In October of 2012, the body of a young woman was found in a parking lot outside of kansas city, missouri. Police initially ruled the death a suicide... until a young man confessed his involvement nearly two weeks later. details began to emerge about the religious organization that the two had been involved... and its charismatic leader.
May 16th, 2018 Micheal Whelan
On the evening of Thursday, October 30th, 2012, Jackson County investigator Penny Cole received a call, which summoned her to a potential crime scene.
Detective Cole, who worked for the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, drove out to the scene: a picnic area overlooking Longview Lake. This area, just southeast of the larger Kansas City metropolitan area, is wooded and somewhat isolated from the surrounding suburbs.
There, at about 9:40 PM, Detective Cole was shown the scene-in-question: an innocuous-looking tan Ford Windstar, which was parked in the far-northwest area of the parking lot.
In the back seat of the bulky, broad minivan was the body of a young woman. She was curled up in the third row of seats, on the passenger side of the vehicle. She had one leg nestled under the other; as if she was sitting comfortably in her final moments.
She was wearing a light-blue fleece sweater, black sweatpants, running shoes, and still had her diamond wedding ring on her finger.
More apparent and pressing, however, was the white plastic trash bag, which was pulled over her head. The red ties, which closed the opening of the bag, were wrapped together underneath her chin.
Cole and other investigators viewed the scene cryptically, because - what originally seemed to be a simple suicide - looked to be something more.
Inside the minivan, they found items that pointed to a normal, everyday life. Eyeglasses, which had been folded closed and placed in a cup holder. A purple pillow lying beside the young woman, perhaps a creature comfort. Several music CD's produced by the International House of Prayer - a Christian movement based out of the surrounding area. A photo ID on the floorboard, which possibly identified this young woman as "Bethany," who worked as an RN for the nearby Menorah Medical Center.
Other items made the investigators uneasy. A plastic Walmart bag that only had one item inside: a cellphone. A notebook lying nearby, filled with troubled thoughts, unusual lists, and scattered dreams. Unfinished "Thank You" notes for a wedding, which had been recently worked on.
Then, they found the items which pointed directly to a suicide attempt: two separate 200-count bottles of Tylenol PM - of which one was empty, and the other left unopened. And, most definitive, a handwritten note, which looked to be a suicide letter.
The note, which investigators read and reviewed multiple times, told them the identity of this young woman. It also pointed to a story full of unusual characters and unanswered questions; questions which linger to this day.
The suicide letter read in total:
"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."
This is the story of Bethany Deaton.
Bethany Ann Leidlein was born on October 15th, 1985, in San Antonio, Texas to her parents, Eric and Carol. She was just one of five children, including three sisters - Erin, Shannon, and Christin - as well as a single brother - named Matthew.
She grew up in a very religious household, as her family were devout Christians that lived in a suburb of Dallas. She was home-schooled in her youth, before moving on to a nearby high school.
There, she met Teryn O'Brien, who would become a lifelong friend of Bethany's. Together, the two shared their dreams and aspirations with one another. Teryn would later recall Bethany as a romantic at-heart, who would write letters to her future husband and describe him in great detail - as any daydreaming schoolgirl would.
Bethany was known as an easy learner, and a bit of a bookworm. She had read almost every Charles Dickens novel by the age of thirteen, and had a solid understanding of the English language early on. She was described as a gifted writer by those that knew her; her prose was described as both very poetic and lyrical, and she had a gifted way of making her words sound fluid and emotional.
So gifted a writer was she that she earned herself a scholar to Southwestern University, a private institution just outside of Austin, Texas. She began attending the institution in 2005, and she quickly embedded herself in a group of like-minded Christian intellectuals.
Many, who were involved in this group of friends early on, describe Bethany as the lifeblood of this collective:
"She had a quiet energy that flowed through the group. Her life was one of the most luminous and promising I've known."
This group, which grew close due to their faith, also bonded over common interests. One of these interests was their fascination with fantasy stories: in particular, stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, but most especially Harry Potter.
One member said that these stories:
"... fueled our sense of being on a divine mission. One of their chief attractions was a sense of belonging to a secret club with exclusive access to knowledge and power. That was the root of our whole ideology."
One of the members of this group was a young man named Tyler Deaton.
Tyler Deaton had been raised in a devout Presbyterian household, in the rural area of Robstown, Texas - a suburb of Corpus Christi.
Due to growing up in this highly-religious household, Tyler often struggled with his burgeoning sexuality. You see, Tyler Deaton was gay, but struggled to come to terms with that through his life.
In his viewpoint, the gay thoughts he had as a youth - which he thought of an active choice he was making - challenged his faith. This created a splintered ego early on.
"To me, being gay meant - you were this, like, messed up, even like villainous person. You couldn't love God. It was - it was so - I didn't identify as gay."
Because of this, Tyler struggled with his personal identity growing up.
On the outside, he had the traits every guy dreams of: he was tall, handsome, charismatic, and had a personality that endeared himself to others quickly.
But on the inside: he felt worthless. This created a confrontational nature, which drove him to rise to any challenge or situation.
At Calallen High School - in Corpus Christi, Texas - he was in the marching band, and became a champion debater. He ended up in his class's top ten, but had developed a jaded personality that saw everything in black-and-white: you were either with him or against him.
It was this personality which catapulted Tyler to Southwestern University, where he quickly found a group of like-minded thinkers who agreed with him on the basis of Harry Potter being "the greatest series ever written."
In the small groups of friends that came together in the mid-2000s, Tyler was often seen as the leader. Members - like the young and impressionable Boze Harrington - looked up to the charismatic and headstrong Tyler as their unofficial leader.
It was as if he was one of the fantasy characters they read about: like Harry Potter, Tyler's fictional hero, who surrounded himself with a plucky cast of characters while away at school.
In fact, some of those that befriended Tyler in this time period, describe him as having some kind of magical aura that drew others to him. One friend said that Tyler was using a "mysterious power to control others in ways that were unexplainable."
"In the years I was with him, things were constantly happening that I had to shrug away as being 'the work of the Holy Spirit.' Tyler would raise his voice and say 'Jesus!' and the neighbor's music would immediately stop. He would tell the birds to fly away and they would fly away. He would place curses on my appliances so they wouldn't work."
Tyler seemed to embrace this belief, that he was somehow more connected with the Lord. It made him feel special; and in a sick way, it made him feel closer to God himself.
Bethany Leidlein quickly became infatuated with Tyler. Her friends recall her as being "fiercely attracted" to the young man; she was even willing to look past his sexuality, which he tried to suppress. In her mind, she was convinced that God had arranged for the two to be together, and he simply had to overcome his demons.
It would be a lengthy and difficult path for that to happen, though, as Bethany would soon learn.
In the summer of 2007, Tyler left on a missionary trip for his church. This trip took him to Pakistan, where he claims to have had a number of "supernatural" experiences.
Some, looking back, would describe these as some kind of audio hallucinations; however, to Tyler, God was speaking to him directly.
