Bethany Deaton Death: Micah Moore's prayer group murder confession was made up, says attorney

Micah Moore, right, is escorted into the Jackson County Courthouse Annex in Independence, Mo., Nov. 13, 2012.
AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Keith Myers
Micah Moore (right) is escorted into a courthouse in Independence, Mo. on Nov., 13, 2012, for a murder charge
File, AP Photo/The Kansas City Star, Keith Myers

(CBS/AP) KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A defense attorney said Wednesday that the Missouri man who told police he killed the wife of his prayer group leader at the leader's request made up the story and had nothing to do with the woman's death.

Micah Moore, 23, has been charged with murder in the death of 27-year-old Bethany Deaton, whose Oct. 30 death, police said, originally appeared to be a suicide. 

Moore told police that he and other members of the prayer group had sexually assaulted Deaton and were afraid she would tell someone, according to a probable cause statement. Moore said that's when Deaton's husband, Tyler, ordered him to kill her.

Melanie Morgan, Moore's lawyer, said Wednesday that her client's confession was "bizarre, nonsensical and most importantly, untrue."

"These were the 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," Morgan said in a statement she read outside court after Moore's preliminary hearing was delayed.

Officers found Deaton's body with a note and an empty bottle of over-the-counter pain medication in a minivan parked by a lake on Oct. 30. A plastic trash bag over her head was tied below her chin with the attached pull straps, but not tightly, police said.

It wasn't until Moore confessed nearly two weeks later they announced a homicide investigation.

Tyler Deaton has not been charged in his wife's death. Jackson County prosecutor Jean Peters Baker has said he is under investigation but declined to elaborate.

Moore's preliminary hearing was delayed after the prosecutor's office asked for more time to take the case before a grand jury. Morgan said later that she hoped investigators would put as much focus on disproving Moore's confession as they would in substantiating it.

Morgan declined to take questions after reading the statement, which did not specifically address Moore's allegations that Bethany Deaton was sexually assaulted or that Tyler Deaton ordered his wife's death.

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 couple 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 under condition of anonymity.

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 moved into the men's house with Tyler Deaton after they married in August. Moore lived there as well.

According to documents filed in court, 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 were also having sexual relations with Tyler Deaton, unbeknownst to his wife. One man, whose name was blacked out of the probable cause statement, 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 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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Nov. 28, 2012 - Bethany Deaton Death: Micah Moore, Missouri man, says prayer group leader told him to kill wife