Were a group of Southwestern University graduates living in Missouri part of an innocent prayer group or a bizarre religious sex cult? After the murder of one of the members, the portrait of the group that is emerging points towards the latter.
Bethany Leidlein Deaton, a 27-year-old nurse originally from Arlington, was found dead in a van near a lake in Kansas City on October 30 with a white trash bag over her head. A purported suicide note was placed beside her body that said the following:
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.
While her death was made to look like a suicide, authorities now believe her husband urged another man in his prayer group—23-year-old Micah Moore—to murder his wife in order to prevent Bethany from telling others that she had been forced to engage in communal sex, Joe Robertson and Donald Bradley reported in the Kansas City Star .
Bethany Deaton and her husband Tyler Deaton, 26, met at Southwestern University in Georgetown, where they were both students. Tyler Deaton, a 2005 graduate of Corpus Christi's Calallen High School, had emerged as a religious leader at Southwestern, forming his own prayer group after not liking the established ones at the school. His group, according to the Star, "prayed longer. Sang stronger. And held its members to stricter interpretations of the Bible." Tyler Deaton's prayer group condemned homosexuality, something that the leader himself had struggled with and had overcome, his friends at Southwestern told the Star.
Bethany and Tyler moved to Grandview, Missouri in 2009 along with other members of the group to study at the International House of Prayer (IHOP), an evangelical organization that trained missionaries for service abroad. They were engaged in February and married in August. But the newlyweds had serious problems, according to reports. Bradley and Robertson wrote that for months, Tyler drugged his wife with someone else's prescription anti-psychotic, Seroquel, and forced her to have sex with other members of his prayer group. One member said that "it was part of a 'religious experience,'" the Star wrote.
Tyler Deaton reportedly was worried that she was about to spill these secrets to her therapist, so he had Moore take care of her, killing her by placing a plastic bag over her head. Moore confessed to his crime to Grandview police.
But the story gets even more twisted: according to an affidavit of probable cause (PDF), Moore not only told a pastor at IHOP that he had killed Bethany, but that he had recorded some of her rapings on his iPad and that he had later penned poetry about the experience.
Want to know more about Tyler Deaton's belief system? A Kansas City television station linked to his blog, where he outlines some of his religious beliefs.