When he returned weeks later, he resumed his normal life.
But while waiting in-line at a Barnes & Noble for the midnight premiere of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," on July 20th, 2007, he claims that God spoke to him again. This time, he was given the idea to form a worship group.
In his words:
"What you just did in Pakistan, you are going to do at Southwestern."
So when the group of friends convened again during the fall semester, they began transitioning into a full-blown worship group. Instead of deciphering Harry Potter books or other fantasy series, they began looking at select Bible verses, trying to understand the motivations of the people described within.
In December of that year, 2007, Tyler attended a conference for the International House Of Prayer - a religious organization that was established in 1983, up north in Grandview, Missouri, by a man named Mike Bickle.
The International House Of Prayer - also known as IHOP in religious circles - promotes 24/7 access to prayer rooms and centers for Christians to gather. However, it also promotes an "end times" philosophy that that Second Coming of Jesus Christ is imminent; the teachings center around the belief that Tribulation will be triggered by those that frequent IHOP prayer centers, and that believers will get to see the return of the Lord within their lifetime.
After attending this conference, while home during Winter Break in 2007, Tyler couldn't contain himself. His life had been changed. He sent his friends a frenetic message, anticipating their upcoming worship group sessions:
"Friends... I kid you not... when I say that I feel God has transformed me more in that short period of time than I have been so far in my life... I have one word attached to one phrase that God has violently poured into my heart. It is... echoing in the heavens right this instant, and I mean that literally... That word, that phrase... is this: REVIVAL through prayer and worship. Friends, I freaking cannot wait to talk to you in person."
Through the rest of the Winter Break, Tyler became infatuated with the teachings and the philosophy promoted by the International House Of Prayer. He became hugely influenced by "The Final Quest," a book written by Rick Joyner, a leader of the New Apostalic Reformation. The book was the perfect mixture between religion and fantasy, and appealed to not only Tyler's personal struggles, but his black-and-white philosophy of the world.
One friend would later remark about how this changed Tyler:
"In some ways, Tyler was as much a victim as anyone else. These apostles destroyed him. I think they drove him mad."
Within months of their return to school - and Tyler's return from his International House Of Prayer initiation - everyone in their worship group had become a "hardcore IHOP'er," as someone later put it.
"It became an integral part of who we were."
Their long-winded discussions, which had once been centered around horcruxes and Tolkein's fascination with language, became centered entirely about religion and spiritual teachings.
Micah Moore, an outsider that was currently drifting through his freshman year at Southwestern University, was introduced to the worship group by Bethany Leidlein. The two had met in an English class in the Fall of 2007, and Micah Moore had a reputation for being a free-loving, open-minded musician that seemed to just wander through campus, often stumbling into groups of musicians to play guitar.
Micah was described as being weird, and slightly "out there." Someone described him as a "space cadet," and a Rolling Stone article would later describe him as being so pleasant it was:
"...almost weird, but not in a creepy way."
When he first arrived at Southwestern in the fall of 2007, he had been a pretty introspective young man who struggled with identity issues of his own. He was described by one member of the worship group as:
"A thoughtful and melancholic young man, going around tugging at his beard and thinking inwardly about things."
But the semester had seemed to break him out of his shell a bit. It was in that semester that he decided to experiment with acid; an experiment that did not end well.
After tripping acid, Micah's self-perception issues began to multiply, and he began to doubt himself, who he was, what his purpose in life was, etc.
So it was in these winter months that the adrift Micah was brought in by Bethany, who thought the young man needed some guidance. He immediately took to the discussions they offered, seeing the religious imagery as an answer to the questions he had been asking in the preceding weeks. He quickly became one of the most zealous members of their group; in particular, he became a hardened follower of Tyler, who he saw as the leader of this burgeoning group.
As Micah would later state:
"With a community of believers around me, I'm not vulnerable."
By the spring of 2008, the worship group had grown to roughly twenty or so members; all of whom looked up to Tyler as their "leader." With the way he spoke about the Lord, and the alleged conversations they had held, they assumed that he had a close relationship with God.
Looking back, however, many see this as the year which Tyler began to exert his influence in ways that were untoward. When members of the group began to couple off, Tyler would make comments about them not being a correct match. He would then try to pawn each person off with someone else, in a pairing that was doomed to fail, thus souring group efforts to find love in early adulthood.
He also began imposing odd punishments on people for weird infractions that he found off-putting, such as innocent flirting. This would be combated by shunning or silent treatments, which deterred that type of behavior in the future.
It was clear that trouble was brewing, but these young men and women weren't well-equipped to see the writing on the walls. They were worried about losing the friends they had accumulated in their college careers thus far. Besides, their faith was what had brought them together, and what made them hold Tyler Deaton in such high esteem.
To some members in the group, it was Tyler's opinion that carried the most weight. Whatever he said went.
This included thoughts about the Lord, and what many would see as inappropriate physical contact. Tyler seemed to make subtle advances on other men in the group, always brushing off negative responses by saying it was a sign of camaraderie, or friendship. He said that it was bonding that brought both of them closer to the Lord - and many of them struggled to say no when Tyler began play-wrestling or even cuddling with them in their dorm rooms.
Bethany, to her credit, had not given up on her endless crush. Despite Tyler at one point telling her directly "It'll never happen," she continued to hold out hope. During the summer of 2008, she became deeply depressed when three years of pursuing Tyler had resulted in no changes in their relationship, and both friends and family noted this summer as the turning point in Bethany's behavior.
But it was Micah Moore - the impressionable young man that fled into the open arms of Tyler Deaton - that experienced some of the most noticeable changes throughout this year. At the beginning of the year, he had been a wayward son, searching for answers where they were none; and found this worship group. Through the year, he became more and more infatuated with the International House Of Prayer, beginning to see demons in every shadow. Often times, he would break down and begin "speaking in tongues," claiming that God and demons were speaking through him.
In November of 2008, Micah claimed to have a vision, in which he predicted a tragedy at Southwestern University. On December 3rd, the worship made mention of the dark clouds on the horizon, in which they thought the Tribulation they had been praying for had finally arrived.
On December 4th, the campus was abuzz with news that philosophy major Rob Atkinson - a fellow student - had been hit by a car and had passed away. Atkinson was a student who often butted heads with the worship group's philosophy - namely, Tyler Deaton's mentality of "us versus them." At one point, Tyler had referred to Atkinson as a "harbinger of the antichrist."
Tyler saw this as a good sign: that those who stood against the worship group were being vanquished. Remember that "black-and-white" mentality I told you that he favored?
Members of the group took the death of Rob Atkinson as a good sign, ignoring the tragic loss that he was for the community and his loved ones. They celebrated his passing, and this further cemented the teachings Tyler was promoting.
When they separated for winter break, they said goodbye to Micah Moore for the foreseeable future. Micah would transfer to the University Of Texas that semester, as his parents were legitimately concerned for his mental health; a therapist would later confirm this when they made the professional assertion that Micah had suffered a psychotic break, related to his fear of demonic possession.
