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S28.E19: Fall from Grace 2015.02.21

 

Was an alleged religious cult responsible for a young bride’s death? "48 Hours"' Troy Roberts investigates.

Pegged this one from the moment the husband opened his mouth.

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Pegged this one from the moment the husband opened his mouth.

Boy, was he creepy.  Like you said from the first moment.

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The tortuous language both the cops and the husband used to avoid saying that he was having sex with the other male members of the cult was Clinton-level.  Inasmuch as I suspect foul play on the part of the husband and his flock, I will say that the church was a big proponent of the Ugandan "Kill the Gays" law, so I think there was probably zero chance of that story having a happy ending for anyone.

 

Just so we're clear, I'm not blaming the church for the woman's death.  I'm just saying there probably couldn't be a less-healthy place to be conflicted about your orientation besides maybe the Westboro Baptist Church.

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There are even weirder details about "The Community" in this year old Rolling Stone article. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/love-and-death-in-the-house-of-prayer-20140121 Apparently, Tyler built his group around a love for Harry Potter as well as religion, and frankly his "brand" of Christianity seemed more like the sort that would see HP as evil.

 

The show (and the article) left a ton of unanswered questions, which could be details the cops/DA are holding back for later prosecution.  For instance: who bought the Tylenol PMs/where did they come from? Whose prints were on the water bottle in the car?  What did Bethany's coworkers at the hospital say about her mood on the day she died?  What did a search of her house turn up by way of evidence regarding the allegation she'd been drugged with an anti anxiety medication?  Did anyone have a prescription for it?  If all of "the Community" bailed on Tyler within a matter of days, did any of them (aside from Micha) have anything to say about what was going on with Bethany aside from Boze?  And, completely unrelated to the case, why the hell did Boze stick around the house after being shunned for so long?

Edited by Lizzing.
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I think I'd read that Rolling Stone article before, but I didn't make the connect to the episode simply because they didn't mention the Harry Potter stuff, nor some of the more...ahem...extreme beliefs of the International House of Prayer.  It really makes the episode even less substantial than I already thought it was.

 

It's the line about how the unnamed friend just wondered why Tyler couldn't just be gay, and find a guy, and be happy," that jogged my memory.

 

The worst part of the whole thing is that if it wasn't for Bethenny's death, Tyler is the one I'd feel sorry for.

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And, you could tell he thought he was so much smarter than everyone. He was breaking the third wall in the interview to try & prove his point that he wasn't a cult leader & was perfectly innocent. He was super creepy. I did want to hear what he had to say, if anything, about her family and the wedding. It is amazing how young he is and how got so many people seemly go along and listen to him.

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I don't think I would feel sorry for Tyler if Bethanny's hadn't died, there is something so creepy about him that goes far beyond what having to deny your sexuality because of your religion. Even if he had absolutely nothing to do with Bethanny's death and even if it was a suicide his entire behavior describing himself, The Community, and the investigation was just weird and off-putting.

If they make a movie, Billy Eichner should play Tyler.

Edited by biakbiak.
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It is amazing how young he is and how got so many people seemingly go along and listen to him.

 

Well, that's because he's extremely charismatic. Always has been. He told us so.

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I thought it was very interesting that Bethany's father believes she committed suicide.  I think she did too.  I think she was absolutely devastated by how her marriage turned out.  I would be surprised if she felt like she had anyone she could confide in either.  That's a recipe for disaster.  To me, the police officers seem to have tunnel vision.  No denying Tyler is super creepy, but that doesn't make him a murderer.  Off to read the Rolling Stone article.

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One other thing that supremely bothered me about the show was how much latitude 48 Hours gave Tyler to "showcase" his piano playing skills.  Even assuming for sake of argument that he didn't actively have a hand in her death, he pretty much admitted that he was culpable in her depressive state of mind that led to her "suicide", insofar as believing that was why he was detained by the police in the first place.  Add that to the fact that he was extraordinarily controlling over his "followers", why give this ass a platform to perform his music?  Bad move by the show.

