Charges have been dismissed in a high-profile murder case once linked to the International House of Prayer.
After an internal review of the criminal charge filed against Micah Moore, now 25, in connection with the 2012 death of Bethany Deaton, the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office announced Friday that it will dismiss the charge.
“My office concluded that we could not ethically continue to pursue the case given the current evidence against Micah Moore,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said in a written statement. “The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict.”
Baker continued her written statement:
"The death of Bethany Deaton remains a great tragedy. She was a talented and gifted young woman whose life ended too soon. Our deepest sympathies continue to go out to her family. This decision was reached after consultation with the victim's family."
The prosecutor's office said it properly filed a murder charge against Moore after he went to police and told them he had suffocated Deaton about a week earlier, on Oct. 30, 2012.
Deaton's body was found the night of Oct. 30 in the passenger's side rear seat of a van parked near Longview Lake. She was found with a trash bag over her head, an empty bottle of sleeping pills and a note that suggested suicide.
"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," the note read.
Ten days later, Moore stepped forward and said he killed Deaton to cover up sexual abuse in a religious cult. He said that, while she and her husband, Tyler Deaton, had shared a home with Moore and several other men, they had sexually assaulted Bethany Deaton over the last few months. Bethany Deaton was seeing a therapist and Tyler Deaton ordered the murder because the men were afraid she was going to tell her therapist about the assaults.
Tyler Deaton was the head of a prayer group which once had tied to the International House of Prayer and both his wife and Moore were members of the prayer group.
In November 2012, Moore's attorney read a statement during his court appearance saying her client was innocent and his confession to murder was a lie.
"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," Melanie Morgan read at the time.
Moore's attorneys said the doctrines taught by the community, led by Tyler Deaton, affected Moore's mental state.
"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 sudden removal of his spiritual leader Tyler Deaton from their extremely close-knit religious community," Morgan said.
Morgan spoke to KCTV5 again Friday after the Jackson County Prosecutor's decision was announced to try to understand why Moore made up the claim.
"I think that some of their practices and some of their viewpoints go from extreme to unhealthy," she said as she talked about IHOP.
She says an interaction with IHOP was the breaking point in a series of events that made Moore crack.
“Their public statement has been that they did not know. I disagree with that statement,” Morgan said.
Moore lawyer said the Grandview house where Moore and the others lived was home to a cult, but that's about all that was true.
Morgan said that Tyler Deaton was the head of the household and he was admired to the point of near-worship, but she said the men weren't assaulting Bethany Deaton.
Recent court documents paint a sordid picture of Tyler Deaton, accusing him of being a closeted gay man who manipulated male members into having sex with him while ignoring his wife and shaming her, eventually driving her to kill herself.
“This is a young woman who had no meaningful relationship with her husband and the others in the group began to shun her and, as a result of that, she was so completely and utterly alone in a community she desperately wanted to be a part of,” Morgan said.
After Bethany Deaton died, Morgan said, IHOP caught on to the cult and physically intervened, tearing Moore and the others from Tyler Deaton, then shaming them at a retreat.
Moore's attorneys recently challenged the confession, saying prayer group members performed a long and intense "exorcism" to cast out demons shortly before he talked to police.
“Very intense yelling, scream praying, talking in tongues, telling these kids that they were to blame to Bethany's death,” Morgan said.
Friday, the prosecutor's office said that their subsequent investigation determined that some statements made by Moore to police were unreliable or unsupported by the evidence. These included:
Moore's DNA was not found on the bag used to suffocate the victim, but her DNA was found on the bag. DNA samples were taken from multiple persons close to the victim and her associates, but without positive results.Handwriting analysis of a note found with the victim concluded she had written it.Seroquel was not found in the victim's system, although Moore stated in his confession to police that she was given that drug.No electronic evidence that Moore pointed to was found to corroborate his statement to police.The medical examiner's office concluded, in a ruling transmitted to us on Oct. 7, 2014, that Bethany's manner of death was undetermined. We believe the medical examiner's office – which we rely heavily upon as the state's expert – did a thorough review.The religious practices of those involved raised questions regarding their credibility and veracity.
Prosecutors are not yet calling Bethany Deaton's death a suicide and only say it remains under investigation. The prosecutor's office said they will continue to work with local law enforcement and they will do all they can to ensure justice is done.
Moore has been out on bond since charges were filed in 2012. Tyler Deaton is living in Texas and has never been charged.
KCTV5 reached out to IHOP for comment, but hasn't heard back.
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