The rest of the group, however, was looking for a way to continue on their worship, and make it a more permanent fixture. You see, the death of Rob Atkinson had turned them into true believers; at this point, their faith was unyielding.
Bethany graduated magna cum laude from Southwestern University in the Spring of 2009, with a BA degree in English and a minor in Spanish.
However, instead of taking her degree and starting a career as a talented writer, she decided to accompany Tyler to Grandview, Missouri - the home of the International House Of Prayer.
This was right after the Recession had hit the Midwest particularly hard, and IHOP was investing heavily in the area of Grandview. They had bought over 125 acres of land, and were putting tens of million dollars to increase the area's infrastructure - and this included new buildings for their organization to expand.
Tyler Deaton and Bethany Leidlein started their own chapter of the "One Thing" internship program for IHOP - a program which lasts roughly five months, in which you are immersed fully into Bible study and work programs.
Between 8:00 in the morning and 4:00 in the afternoon, these "interns" would analyze biblical theology, and then worship in the prayer room from 6:00 PM until midnight.
Tyler and Bethany - among others in their group - served as chaperones for the different houses, which were separated by gender. I'll refer to each as the "men's house" and the "women's house" throughout the episode. These two houses were roughly four miles apart from one another, but met up every day for group discussions and Bible study.
Tyler began to refer to their program as "The Community," and the name stuck: after all, what Tyler said went. Boze Harrington, a member of the college worship group who moved into this Community, described what Tyler was hoping to accomplish by naming his offshoot of the program:
"God told Tyler that... that our group was specially chosen to show the rest of the world what it looked like to live in community, to be really Christian. To be radical."
Throughout this year, in which Tyler and Bethany made such a huge life decision - moving to the same city and working for the same religious institution - you'd imagine that her infatuation with Tyler would have passed over by now; that she might have accepted that Tyler and her weren't meant to be together.
According to most people involved, Bethany was still head-over-heels for Tyler, and willing to wait as long as-needed in order to earn his love and affection.
Tyler, who had long been struggling with his own sexuality, finally agreed to start dating Bethany that summer. He stated that in a moment, in which the two were in the prayer room late at night, he was overcome with love and affection for her; and on a summer evening, after taking a walk together, he asked her if she'd go on a date with him.
Shortly thereafter, he told her that he intended to pursue her "unto marriage."
It was a dream-come-true for Bethany, who was finally getting to spend time with the man she had loved for over three years.
However, those that were witness to their relationship - the members of the worship group that were now members of "The Community," as Tyler called it - thought that something else was afoot. They all noticed that the couple never shared any public displays of affection; Tyler even remarked at one point that they wouldn't even kiss until their engagement, over two-and-a-half-years later. To some, their relationship looked "staged."
Bethany, who had long dreamed of settling down with the man of her dreams and having a little boy named Samuel, was hoping that Tyler would become the husband she had once written letters to as a teenage girl.
Tyler Deaton, in response, called these whimsical dreams "selfish."
In 2010, Tyler Deaton continued to increase his sway over the other members of their IHOP Community, urging them to cut off contact with family members and loved ones that seemed to deter them from their faith - and from him.
It was at around this time - now that the group had around twenty-five members - that he began insisting that his purpose in life was to focus full-time on the ministry, and to begin preaching for a living. However, because of this, he needed the others to support him... financially.
Members that had attended Southwestern University with Tyler - and who had once been hopeful to begin careers of their own - were now forced to take on menial jobs in order to support Tyler and "The Community" that he was curating.
One member of their worship group, who had not move out to Grandview with the others, stated about their former friends:
"They became shells of themselves. Once you went to Kansas City, you didn't leave."
It was during this time, as Tyler Deaton began to focus on "The Community" full-time, that his teachings began to become more erratic. The "end times" philosophy of IHOP had always been a conceptual thing. But now, Tyler began preparing and stockpiling for the Great Tribulation: when good would battle evil for dominion of their souls. He also began actively training members of "The Community" for this militant view of the apocalypse.
In the summer of 2010, a familiar face returned to the fold: Micah Moore, who had transferred to the University of Texas the year before. His mental state had continued to deteriorate in the year apart, and was allowed back into the group, where he immediately moved into the men's house. His parents were hopeful that a return to some kind of spiritual guidance would help him get his mind on right once again.
At this point, Tyler had almost unfettered control of the group, and no one challenged him when he made a decision that would unilaterally affect everyone. If he thought something was for the good of the group, everyone else in "The Community" went along with it.
When a member began to express themselves in ways that Tyler viewed as "nonconformity," Tyler organized a collective shunning of this member. It was Boze Harrington, who had been friends with both Bethany and Tyler for years. For the next few weeks, Boze was ignored by everyone in the group, whose only communication with the rest of "The Community" came in the form of a note under his door from time-to-time, informing him of decisions that had been made without his input.
When the leaders of the International House Of Prayer caught wind of this power trip Tyler Deaton had been on, they were not pleased. They informed Tyler that the shunned member, Boze, was to be allowed back into the group, but that didn't stop Tyler from his mistreatment. He began to demand that this member eat his meals on the floor, like a dog, and verbally abused Boze constantly.
He was even given a contingent of three members, who followed him around 24/7 to keep an eye on him.
It was clear that, by this point, the members of "The Community" were living in a full-blown cult. But those involved were too invested in their faith, and their leader - Tyler - to see otherwise.
Throughout 2010 and 2011, Tyler and Bethany had been dating, but their relationship was always seen as odd.
They only ever really spent time together on Tuesdays and Fridays, but for a limited time. Their activities together included one date night, but their main hobby was baking, which it seems like they did enjoy doing together.
Bethany entered an accelerated nursing program in 2011, at Menorah Medical Center; which was across state lines, in Overland Park, Kansas.
Kate Farlow, Bethany's supervisor at this nursing program, said that Bethany was "a gifted young woman." When asked to describe her, she said that she was a most excellent nurse, whose empathy was apparent to anyone that met her.
"She was very spiritual and very inspiring in the way she loved talking to patients."
However, in her personal life, Bethany was becoming more reserved. Some described her as being "jumpy" and "insecure" - both words were used by Bethany's childhood friend, Teryn, who came to visit in December of that year.
Many describe the sadness that seemed to be hiding behind Bethany's big, blue eyes, which had once seemed so full of hope and promise. Her once ever-cheerful demeanor was gone.
In August of 2012, Bethany finished up her accelerated nursing program, just in time for her marriage to Tyler Deaton.
The two tied the knot on August 18th, 2012, in a ceremony that was described by Bethany's friends and family in the following terms: weird, awful, uncomfortable, difficult to watch, a mistake.
Carol Leidlein, Bethany's mother, described the ceremony in an interview:
"We weren't even participants. We were observers to this... messianic-type union taking place."
What had once been the summation of Bethany's childhood dreams had instead become an odd religious experience, likely orchestrated by Tyler himself.