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Why would Micah confess if it was suicide, though?

 

Also, 48 Hours? I didn't tweet you or whatever, but to answer your viewer question, yes, The Community was a cult.

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I haven't read the whole RS article yet, but it reminded me of my biggest unanswered question from the show:  Was the suicide note ever confirmed to be in Bethany's handwriting?

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I haven't read the whole RS article yet, but it reminded me of my biggest unanswered question from the show:  Was the suicide note ever confirmed to be in Bethany's handwriting?

The only thing that it said about the note was that people didn't think it sounded like her.

 

 

I thought it was very interesting that Bethany's father believes she committed suicide.  I think she did too.  I think she was absolutely devastated by how her marriage turned out.  I would be surprised if she felt like she had anyone she could confide in either.  That's a recipe for disaster.  To me, the police officers seem to have tunnel vision.  No denying Tyler is super creepy, but that doesn't make him a murderer.  Off to read the Rolling Stone article.

I'm inclined to think suicide as well, although Micah's story was just so bizarre (even if contradicted by the physical evidence) that it's hard for me to discount it entirely.  But I also am willing to think that whether or not Tyler put that bag around her head, he did create the situation where she felt she had to.

 

 

Also, 48 Hours? I didn't tweet you or whatever, but to answer your viewer question, yes, The Community was a cult.

So is the International House of Prayer.

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Tyler was not creepy in my view. He may be a bit of an asshole, but he's not some sociopath whose going to go on a killing spree or form another "cult." There was an undercurrent of homophobia throughout this entire story that 48 Hours chose to ignore. The "killer" was homophobia and IHOP was the primary instigator and motivator of all of these kids' behavior. Tyler's "cult" amounted to nothing more than a bunch of confused kids running on a hamster wheel where they were experimenting with their sexuality and then feeling guilty about it, experimenting, feeling guilty, and on and on. The real cult is IHOP. Tyler may have been a controlling jerk and a selfish guy who had sexual relations with everyone in the house except the woman who loved him and ignored the damage he was causing in doing so, but he was by no means a cult leader if they all abandoned him so quickly. That's not how cults work. If Tyler were a cult leader at least one of his "followers" would have stuck by him. If the kids weren't raised in an environment of homophobia that was then reinforced to an extreme degree by IHOP once they left for college, they all would have been more mentally sound and Bethany more than likely would still be alive. 

 

 

The Southern Poverty Law Center has criticized IHOPKC because of the extent to which their teachings emphasize Jesus making war on his enemies at the Second Coming.

 

How do you think this effects gay young people who believe themselves to be the enemy of Jesus? 

 

 

There are even weirder details about "The Community" in this year old Rolling Stone article. http://www.rollingst...prayer-20140121 Apparently, Tyler built his group around a love for Harry Potter as well as religion, and frankly his "brand" of Christianity seemed more like the sort that would see HP as evil.

 

Tyler and his friends were escaping into a world of magic, not unlike gamers or other kids who feel disconnected from society. The RS article clarifies Micah Moore's story about Bethany. He's clearly mentally ill. If his confession was the only evidence of murder the prosecution had, that would have come out in court and that would have been the end of it. 

 

 

Whose prints were on the water bottle in the car?

 

If anyone's prints besides Bethany's were on the bottle, I'm sure we would have heard about it. It wouldn't surprise me if the police let their own homophobia influence their opinions on the case. I'm not saying that's what happened. I'm just saying that it wouldn't surprise me. 

Edited by canaanite2.
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I found Tyler to be all types of creepy, and it had nothing to do with him being gay or IHOP being a cult cultivator. In my opinion, whether he had something to do with Beth's death or not, he was still completely unaware of how he was still pretty manipulative. Just because he said he was aware did not make him aware. He did not seem to genuinely feel anything for Beth, someone he married. He is just as creepy as many other people (actual murderers and some of the wrongly accused murderers) that have appeared on these types of shows. At least to me. 

