The “Perfect Prey” for a Religious Sociopath

The Perfect Prey

By: Susan Deborah Schiller

Next Chapters: Part 1: The Perfect Prey   Part 2: 10 Red Flags You're Marrying A Sociopath   Part 3: Did You Marry the Wrong Mr. Right?    Part 4: Create Your Own Jailbreak

  Bethany Deaton, age 27, died October 30, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri with a plastic bag tied around her head, an overdose of drugs in her body, and a suicide note next to her body. No autopsy was deemed necessary and her death was declared a suicide. Several days later, Micah Moore confessed to murdering Bethany, the wife of the leader of his religious group, Tyler Deaton. Here's what these news sources are saying:

ABC News Reports:

"The Deatons and Moore lived in a house with at least four other men in Kansas City, three of whom told police that they all had sexual relationships with Tyler Deaton. A fourth said he felt "groomed" to fit into the group of men, and that Tyler Deaton had once gotten into bed with him and held him. "He stated that he realized now that Tyler was attempting to make him a member of their sexual group," the detective's report said. Another roommate said Tyler Deaton had told him that the sexual activity "was part of a religious experience," according to the report. Tyler Deaton was described by one roommate as a "spiritual leader" who had "control over members of the household," the detective's report said. The man's name was not made public, but he told police that he believed the community would lie for Deaton so that he could remain the leader of the group. The roommate described Deaton as "angry" and "Frustrated" in the weeks before his wife's death, and said that Deaton had described a dream in which he pictured himself killing his wife by suffocation, according to the detective's report said."

The Austinist writes:

"Deaton's confessed killer, 23 year-old Micah Moore, told police that he had staged her death as a suicide after being instructed to kill her. The identity of the person who gave the order was blacked out on the initial police report, but Moore's confession statement suggested someone in a leadership role of the extremely secretive religious group to which both he and Deaton belonged. Prosecutors now say that Deaton was killed on the orders of her husband, Tyler Deaton, 26, a charismatic leader of a cult that reportedly used sex as part of its religious ministry… "…Moore told police he had recorded video of himself and several other men—including her husband—sexually assaulting Bethany after she was given the anti-psychotic drug Seroquel. Witnesses interviewed by Jackson County Police claim they were members of a sexual community in which sex acts were performed as part of their 'religious experience.'"

Why A Woman Like Bethany Deaton is the "Perfect Prey" for a Religious Sociopath From my research of sociopaths, especially those in the Christian community, and combined with my own personal experience, this description of Bethany is so very important for us to understand. I've used bold to highlight the common traits victims share. I'll explain below.

"Bethany was small, fair, blue-eyed, reserved without being remote and from the outset wholly committed to Deaton's mission. In some ways, she made an unlikely follower. A natural intellectual who graduated magna cum laude, she'd read every Charles Dickens novel but one by the time she was 13, and was a talented writer herself, the pride of Southwestern's writing center. She started keeping a blog at the end of 2003, and produced some 200 pages of pointed, wry, sometimes lyric prose. In one post, she described a classmate as a "devastatingly sober playwright." "Oh, liberal arts," she wrote in the summer of 2006. "It's training me to be a splendid gentleman farmer." One evening, she stayed in the writing center after everyone else had left, "trying to cup the moment in my hands," she wrote. "I must often consciously uncrease my forehead, unfurrow my eyebrows and walk a bit more slowly, remembering that tomorrow will take care of itself." Bethany took care of other people instinctively. 'She had a quiet energy that flowed through the group,' a classmate recalls. 'Her life was one of the most luminous and promising I've known,' Herrington says. She could also be lavishly, almost immoderately romantic. She imagined herself as a novelist and professor at a small university, living in a cottage in the woods. 'The dream of her heart was to be married,' Herrington recalls. 'We used to stay up late talking about it, night after night. She had been praying for her husband since she was a teenager. She had written him letters, before they even met.' She found herself 'fiercely attracted' to Deaton and was convinced that God had ordained their union. She was aware of his struggles with homosexuality but believed that God would use her to heal his heart." — Rolling Stone Culture