Teryn O'Brien, Bethany's friend from high school, described her thoughts during the wedding:
"And I remember thinking, she is still beautiful but it's almost this faded, wilted kind of beauty. Like this, this isn't Bethany anymore.
"It was almost like I felt like I had completely lost her. And that now that she was married to Tyler she was completely gone."
But still, even amidst this bitter disappointment, Bethany was hopeful for the future. As she and Tyler got ready to head out on their honeymoon, she was all smiles.
Her mother, Carol, said:
"She was radiantly happy."
To most of her friends and family, the pictures of her smiling as she prepared to be whisked away to the airport - heading off to parts unknown - are the last happy memories they have of Bethany.
Carol Leidlein, her mom, stated:
"I was happy for her - even if I didn't maybe see it. I still thought... she's a smart girl... she's never made a bad decision ever in her life. So we trusted that she knew... what the right thing was."
When Tyler and Bethany Deaton - now officially married - returned from their three-week honeymoon to Costa Rica, people were expecting to see a couple that had come together, for once and for all.
However, what they found was that the two had not so much as headed off on vacation as husband-and-wife, but more like brother-and-sister.
Tyler, who had long struggled with his sexuality, had been unable to bring himself to consummate the marriage. He said as much, both months and years later.
To Bethany, who had been looking forward to a long and happy marriage... this was close to the straw that broke the camel's back. She had been longing for her knight in shining armor to sweet her off of her feet... and was instead forced to claw and scratch for every ounce of affection - most of which felt forced - from her newfound husband.
Bethany talked to a counselor and a number of her close friends about the marital issues she had been having with Tyler, and described a three-week honeymoon in which she had spent a large chunk of time reading though the Twilight series instead of any intimacy.
When the two returned, Bethany seemed unwell... almost uneasy within her own skin.
She moved into the basement bedroom of the men's house, which was Tyler's bedroom. However, because of Tyler's issues with his own sexuality and intimacy, she spent a number of nights each week sleeping on the couch. More often than not, she ended up in her old bedroom at the women's house.
When asked why, she said that she "needed space," or was feeling "too controlled" by Tyler.
Weeks later, many would describe a semi-abusive relationship unfolded in the background of "The Community," similar to that having been faced by Boze Harrington the year before. Whenever Bethany tried to raise her marital issues with Tyler Deaton, he often lashed out and either publicly ostracized or shunned Bethany, which resulted in her issues compounding upon themselves.
Because of the way that Tyler had structured this community of his, many of Bethany's resources were tapped. She didn't have anyone to communicate with, the relationships with old friends and family stunted by Tyler's need to fray any dissenting opinions.
Later on, many of these loved ones - who lived hours away - would recall having no idea that Bethany was facing any of these problems. The way they described Bethany, she was often the kind of person to internalize her problems, instead of reaching out to fix them. And with Tyler stunting any kind of relationship growth, she kept taking her problems to-heart, where they would continue to fester.
Looking back, it was becoming evident that Bethany Leidlein - now Bethany Deaton - needed help.
Throughout September and October of 2012, Bethany's emotional and mental state continued to deteriorate, and she began to make comments that pointed to serious issues that were going untreated.
Tyler Deaton, her husband, later stated:
"She got more and more depressed and upset. She started saying things like 'my soul is ruined'... 'I'm just gonna go to hell now, I'm just gonna go to hell.' And I remember the first time she said this stuff, I was like, 'What are you talking about?'"
In emails dated October 16th, members of "The Community" began discussing their fears of Bethany's deteriorating state, and indicated that she was close to snapping. She was now at-risk of not only losing her job, but the idea that she was approaching suicide was brought up for the first time.
On October 23rd, 2012, Bethany's mental state was brought to the point of threatening suicide. She brought a cup of windshield wiper fluid into the house, where she confronted Tyler about their relationship issues. He managed to take the cup away and contacted the police.
When the police responded, Bethany was asked if she had had any suicidal thoughts. In response to one of these questions, she responded:
"It would be easier to die than to change."
It was then that Bethany was taken into protective custody, at Truman Medical Center in Kansas City proper.
While in protective custody, and being constantly monitored by nurses and medical health experts, she made several comments that alluded to some kind of reckoning awaiting her. She told doctors, more than once, that she was damned and could not achieve salvation.
Despite this, she was released from protective custody just two days later - on October 25th, 2012. Her husband, Tyler, argued against her release, saying that she was still suicidal, but that didn't help matters.
Bethany returned to "The Community" - a group program that was supposed to promote a loving, caring environment, where anyone could join in and be a part of a family. But Bethany now felt more alone and hopeless than ever.
On October 29th, Bethany was struggling with a severe depression, and her uncaring lethargy got the better of her. When she failed to finish up her daily chores, another member of "The Community" threatened to get her kicked out if she didn't start carrying her own weight.
Word of this eventually got back to her husband, Tyler, who was holding a prayer session that evening. In his sermon, Tyler preached for members to choose between "The Community" or their own personal selfishness.
This seemed to affect Bethany quite prominently. During her arguments with Tyler about their marriage woes, he had often complained about her "selfishness" not taking priority over the Lord. Now, he was holding a public sermon among all of her friends, which seemed to be a scolding, ostracizing critique of her as an individual.
Her own husband, Tyler later described her behavior during this prayer session:
"And Bethany was sitting with her back up against the wall curled up into a ball with this, like, mortified facial expression."
Those in attendance later recall this as being the last straw for Bethany Deaton. Whatever was left of her self-worth was completely devastated.
October 30th, 2012 - a Tuesday - started off like any other day.
Members of "The Community" started off with their regular daily activities - whether it be analysis of bible theology, prayer sessions, or the day jobs they were partaking in to maintain the group.
Bethany, who was living in the man's house with Tyler, stopped by the woman's house early that morning, to drop off a couple of belongings for the people that lived there. Those that encountered her say that she was quiet and withdrawn.
When asked if she was going to work at the hospital, she responded with a timid "no." Then when asked where she was going, she responded with an ominious "I don't know."
Debit card and surveillance footage shows that Bethany stopped by a nearby Walmart a little while later; then, she stopped by a Flying J truck stop/convenience store shortly thereafter.
It was approximately twelve hours later, that Detective Penny Cole of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office received a call, beckoning her to the Longview Lake Picnic Shelter Number 12, where the body of Bethany Deaton had been found in the third row of seats of her tan Ford Windstar.
Detective Cole stated, in an interview with "48 Hours":
"She was sitting in the back of the van on the right hand side, kind of leaned up against the window."
She was found with two bottles of Tylenol PM - one bottle had been empty, and the other remained unopened.
A white plastic bag had been tied over her head - presumably, by herself.
The initial assumption was that Bethany had made the decision to end her own life. The empty Tylenol bottle, paired with the bag over her head, indicated that she had gone through with it; deciding that two options were more effective than one.
A notebook in the car, full of Bethany's troubled and scattered thoughts, pointed to a deteriorating mental state.
However, a few things raised some alarms for Detective Cole.
