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Suspect in slaying of religious-group member appears in court

By Joe Robertson and Donald Bradley, The Kansas City Star –

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Micah Moore made his first court appearance Tuesday morning to face a first-degree murder charge in the death of Bethany Ann Deaton.

But attention focused on what is yet to come in the sensational case that revolves around Bethany’s husband, Tyler Deaton, and a religious group from Texas caught up in allegations of sex assaults.

Jackson County investigators say Moore, 23, admitted to killing 27-year-old Bethany Deaton, after her death scene in a van at Longview Lake on Oct. 30 had been arranged to look like a suicide.

Moore, the Deatons and some of the other witnesses in the case had been students together at Southwestern University, a private school in Georgetown, Texas, and had come to Kansas City in recent years to participate in the International House of Prayer in south Kansas City and Grandview.

Statements from Moore and other unidentified witnesses described activities in a Grandview home — unrelated to the International House of Prayer — in which people were in a “sexual group.” Witnesses described Tyler Deaton as the “spiritual leader” of the group. Moore said he was told to kill Bethany Deaton because there was fear within the group that Deaton was about to reveal to her therapist activity in the house that Moore and others described as sexual assault.

The name of the person Moore said told him to kill Bethany Deaton is redacted from the court records.

Another “person of interest” was seen taken into custody Friday and has been questioned by authorities.

Detectives are continuing to interview witnesses, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office 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 Tuesday. His attorney asked that his arraignment be waived. His next court appearance was set for Nov. 28.

International House of Prayer President Allen Hood issued a statement Monday night that 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.”

Hood described Tyler Deaton as the leader of “an independent, close-knit religious group” that was operating separately from the International House of Prayer “under a veil of secrecy.”

As usual, the 24-hour prayer room at the International House of Prayer 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.

Hood’s statement said the International House of Prayer is taking necessary steps to minister to its students and protect their safety, and he asked for prayers for Bethany Deaton’s family and friends.

Tyler and Bethany Deaton shared a house in Grandview with several other people, court statements said. 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 has 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 forward. 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.”

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