Edited by Enigma X.
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Glad so many responded and I am glad I watched this.  I thought WOW this guy is really something.

 

I,too, wished they had not given Tyler so much air time he was sooo manipulative.  What has happened to religion in this country?  So many crazies!  I just can't believe it.

 

I hope they know they are pushing people away.  Bethany was a devout, probably conservative Christian and was not equipped to deal with the situation.  That doesn't mean she committed suicide, though. 

 

Pegged this one from the moment the husband opened his mouth.

I know what you mean.  The police still have to prove the case.  

 

It is almost to the point I side-eye anyone who proclaims to be religious and I don't want to be that person.

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If this RS article is available online, can someone link me to it? It seemed that even before The Community, Bethanny(?) was part of religious group that felt that being gay was "a choice". I don't know why her mother, though she herself followed this mindset, wouldn't encourage her daughter to kind of turn away from Tyler as a romantic interest.There must be so much heartbreak involved in waiting around for him to have, as one of Bethanny's friends put it, "a moment where he thought he was straight." 

 

I swear, at one point Bethanny's mother said that she'd learned the group (in its early days) were trying to cast out evil spirits  - "and we were for it! We thought it was great that she could share her faith in that way." I am in no way critiquing her mother (who suffered an incredible loss).  But don't you think that's incredibly heavy behavior and has the potential to get (dangerously) zealous? Wouldn't that clue you in that something was awry? Especially since there was no clergy/officiant/experienced leader managing the group*? 

 

And the language used when Tyler described his experiences with male Community members. It doesn't matter how many times it happened or what exactly you did, these people submitted to your rule/whims out of fear and control. Maybe they were gay, and as their leader, Tyler made them feel like, "as long as it's in the Community, it's okay." I'd say he ought to be persecuted for what happened with those folks as well. They're probably still dealing with their own issues related to sexuality according to Tyler's warped theology.

 

It has to be Tyler or some affiliate of his. I don't see putting a bag over one's own head as a suicide method. Sure, it works but really, who does that? Plus the note was kind of stilted. It didn't say anything about the victim as a person, or to the family she likely missed.

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*I'm not religious in the slightest, can you tell?

Edited by AltLivia.
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I thought it was very interesting that Bethany's father believes she committed suicide.  I think she did too.  I think she was absolutely devastated by how her marriage turned out.  I would be surprised if she felt like she had anyone she could confide in either.  That's a recipe for disaster.  To me, the police officers seem to have tunnel vision.  No denying Tyler is super creepy, but that doesn't make him a murderer.  Off to read the Rolling Stone article.

 

I think the "recipe for disaster" was a woman knowingly marrying a gay man.  I am not someone who claims to have gaydar, but man he was pinging from the moment the show started.  Better yet, he told her he's gay.  What combination of low self-esteem and savior complex does it take for a beautiful young woman to marry a gay man who spends most of his time intimately touching and cuddling other men? 

 

Since the family thought it was cool they were casting out evil spirits, were they cool with their daughter helping to pray the gay away?

 

The flat-affected bearded man bore a striking resemblance to David Koresh.

 

I'm leaning towards the suicide theory, but the bag about the face is odd.  Not many people could calmly suffocate - you struggle to breathe as you're dying, and it would be reflexive to pull the bag off.

 

I can't express how irritated I was by an organization with the acronym of IHOPU, being pronounced the same way as the pancake place.  I had to suppress a giggle many times.

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I have yet to watch this episode but as soon as I saw the International House of Prayer = cult in the episode description I was shocked. My former pastor, and my best friend's dad, left our church to go preach for them in Kansas City....I've even been to the Onething conference they put on every year. 

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God Loves Uganda is streaming on Netflix if anyone is interested in learning more about IHOP and the damage they have done. It also provides a clear picture of the anger and denial that lies beneath their love for God. Any kid who is gay and a part of that church, Tyler included, is going to have some serious problems. 