She had a diamond wedding ring on her finger, and the police found unfinished "Thank You" cards inside the car. It seemed to them that she had been working on them shortly before making the decision to commit suicide, and that seemed odd. Then again, people in troubled mindsets always make odd decisions in the heat-of-the-moment, so it didn't seem too out-of-the-ordinary.
But then there was the suicide letter, which made it easy for investigators to find the identity of this young woman.
"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."
When Detective Penny Cole tracked down the husband of this deceased woman - who had gotten married a little over two months beforehand - her suspicions were heightened:
"When I spoke to Tyler, I did not see the reaction that I expected from a newlywed at all. And it kind of made the hair on the back of my neck stand up."
That evening, it was confirmed that 27-year old Bethany Deaton, had been found dead in the picnic area overlooking Longview Lake.
Almost immediately, the Jackson County Medical Examiner's Office had ruled Bethany's death a suicide. Within days, her body would be released for burial in her hometown of Arlington, Texas.
Carol Leidlein, Bethany's mother, said:
"She's dead and we just couldn't even cry. It just sucked the air out of us, just sucked everything out of us."
On the night that Bethany was found dead, "The Community" in which she had lived in for years convened at the women's house. Together, they met for a prayer service, led by Micah Moore - the troubled youth that Bethany had introduced to the group nearly five years beforehand.
Members of the group described Micah as seeming "relieved" throughout the service, and stated that he was:
"... laughing and looking happy, as he always did when he was leading worship and playing guitar."
Tyler Deaton, Bethany's now-widower husband, told the group at this prayer session:
"Stay upbeat and press into the Lord, but this community is bigger than one person."
The very next day, the worship group convened again, with the memory of Bethany fresh in their minds. Tyler again spoke to his community, speaking in an erratic tone:
"As some of you know already, I am a man who is in love with idea, and crazy paradigms! And when they brought me Bethany's body, at first I cried. But then I laughed, because I said to her, 'Bethany, if you could see you, you would not like the way you look right now!'
"And last night, we had worship time together, very briefly, as a group, and it was wonderful and it just showed me the Lord's supremacy over this wretched thing that is death. And I thought to myself, 'What a crazy paradigm!' And then I thought, 'Bethany would love my paradigm, because she loved me and was so fiercely supportive, and believed me hundreds of times when I thought was crazy or heretical.'"
On November 6th, over a hundred people crammed into a small funeral home onlooking Longview Lake, the body of water which Bethany had been found near.
Together, these hundred or so people memorialized and remembered Bethany Leidlein Deaton, a woman whose positive spirit had touched the hearts of many throughout her life.
However, the service was described as odd by many - those were were unaware of the life that Bethany had been living, within "The Community." Present were higher-ranking members of the International House Of Prayer, who had come to pay their respects to a life lost too soon.
It was during this service, that some comments raised alarms among leaders of IHOP. The comments, made by members of Tyler's "Community," touched on some issues plaguing the group, which had been brought on by Tyler himself.
The very next day, Tyler was informed by the International House Of Prayer that he was no longer welcome on church property - and this included "The Community" housing that he had spent years trying to cultivate and grow.
On November 8th, 2012, the death certificate for Bethany Deaton was signed by the medical examiner. It officially listed her cause of death as asphyxiation, and her manner of death as suicide.
The day after - November 9th, 2012, a Friday - the family of Bethany Deaton prepared to finally put her body to rest. However, as they gathered at the cemetery, overlooking Longview Lake, her mother recalled getting a phone call from investigators:
"They called us... to say that they needed her body back and... they didn't want us to bury her that day."
Earlier that day - November 9th, 2012 - Micah Moore, Bethany's longtime friend, walked into the Grandview Police Department.
Moore, who was twenty-three years old at this point in time, was accompanied by two International House Of Prayer leaders: Lenny LaGuardia and Kevin Hardy.
LaGuardia and Hardy had spoken with Micah after they overheard some odd comments at Bethany's memorial service, and were now here to accompany Micah as he spoke to a detective. As Micah walked back with an officer, the two members of IHOP waited in the Grandview P.D. lobby.
Micah was here, early on a Friday morning, to confess.
In an interrogation room, Micah Moore told police that he had killed Bethany Deaton, on the orders of her husband Tyler. He gave the police a sickening series of details, which began with Bethany drinking water laced with Seroquel - an anti-psychotic medication, which often resulted in sleepiness and sluggishness. According to Micah's confession, after being dosed with this drug, she had then been killed by Micah's own hands.
In his words, he put the white plastic trash bag over her head, and "held it there until her body shook."
In the statement released later, Micah's confession also included the detail that the bag appeared to be "inhaled into the mouth of the deceased."
Colonel Ben Kenney, of the Jackson County Sheriff's Office, later stated about this confession:
"When Micah came in and told his story... that was the missing piece.
"When talking to Micah, he was - very reluctant to speak. it was... like he was tryin' to think of what to say or getting approval to say from someone.
"What he had confessed to fell back into place with the bag - the condition of Bethany's eyes, the grasping for air, being either restricted or strangled around her throat."
This confession seemed to connect some dots for the investigators, and the many thoughts they had had early on.
Colonel Kenney and Detective Penny Cole had often struggled with the idea of a newlywed committing suicide just two months after her marriage, and less than a month-and-a-half after returning from a honeymoon. How could have things have progressed so poorly in such a short amount of time?
And, it's worth mentioning, that when Bethany's body had been examined by the Jackson County Medical Examiner, they had been surprised to find her eyes still open. This indicated that, despite seeming to ingest a bottle's worth of Tylenol PM, that asphyxiation had been the cause of death. Their doubt had come from whether this had been done by Bethany's own hand, or perpetrated by someone else... and now Micah's confession was throwing the suicide manner-of-death into doubt.
Colonel Kenney stated about this:
"She wasn't asleep. And - most people, when they overdose with some kind of sleeping medication, they just - their body just starts to slow down and shuts down."
Family of Bethany had also had their doubts before her burial, when they learned that the drug she had consumed was Tylenol PM. They questioned why she - a registered nurse - would use some over-the-counter drug, when she had been working at the hospital two days before her death.
In addition to this drastic claim, that he had been personally responsible for Bethany's death, Micah's confession also raised some more startling accusations.
Micah claimed that Bethany had been dosed with Seroquel more than once, with it becoming a repeated pattern of abuse that had begun once she moved into the men's house of Tyler Deaton's IHOP "Community." He said that in the two months preceding her death, Bethany had been drugged and then sexually assaulted by several men within the household... and now, with her deteriorating emotional state, they were worried that she would begin telling authorities.
Micah Moore indicated that Bethany's husband, Tyler, was most likely not involved, but was at the very least aware. After all, he micro-managed everything within the organization, and had a say when it came to everyday operations within the two households.
Micah also said that some of these sexual assaults had been filmed on an iPad within the men's home.
It was after this confession that Bethany's mother, Carol, was phoned by detectives, who informed her and the rest of the family that they needed to perform further examinations of Bethany's body.