Here, I believe, you have the description of the "perfect prey" and why an intelligent, passionate, and loving young woman with her whole life ahead of her could find herself "fiercely attached" to a man who appears to have no conscience, no empathy for what happened to his wife, and after the murder purposefully put himself in direct daily contact with young people, as a high school calculus teacher. In conversations with Kendall Bechey, a friend of Tyler Deaton, Tyler talked about his marriage problems. As is a common behavior for sociopaths, Tyler pointed to his wife's "condition" and how he was encouraging her to get therapy. This behavior deflects responsibility off of the abuser and puts it on the victim, another typical pattern of a pathological relationship. Not only that, but if you listen and look with the eyes of your heart, you hear no empathy from Tyler. Lack of empathy and blaming the victim are traits we can learn to pick up on in situations like this. I'm not calling Tyler Deaton a sociopath, but his behavior follows the pattern, as I have observed it. Where is Tyler Deaton Today? From The Kansas City Star,

"Moore initially claimed that Tyler Deaton had told him to kill his wife, according to court documents. Moore also said that he informed Deaton when the job was done. He has since recanted his confession. Other witnesses told authorities of a group of young people who were making sex part of their religious experience and that men in the group sexually assaulted Bethany Deaton. Moore said Bethany Deaton was killed for fear she would talk, according to court documents. The parent of a Lancaster High School senior told The Star on Monday that her daughter was sad to hear the news because all the kids liked Deaton. 'She was hoping it was a joke,' Krissy Johnson said. “I was angry to see how he was able to get close to our kids with this currently going on in his life."

Hoping it's a joke… That is a similar reaction most victims get when they begin to speak up about the violence done to them by "popular and charming leaders". Like we've talked about before in discussing "what is a sociopath", the top career paths for sociopaths are religion, teaching, counseling, and other trusted positions of authority. The following quote is from Kendall Beachey, written less than a month ago. Kendall was personally connected to Tyler and Bethany and several other group members, as well as a student at IHOPU. Kendall asserts that Rolling Stone's article was good, but he wished to delve even deeper into the story-behind-the-story. He writes:

Deaton, says Herrington, seemed to take delight in making Justin’s life subservient to his own, just as he had done to Bethany — who wanted a family, to be a professor and a writer, and to live in a house with the man she loved, which would be “just awful” as Deaton saw it. She gave up that dream to go to nursing school, a trade better suited for the Middle East mission field; she gave up that dream to live for Deaton’s. Tietz’s article captures the control he had on these people, the way they threw their lives away for him. Deaton used the religious discipline, shunning, new clothes, not talking, etc. to control members who were not acting as he desired. He could explain the supposed benefits of his disciplines so well that, as Herrington put it, “Those being punished believed they deserved it—needed it. They believed this was the discipline they had agreed upon together.” At the staff and student informational meeting following the news of Moore’s confession, Mike Bickle said, “There were people there who should have had careers. They had degrees, law degrees. But they were delivering pizza. They had given up their goals for the vision of this one man.” Bickle was talking about Deaton. Yet, in a room full of students and staff, almost all college age, who would normally be thinking of careers and education, many living off of support raised from friends and relatives back home, many well below the poverty line, working part time jobs and giving 50+ hours a week to Bickle’s ministry — all of which is built on Bickle’s prophetic encounters, angelic visions, and the stories of the audible voice of the Lord — it is hard to imagine the parallels are not obvious. It is hard to imagine someone not asking the question, “What makes Deaton’s vision so different from Bickle’s?” (Bold mine)

