence under Tyler’s charismatic leadership, from sharing meals to household expenses to dedicated worship times and date nights and control over free time.

After their marriage in late August 2012, Bethany and Tyler lived in the men’s home with several others, including Moore. Because of the extraordinarily closeness of these young people, Bethany’s death left all of them devastated and plagued with guilt for not taking steps to prevent it. In providing spiritual support to this group, IHOP leadership discovered just how structured their lives had become and some of the non-traditional beliefs that the group maintained. In IHOP’s opinion, this was a cult.

Still overwhelmed with grief, the community also had to cope with the extraction of their leader from their midst at IHOP’s insistence. IHOP leadership told Tyler he was no longer able to stay and had sessions for the community at Shiloh, a remote retreat center utilized by IHOP and its affiliates. During an evening session on November 8, 2012, it was made clear to the community that IHOP believed the community was not just a community but a cult and called into question everything they had been doing under Tyler’s command. Leaders of the session made it clear that everyone had been hurt and controlled supernaturally and needed an exorcism, though the term exorcism wasn’t expressly used.

A large group of people, called the Prisoners of Hope – an IHOP affiliated prayer group – prayed for the group. Putting their hands on the cult members, shouting at demons to leave and scream-praying in tongues, soon had many in the group crying and yelling and falling to the floor. In that atmosphere – loud, frenetic, chaotic – all the pent up emotion from their friend’s death and from being accused of being a cult – spilled out.

In the hours that followed, the men and women would be separated and it would come to light that Tyler had physically intimate relationships with several of the men. Homosexuality is strongly condemned within the church though Tyler had masterfully managed to convince these men that the relationship was one of intimacy, not sexuality. Ultimately it led to an unraveling of others within the group that were equally vulnerable and fragile. And, it led to the completely false statements by Moore relating to Bethany’s death. Notwithstanding that Moore told police unequivocally while in custody, after he finally had some sleep, that he did not kill Bethany, murder charges were filed and a full investigation launched into Deaton’s death.
– Source: Motion to exclude Moore’s statements based on lack of Corpus Delicti

International House of Prayer

Following Moore’s confession, the International House of Prayer quickly tried to distance itself from those involved in the case.

IHOP President Allen Hood called Tyler Deaton’s group a “cult” that operated under a “veil of secrecy.” He condemned its “disturbing religious practices.”

Within Christian circles the International House of Prayer itself is also considered by many to be controversial, as it is associated with religious leaders whose doctrines and practices tend to vary from those of normative, Biblical Christianity.

The church and its university are not implicated in the crime, but various people have raised concerns about possibly cult-like elements within the church movement itself.

Motion to exclude Moore’s statements based on lack of Corpus Delicti PDF file
Read the Probable Cause statement, State of Missouri vs. Micah Moore PDF file
Online memorial for Bethany Leidlein Deaton
Research resources on the International House of Prayer


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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday October 28, 2014.
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