The investigation into Bethany's death was being reopened.
On the following Monday morning, the president of International House Of Prayer's University, Allen Hood, released an official statement about this turn of events:
"The International House of Prayer University (IHOPU) faculty was saddened by the tragic death of Bethany Leidlein Deaton on October 30. Bethany had attended a six-month internship at IHOPU in 2009 and went on to become a registered nurse working in a local hospital.
On November 10, we were shocked when the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office notified us that an IHOPU student by the name of Micah Moore, a man who knew Bethany since their college days in Texas, had been charged with her murder.
Since Bethany’s death it has come to light that over five years ago, both she and Mr. Moore joined an independent, close-knit, religious group in Georgetown, Texas. This religious group of fewer than 20 people was led by Tyler Deaton. They relocated to Kansas City over the last few years and operated under a veil of secrecy.
This group has always operated independently of the university, and it is important to all of us that this group’s secrecy and disturbing religious practices are fully exposed.
Mr. Deaton led his religious group entirely independently from IHOPU, though he and some of his members were enrolled in our university.
We have been working closely with the local authorities in their ongoing investigation into Bethany’s death. We continue to fully assist all law enforcement agencies in their efforts to uncover the extent and specifics of this horrific crime.
We are currently taking all necessary steps to minister to our students and ensure their safety and well-being. As an educational institution built around the priority of prayer, we ask everyone to please join us in praying for Bethany’s family and friends and all affected by her tragic and untimely death.
Due to the ongoing police investigation we have no further comment at this time."
At this time period, IHOP made it official that they were severing ties with Tyler Deaton and whatever offshoot of their organization he had co-opted.
Mike Bickle, the founder of the International House Of Prayer, would even release a video sermon in which he warned about the danger of cults, and the manipulative ways they lured people in.
Ed Novak, one of the lawyers who represented the International House Of Prayer, laid out in a statement for the press:
"IHOP did not know what Deaton was doing. The group that he organized and was working with, IHOP has no knowledge of, no oversight over, and no participation in."
Keith Gibson, an evangelical pastor and author, spoke out in defense of and also against IHOP's response to this incident. He later stated that he believed IHOP wasn't responsible for what had happened to Bethany in any way, "but it would seem that the structures to correct abuse are not strongly in place."
This was echoed by many family and friends who responded to the news of Bethany's death, which now infected the local media. Tyler's "Community," which had long since been associated with the International House Of Prayer, was being referred to as a "cult" in the press, and many loved ones were in shock that something as malicious as this could be hiding in plain sight.
Within days, the men's and women's houses were empty of any participants, as parents and other relatives came to pick up the young men and women who were still living there and participating in bible study.
The women who lived in "The Community" were in shock of the allegations being made against Tyler and the other men in the men's house, especially the alleged cruel treatment of Bethany within their confines.
Anna Alvarez, a woman who lived down the street from "The Community" housing, stated about her thoughts about the organization and its spread through her hometown:
"IHOP has always kind of given me the creeps.
"They tend to attract people who are already naive. They think that everybody in the organization is just like them, but it's really easy if a wolf is there to just pull it apart."
As the men's house and women's house emptied of content and residents, many of the people that had once lived there began speaking to investigators. The more that they spoke, the more that police realized a disturbing story had been unfolding in the background of this story for months... if not even years.
Multiple men in the house told detectives that they had been engaging in sex acts with Tyler Deaton over their time in "The Community."At least three described this as a "sexual relationship," and one in particular described this as a "long-term relationship."
One of the young men in the house described a troubling series of events, in which Tyler had "groomed" him to be a part of sex acts. It had started with uncomfortable physical contact - such as play wrestling or unusual cuddling - that ended up resulting in sexual activity, as time had gone on.
To many in the house, who now realized that they had become associated with a cult, Tyler was described as "manipulative." He had described sex as a "religious experience," and had used his alleged affinity with God to manipulate this impressionable young men into having sex with him.
One of the young men in this house described Tyler's actions in the following way:
"It was a skillfully orchestrated system of debauchery that shattered the wills of the boys under Tyler's care and crushed their spirits."
One young man in the household told detectives that Tyler had told him about a weird dream he'd had, roughly three days after Bethany's body had been found. In this dream, Tyler had described suffocating Bethany to death, which caused him to have troubled thoughts in the following days.
This was a revelation to the media, and the families of those affected by the collapse of this Community. The police also made sure to pay attention to the claims being made: after all, when you begin a murder investigation, you start with those closest to the victim. In particular, their spouses... and when either large financial transactions or infidelity are a part of the investigation, it can lead to heightened suspicions.
And with this news, everything that Tyler had done and said in the aftermath of Bethany's death came under incredible scrutiny. His odd reaction to being told of her death, his odd comments in sermons, and now Micah's confession... all of it painted Tyler in a very unflattering light.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said about this news:
"Each case is a puzzle. And this one's got hundreds of pieces."
With Bethany's death getting a second look at, one of the major pieces of evidence was receiving some additional scrutiny, as well: her suicide letter, which had been found nearby her body, inside her minivan.
Loved ones, who were familiar with Bethany and her writing, had always expressed disbelief that she had written it. After all, she had won a scholarship to Southwestern University because of her writing prowess, and the suicide note was very... tough-to-read.
One friend of Bethany stated:
"Someone who wrote so beautiful couldn't have written something that inarticulate."
Boze Harrington, another member of the community, expressed some reserved doubt of his own:
"The suicide note sounded nothing like her. But, of course, if she had been as broken as she seems to have been at that point it would make sense that it didn't sound like her if - if she had written it. But there's no way normal her would have written that."
Within two weeks of his original confession, Micah Moore had recanted the statements he'd made, which implicated Tyler Deaton and himself in the death of Bethany.
His lawyer, Melanie Morgan, spoke to the press, and released a statement in which she declared the confession "bizarre" and "fictional," which was made by a "distraught and confused young man."
A year or so later, Morgan would then say that the confession came after an exorcism performed by IHOP leadership; pointing the finger at the organization itself, and claiming that Micah was a highly-impressionable young man who was under a lot of emotional anguish, after the loss of Bethany and the removal of Tyler from "The Community."
Micah Moore had apparently confessed to police on the morning of Friday, November 9th, 2012, in a very manic state. He had not slept for days, and after an impromptu exorcism performed by the International House Of Prayer, made all kinds of claims he couldn't verify. He was taken into custody, where he awoke hours later, unaware that he had confessed to anything.
This recant was dismissed, and prosecutors made it clear that they were going to pursue the investigation anyways.
Later in November of that year, 2012, Micah was indicted on first-degree murder charges.
Over the next couple of months, many began to wonder if Tyler himself was going to face any charges. After all, Micah's confession placed the blame for the death solely upon himself and Tyler, who seemingly orchestrated the death. But by January of 2013, no charges had been filed against Tyler.