At this time there is no evidence of anything Micah previously confessed to have done and the case is still open. No one knows conclusively what caused Bethany's death, whether it was murder or suicide, but there is enough of the story here to see the portrait of an abused wife in the early stages of giving up her dreams to serve her husband's goals, apparently compromising her values and beliefs, allowing abuse, trying to speak up and get help, and suffering a very bad ending, as a result. We also see the making of a cult leader… who may or may not have had a sociopathic disposition prior to becoming a student at IHOPU, but whose evil within learned to thrive in an environment that fostered further development in deception, as Kendall Bechey bravely exposes. In my experience, the environment of the supernatural is an open invitation for evil's mask to operate semi-openly as well as off to the side, as in Deaton's example. When one of us, who like Bethany unwittingly becomes involved with the wrong person, what can we do? They are unlikely to be persuaded, but we can gently remind them of who they are. Identity is what evil goes for – it wishes to rob a victim of her personhood and kill her dreams long before her body is murdered. How do I know? Because I've experienced it. Because a sociopath, in arrogance and pride, explained the process to me. Because I know what it's like to fight to get your identity back and how my friends best helped me. We can notice things like someone changing their degree or their career and we can gently ask them why. We don't become Inquisitors and we don't try to find evil under every bush. We simply become attentive. We listen – really listen to our friends and family! When we truly listen to each other, looking them deeply in their eyes, we will be able to discern better. God will give us wisdom. Evil is not creative. It has patterns and cycles that we have learned to recognize. By becoming familiar with these behavior patterns and cycles we at least have our eyes wide open and can place ourselves in a position to help. Many times a survivor just needs to be reminded of their true identity. They get "foggy" in their thinking. Their frontal lobe is damaged and decisions may be made that are out of character. These are "flags" we can all learn to spot… not as "Inquisitors" but as true friends. Most of all, we can pray better. And when evil is close by, you should always pray with your eyes wide open. In honor of Bethany Deaton and all of the other victims and victims-in-the-grooming-phase, let's commit to remember her as she was BEFORE she met Tyler Deaton. From all reports, Bethany was loving and kind – the type of person who wanted to embrace life to the fullest, loving all the people around her deeply. She was exceptionally intelligent, competent, and "luminous". She was extraordinarily talented and had big dreams to use her creativity to make a difference in the world, especially among the poor and oppressed. She had high asperations deeply rooted in strong biblical values. Why would she submit for "months" to sexual assault? I don't know, except that what I do know is that we (victims of sociopaths) compromise our convictions, to one degree or another, to please our abuser. It's not a rational response, but an unconscious effect of grooming for abuse, past or present – latent or ongoing. A sociopath is not a normal human being. They may or may not tell you that, themselves. My husband used to say to me, "I want everyone to stop treating me like an ordinary man. I am different than everyone else! I walk and talk with Jesus flesh-to-flesh, just like the disciples." Within the "elitest" environment, a similar type of attitude appeared to flourish in Tyler. Perhaps like Eve in the Garden of Eden, who was seduced by Satan himself, we can begin to understand the power of a sociopath's ability to seduce us. None of us – not even the brightest of us – are capable of withstanding their power over us when we stand alone. Scripture warns us of a deception so powerful that none of us would withstand its power, and so God himself will shorten earth's days to protect us. Don't judge us. It could happen to anyone of us, but especially those of us, like  Bethany Deaton, who have a passion to help others, even sociopaths! That's why sociopaths operate best within the "closed system" of a small group, a religious group, or a church that keeps its members busy, busy, busy behind its walls – too busy to think or to see what is happening from an objective perspective, until it's too late to make healthy decisions. The most DANGEROUS TIME TO LEAVE AN AB– USER OR AN ABUSIVE SYSTEM is shortly after you "wake up" and ask for help. What was Bethany saying, prior to her death, that caused her husband to become so disturbed, even to the point of dreaming of murdering her, as the news reports say? It appears she was trying to speak up, to get help from a therapist. I write this, weeping, because I feel Bethany's pain. We may never know all that happened. Only God knows the full story right now. But there was a time when my life was threatened, both at home and at church, when I began to speak up and to ask for help. Two of my friends also began to speak up, and both of them ended up dead. There was evidence that I was next on the list to have an "accident". This is why I write. Because Bethany  – and all of the women like her – deserve better. What are we missing today without her luminousity and that "quiet energy" that so blessed her friends and family? Let's together pray that all darkness is exposed and the Light of God shines into the courtrooms, and that Love and Truth win speedily in Bethany's case. This is Bethany's obituary:

Bethany Ann Leidlein Deaton, age 27, passed away on October 30, 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri. Bethany was born on October 15, 1985 in San Antonio, Texas and was raised with her three sisters and brother in Arlington, Texas. Bethany was a delightful, inquisitive and precocious child and was home schooled until she entered Southwestern University in 2005. Upon graduating Magna Cum Laude with a BA in English and minor in Spanish in 2009, she moved to Kansas City, Missouri to intern at the International House of Prayer. She remained in community with a close association of friends during the following years. In August 2011, she enrolled in an accelerated nursing degree program and completed a BS in Nursing in August 2012. She married Tyler Deaton on August 18, 2012 and planned, along with her husband, to serve overseas as missionaries. A brilliant, multi-faceted, and precious jewel, Bethany was a lover of books, writing, nature, deep conversations, dance, worship and most of all, Jesus. Her big blue eyes revealed a heart and soul full of love, tenderness, keen intelligence and passion for righteousness. Her strong, deeply reflective, and nurturing spirit ministered to all who knew her. She gently and quietly reached out to the lonely, the troubled and the hurting. She was fiercely loyal and brightened the lives of her family, friends and strangers with her radiant smile and life-affirming presence. Bethany will be greatly missed by her father and mother, Eric and Carol, her beloved siblings Erin, Shannon, Christin and Matthew, her husband, Tyler Deaton, and a host of family and friends. Even as we celebrate Bethany’s life, we deeply grieve our loss. We cherish your tears as you weep with those who weep. We pray that God will help us understand the many unanswered questions that continue to be investigated. We are sustained by His peace and stand confident in the knowledge of the Father’s love as He welcomes Bethany into His arms. God is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).

CBS News recently updated this story, which is still unresolved with an interview on "48 Hours". Link here.

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Religious sociopaths tend to prefer victims who closely resemble Bethany Deaton's description in the following news articles. We can also learn from her husband's descriptions, as well. Knowing this information can potentially save the life of someone we know, simply by opening our eyes a little wider. We'd like to think this is an isolated case – a rare occurrence – but I know too many survivors who suffer silently. This post is dedicated to Bethany Deaton, now deceased, in the hopes that sharing her story will help to awaken the Body of Christ to the reality of evil, like a cancer, within our midst, and to the particular kind of prey that it most loves to hunt and kill.

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Knowledge with application is wisdom, so I will share you with a few of the same resources that helped me to escape and to recover my life… and I hope you will share these resources with others so that together we can push this present darkness out of our homes, churches, and communities!

My Full Story     What I Believe    Contact Me

With all my love,


Susan Schiller knows how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and businesses, and more. Susan's upcoming, interactive memoir, "On the Way Home," tells the story of how she came to be known as "the most abused woman" her counselors had yet met and how she learned to navigate to freedom and fullness.  
Today Susan helps people write their life stories, unearthing the treasures of their past and sowing them into their future, creating new family legacies.

Copyright © 2010 to 2015 Team Family Online, All rights reserved.   For reprint permission or for any private or commercial use, in any form of media, please contact Susan Schiller

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Schiller November 4, 2014 at 4:16 am

The latest news of Bethany's case is wriritten by one of her best friends, Boze Herrington, at

It appears Micah is also a victim of this very complex case, in which newlywed Bethany Deaton was bullied into commiting suicide. This is a living nightmare for Bethany's family and friends, and the true horror of her situation is conveyed in Boze's haunting question, "How many more Bethanys does it take to wake us up, to stop the horror?"

There is no doubt, if you read Boze's article, that Bethany was the victim of a psychopath and her death was quickly covered up by the ministry. Micah was deemed the scapegoat and if I understand correctly, Tyler is still free… and all of the ones just like him.