On January 17th, 2013, Micah Moore entered a not-guilty plea, with his attorney stating that the confession had since been recanted by Moore, and that it was the only piece of evidence tying him to Bethany's death. They continued to state, in court, that Bethany's death was a tragic loss, which appeared to be suicide.
Micah Moore was granted bail shortly thereafter, eventually getting out on a $250,000 bond. He would decline to make any public comments while awaiting trial.
Over the next year, things continued to change.
The family of Bethany Leidlein Deaton continued to wait for answers regarding their loved one. They were eventually able to bury Bethany, but had to wait for resolution regarding her open investigation.
The other members of "The Community" - who remained blameless in Bethany's death - were struggling to re-adjust themselves back to civilian life. They had spent months, perhaps even years, within the confines of this group, and had to come to grips with the fact that they had been duped by someone who was, in essence, a charismatic cult leader.
Tyler Deaton, Bethany's husband, had lost everything he had spent years building up. His worship group-turned-"Community" had turned its back on him, and fallen into complete disarray. After he had been kicked out by the International House Of Prayer, he had moved back to Texas, where he got a job working as a pre-calculus teacher at a high school in Lancaster, just south of Dallas.
His tenure was short-lived, however, as he was let go in April of 2013 after students began Googling his name, and discovered the series of events that had led him back to the state of Texas. Despite being well-liked by students and the rest of the staff, he was suspended in April, pending a review, and then not asked back for the following year.
Micah Moore, Bethany's friend, was waiting for his upcoming trial, which would determine the rest of his life. If he was found guilty, he was looking at a life sentence, or perhaps even a death sentence.
These questions would linger until the following year, when this happened:
In October of 2014, nearly two years after Bethany had been found in the parking lot overlooking Longview Lake, all charges were dropped against Micah Moore.
Jean Peters Baker, the prosecutor in-charge of the case, stated that she had consulted Bethany's family before making her decision - a statement that is openly rejected by Bethany's family, who say they were told of the decision but given no input.
Baker made a statement about this case, which was closed due to a lack of evidence:
"My office concluded that we could not ethically continue to pursue the case given the current evidence against Micah Moore. The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
In the preceding two years, police and other authorities had been looking for any evidence to back up the series of events laid out in Micah Moore's November 9th confession. However, the evidence they were able to accumulate suggested, overwhelmingly, that Bethany Deaton had, in fact, committed suicide.
Going directly to Micah's statements, several things stood out to investigators. In particular, throughout Micah's original confession, he had talked about Bethany being killed in the front seat of the minivan; whereas, police had found her in the third row of seats,on the passenger side.
Then there were issues with the timeline presented. Micah Moore had originally stated that he had killed Bethany before 10:00 in the morning; however, video footage showed him at the Community housing for class at around 10:00 AM. That information, paired with surveillance images that showed Bethany at a Walmart and a convenience store in the same time frame, buying the Tylenol PM that would be found in the vehicle with her, went against Micah's confession.
That, and the fact that Bethany's debit card had been used after 10:00 that morning, which put the timeline Micah presented into complete disarray.
Another major component of Micah's confession was the claims that Bethany had been drugged and repeatedly sexually assaulted before her death. When the medical examiners took a second look at her body, they found no trace of Seroquel - the drug Micah claimed she had been drugged with. Secondly, they found no evidence of any sexual assaults taking place; in fact, the physical evidence suggested that Bethany had been a virgin at the time of her death, which also cemented the lack of any intimacy between her and her husband of two months.
In Micah's original confession, he had also stated that some of these sexual assaults had been filmed on an iPad, and police had seized several of these devices from the men's house in order to review them. They found no such videos, or any proof that they had once existed.
Furthermore, investigators found no DNA evidence of Micah Moore within the vehicle in which Bethany had been found in, and several handwriting analysts - including those within the FBI - determined that the suicide note was written by Bethany.
The second examination of Bethany's body had revealed to investigators that she had died of asphyxiation, but the manner of death had been changed from "suicide" to "undetermined." It was clear that prosecutors wanted to keep their options open, should more evidence come to light.
Because of this overwhelming lack of evidence, prosecutors had become aware that their only legitimate shred of proof was Micah's confession - which they knew would never hold up in court. After all, Micah did have a history of psychotic episodes, usually tied into claims of "demonic possession." Because of this, as well as the religious beliefs of the others within the group, his testimony would not be taken seriously.
This case had shown itself to prosecutors to be one that would be doomed from the start, so after years of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, they decided to cut their losses... and in the process, cut Micah Moore free.
Melanie Morgan, the defense attorney for Micah Moore, had gotten the charges against Micah dropped due to a motion she had filed earlier that month, in October.
In it, she claims that Micah had been manipulated by a subgroup within the International House Of Prayer, called Prisoners Of Hope. On the day before his confession - November 8th, 2012 - they had apparently conducted a bizarre religious experiment with members of the group, referred to as an "exorcism."
This had led to Micah's increasingly paranoid state, in which he lost sleep and his grip on reality.
Melanie Morgan, Micah's attorney, claimed in her motion that his confession was a "reactive psychotic episode," which was triggered by the loss of his friend, Bethany, and the crippling realization that he was in a cult. She also stated that the real tragedy of this story was that:
"... a young woman with severe depression went untreated, and she was surrounded by people who loved her but didn't get the help she needed.
"Micah deeply regrets that his statements, even though retracted quickly and contradicted by the physical evidence, compounded the pain suffered by Ms. Deaton's family."
Micah Moore has since refused to speak to the media or the press, even when CBS began putting together a "48 Hours" special about the case and the people involved.
However, he has made some comments online, in which he blames the International House Of Prayer for his false confession.
"... they are not prophets, they are manipulators."
These comments mirror statements made by other members of the group, who have discussed the drastic efforts made by IHOP to get Micah's confession, and to wash their hands of Tyler Deaton and his unusual teachings.
Micah Moore has also made it pretty clear that he regrets ever choosing to follow Tyler Deaton, and the two have had no contact in the years since.
Tyler Deaton moved to the Dallas area after the death of Bethany and the dissolution of his "Community," eventually gaining and losing a job as a high school math teacher over the first half of 2013.
He is since believed to have returned to the Corpus Christi area that his family lives in. Reporters have tried to contact Tyler, but he lives anonymously because he fears social and public repercussions.
Surprisingly, when CBS put together their "48 Hours" special on Bethany's death, Tyler was cooperative. He wanted to appear and to clear his name, but only ended up compounding the thoughts and opinions of many.
While on-camera, he appeared very off-putting, constantly smiling and laughing about questions which were very serious. Now, I'm not going to make assumptions about anyone for odd behaviors, I'm just pointing out something that several people online have taken issue with. Many skeptics have described his behavior as "detached."
He told "48 Hours" investigators:
"My gift and something that is also a curse is that I am charismatic. I've owned that from the beginning and I'll own that to the end. I can be electric and magnetic. It can affect people."
When asked whether he was a cult leader of sorts, with a large amount of influence over the members of his group, he responded:
"Yes there was - there was influence that was excessive in control. But the image that the media makes of this, like, grossly sociopathic, narcissistic, control freak cult leader personality is just... dumb. And it drives me crazy. It's like 'Could be talk about what actually happened?'"
He also told the interviewer:
"Everybody left me in a day, except for one friend. Everybody left me in a day. If I'm a cult leader, I'm a really bad culd leader. In the course of 10 days, I lost Bethany... and then I lost all my friends... I lost the church I was a part of... they were gone."
Tyler Deaton has continued to reject any assertions that he was involved in Bethany's death in any way.
Many of Bethany's loved ones - family and friends who weren't able to speak to her in her final weeks - accept that Tyler didn't kill her. However, many of them still blame him for her death, alleging that he isolated and shunned her to the point where suicide was her only option.
Shannan Leidlein, Bethany's sister, said in an interview a short time ago:
"He promised to take care of my sister, which is the most sacred promise one can make. He promised my Dad and my family that. And we accepted him into the family as a brother and son. Regardless of the method of death, he didn't keep that promise. That was a fraud. A complete fraud."
The family and friends of Bethany Leidlein Deaton have continued to spread her story to those that will listen... not only in remembrance of a life lost way too young, but a story that can help out others that find themselves lost in a similar situation.
Her mother, Carol, was asked about what she would say to family members who have loved ones caught up in an organization like Bethany was. Her response:
"I would say don't let anybody get between you and your child. Don't let anybody cut your child off from their family and - the things that I started to see in her - were identity changes, and I think that's why Tyler did, he took her identity; he took all of their identities and said 'No, this is who you really are. This is what you're supposed to be, not what you think you're supposed to be.'"
This is a thought that is shared by Teryn O'Brien, Bethany's lifelong friend who wrote a piece that was published on CBS News:
"The best way I can describe the signs of an abusive environment are in these terms: Beth was a flower, radiantly blooming in the sunshine. She was put in a dark room and wilted away. This is what any abusive environment will do to a person.
"The things they used to love don't matter - only the significant other, cult leader, or group matters. Individuality is crushed into conformity. They often fall away from their own loving families and friends. Their smiles become hollow. They behave strangely and secretively when they were once open and free.
"If you feel something is off and a friend might be involved in a similar situation - even when the abuser seems absolutely charming - trust your intuition."
Bethany Ann Deaton - formerly Bethany Ann Leidlein - was born on October 15th, 1985. She passed away on October 30th, 2012 - just a couple of weeks after her 27th birthday, and a little over two months after marrying Tyler Deaton.
She is buried in Arlington, Texas, and is survived by her parents - Eric and Carol Leidlein - as well as her four siblings.
While her death has remained the most lasting story regarding Bethany, her family want her to be remembered for her accomplishments and her beauty - both inside and out.
Her mother, Carol, said about Bethany in an interview from 2015:
"I want people to know that apart from her obvious beauty - the lilt in her voice and her little laugh and her little mannerisms that just reflected a quiet but deeply caring intelligent and very loving person."
Bethany graduated magna cum laude from Southwestern University in 2009, with a BA in English. She then worked towards becoming a registered nurse, finally obtaining a BS in nursing in August of 2012.
She is remembered as a kind, caring, intelligent, and emotional person by those that knew her well. In my research, I have not come across any stories of Bethany acting or lashing out against anyone; it seems like any problems she had, such as her marital issues with Tyler and their struggling relationship, she internalized and took personally.
Bethany's death remains a hot topic of debate in the area in which it happened: just outside of Kansas City, Missouri.
Her cause of death - asphyxiation - has never changed. That has been evident from the earliest police report, up until charges were dropped against Bethany's friend, Micah Moore, in October of 2014.
However, her manner of death - originally ruled as suicide - has been changed to "undetermined."
Authorities regret making some of their earlier decisions, such as the quick decision to have her death ruled as a suicide. Bethany was examined, and then embalmed, before the contents of her stomach could be looked at. Because of that decision, a full autopsy could never be performed.
Jackson County Sheriff's detective Penny Cole - the same detective who responded to the call of a body found in the park overlooking Longview Lake - continued to work on Bethany's case until just recently. She has always suspected that there was more than suicide to this case, but doesn't have enough evidence to prove it:
"I think her life was taken by someone and I can't say I have an opinion because I have to base what I do on evidence and facts, but what I have seen in my investigation leads me to believe that Bethany did not kill herself. I think Tyler had great influence over everyone in his community. I think he had an immense amount of influence in every aspect of their life.
"Someone knows more and they need to speak up and speak up for Bethany because she would have done that for them."
Bethany's father, Eric, has remained silent throughout this ordeal, choosing to let his wife speak for them. But in an interview, when the topic of Bethany's death was brought up once again, he decided to speak about his daughter's tragic loss.
"In my particular understanding of the facts, as we've come to know them at this point, I believe Bethany was severely depressed, to the point of being suicidal. And - I believe that she wasn't properly cared for or protected in a very fragile state. And I think she took her own life."
While it is almost impossible to avoid coming down on one side of the fence or another, I think that the death of Bethany Deaton is a reminder that not every story needs to have a boogeyman: sometimes it's not a conspiracy that results in someone dead, or a serial killer lurking in the night.
Sometimes the most troubling unanswered questions are the ones that looked us straight in the eyes, and we never knew how to identity them.
There are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of people - who are right now in a similar situation that Bethany was. Stuck in an environment or a mindset, where there seemed to be only one escape. And all of those people have people who care, and would try to save them, if only they knew what was at-risk.
It's impossible to look back at Bethany's story and say that any one person was responsible. While a lot of the blame falls upon her husband, Tyler - the man who created a "Community" that shamed and embarrassed Bethany for simply wanting to feel loved - even that is impossible to gauge without any of us actually being there.
Because of this, the story of Bethany Ann Leidlein Deaton remains unresolved.
Sources and further reading
- Rolling Stone - "Love and Death In the House of Prayer"
- CBS/48 Hours - "Fall From Grace"
- Huffington Post - "Cult Murder Case Involving 'Ex-Gay' Leader Puts Spotlight on Radical Prayer Center"
- CBS News - "48 Hours: Watching a friend succumb to abuse"
- KCTV 5 News - "Murder or suicide? Questions remain over young bride's death"
- The New York Times - "Disputed Murder Confession Casts a Spotlight on a Missouri Sect"
- Daily Mail - "Teacher suspended after Googling students discover he is a former 'sex cult leader' tied to investigation into his wife's murder"
- International House of Prayer University - "Statement from Allen Hood, President, IHOPU"
- WALB 10 News - "New search could shed light on Bethany Deaton murder case"
- WSFA 12 - "Friends in Texas stunned by allegations against Bethany Deaton's husband"
- WSFA 12 - "Grand jury indicts Micah Moore on murder charge"
- FOX 4 KC - "Not Guilty Plea After Strange Story of Sex Cult"
- Southwestern University - "Campus Mourns Loss of Student Who 'Loved Everyone'"