This haunts me…. 


Susan Schiller February 24, 2015 at 9:33 am

Boze Herrington was also interviewed on "48 Hours" and the latest update is available here:


Arendale June 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Susan, thank you for this article and all other related articles. I followed a link about the IHOP-Deaton fiasco to this article. You're right about abusers and the kind-hearted who try to help them. I'm glad you escaped your own abuse and hope you are finding fulfillment in an abuse-free environment and new group of friends. God bless.


Arendale June 30, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Susan, thank you for this article and all other related articles. I followed a link about the IHOP-Deaton fiasco to this article. You're right about abusers and the kind-hearted who try to help them. I'm glad you escaped your own abuse and hope you are finding fulfillment in an abuse-free environment and new group of friends. God bless.


Susan Schiller June 30, 2014 at 11:44 pm

Hi Arendale,

I hope you are finding the answers and hope you are looking for. “Fiasco” is the right word to describe what happened to Bethany. God bless you – and thank you for writing today!


Carolyn Hughes February 15, 2014 at 11:39 am

Thank you Susan for being brave enough to share the truth about the darkness that can exist in those places most of us would consider safe. What a tragic story of a woman who trusted so deeply only to have her life taken. A warning for us all.


Susan Schiller February 16, 2014 at 11:54 am

It is a tragedy, and one I hope we can bring into the Light so that more lives are saved. Thanks, Carolyn, for your loving, kind words!


Jeanne Costello February 12, 2014 at 11:24 am

Susan, thanks so much for speaking the truth and educating people about the dangers of people like this amn you you could meet in christian circles. I have never been sucked into a relationship like Bethany did, but maybe I have been around people like that without knowing it, your husband being one of them! I admire your boldness and persistance. Good for you. XXXXOOO


Susan Schiller February 12, 2014 at 11:41 am

Dear Jeanne,

You have been one of the heroes who saw me when I was invisible, who heard my silence, who attended to me when I was in the wilderness. It’s the ordinary, simple things that make the most difference. An email. A phone call. Taking time to write an encouraging comment…. I love you, my friend!


Pat Moon February 11, 2014 at 12:19 pm

This was difficult to read but yet is so important for us to be aware of the insane things that some people do in the name of God. How do we help young women to be mature enough to be aware of this type thing without stealing their trusting, loving spirit, and the naivety of their youth? Thank you for sharing. I daily pray for my grandchildren, both boys and girls, that they will be guided and protected from such horrible people.


Susan Schiller February 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Hi Pat,

Thanks for reading through something that is uncomfortable to think about, let alone talk about. Your grandchildren are fortunate to have a praying grandmother!

I think of the parents of the teens at the high school where Tyler Deaton taught calculus… and how their children hoped “It was a joke” – for Deaton was popular and charming…. and in no way appeared “horrible”.

If our eyes are open, as a community, I believe it will help victims to feel safe in opening up and sharing their heavy burdens. Right now, it’s pretty hard… because like the students, most people who are “first responders” and hear the victim’s story, they really don’t want to believe what they are hearing.

Many therapists, also, are not yet educated about sociopathic abuse, so it’s not a guarantee that telling one’s therapist will help, either. But as stories like this come out, it helps to push the darkness back so the Light of Truth can reveal what needs to be revealed…. even when it’s uncomfortable. The truth sets us free.

I wish there weren’t horrible things like this in the world. And it’s the last thing people like Bethany and we want to face. But to have our eyes wide open, even in facing the reality of such horrible implications, is much safer for all of us than choosing to only see and hear what we want to see and hear.

I wish I could tell this story in a lighter way…. I’m searching for that, in fact… because I don’t want the “Heaviness” to be a burden to anyone.

If anyone has suggestions, please let me know…. because there are more stories to tell, more darkness to push back…. more victims to set free. And maybe – who knows – one of those victims will one day be your or me or one of our family….

I so much appreciate you, dear Pat!


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