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God Loves Uganda is streaming on Netflix if anyone is interested in learning more about IHOP and the damage they have done. It also provides a clear picture of the anger and denial that lies beneath their love for God. Any kid who is gay and a part of that church, Tyler included, is going to have some serious problems. 

 

God Loves Uganda was a shocking eye-opener for me.  Those people are dangerous insurgents in the WORST possible way.  Which is why I give the side-eye to anyone with a "mission", and any organization affiliated with religion. 

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My gut reaction to the victim is that I got the impression that her own family are religious zealots or fundamentalists of some kind too and probably is what lead her down the fatal path she took.

      If she had come from a "normal" family, she would of never gone near Tyler, let alone marry a very obvious gay man with glaring personality problems.

           She was able to go through nursing school so she wasnt stupid, just steeped in beliefs that severely warped her judgement.

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I think the "recipe for disaster" was a woman knowingly marrying a gay man.  I am not someone who claims to have gaydar, but man he was pinging from the moment the show started.  Better yet, he told her he's gay.  What combination of low self-esteem and savior complex does it take for a beautiful young woman to marry a gay man who spends most of his time intimately touching and cuddling other men? 

It's made a little clearer in the RS article, but she was apparently convinced that she was going to be the instrument through which God delivered Tyler from his homosexuality.  And that's really the pity of the whole situation; from the way she'd described, she seems like someone I would have liked.

 

It's very hard for me to be objective about the whole story, being the gay, atheist product of two mainline Protestant ministers.  I don't have any use for religion of any stripe, but I understand how it gives people meaning and purpose, and if that helps them get through the day, great.  But I also really have to give the side-eye to more extreme Pentecostal/charismatic movements like the International House of Prayer.  It's not just the speaking-in-tongues, laying-on-of-hands exorcism stuff that I have a problem with, it's the premillennial "warrior" mindset that making them prepare for the Tribulation (which is really only from the book of Revelation, and which most people who accept the Higher Criticism take as a metaphor) as though it's about to occur three minutes from now.

 

It just doesn't sound healthy for anyone concerned, not even Tyler.

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I don't think I would feel sorry for Tyler if Bethanny's hadn't died, there is something so creepy about him that goes far beyond what having to deny your sexuality because of your religion. Even if he had absolutely nothing to do with Bethanny's death and even if it was a suicide his entire behavior describing himself, The Community, and the investigation was just weird and off-putting.

 

Agreed.  I think that Tyler is trying to use his sexual orientation to come across as this loveable, misunderstood guy who plays the piano and hangs out with his friends.  However, even if he were a straight guy who married Bethany on the up-and up, I'd still think there was something "off" about about him.  Not all gay men who come from fundamentalist backgrounds read "wanna-be cult leader."  That's the vibe that I got off of Tyler...David Koresh, Jim Jones, the guy who led Heavan's Gate.  In Tyler's case, he happens to be gay, but I think we are looking at a Jim Jones type about 20-30 years before Tyler was able to fully become a Jim Jones.  I think that was indeed the dirction he was headed in over time.

 

The authorities may never be able to prove that he was involved with Bethany's death, but I think he was.  I don't think he did it himself, but I think he ordered it done or somehow pursuaded Bethany to do it to herself.  Her best friend called it "worship" of Tyler.  He was running a cult, in my opinion

Edited by Ohmo.
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It's made a little clearer in the RS article, but she was apparently convinced that she was going to be the instrument through which God delivered Tyler from his homosexuality.  And that's really the pity of the whole situation; from the way she'd described, she seems like someone I would have liked.

 

It's very hard for me to be objective about the whole story, being the gay, atheist product of two mainline Protestant ministers.  I don't have any use for religion of any stripe, but I understand how it gives people meaning and purpose, and if that helps them get through the day, great.  But I also really have to give the side-eye to more extreme Pentecostal/charismatic movements like the International House of Prayer.  It's not just the speaking-in-tongues, laying-on-of-hands exorcism stuff that I have a problem with, it's the premillennial "warrior" mindset that making them prepare for the Tribulation (which is really only from the book of Revelation, and which most people who accept the Higher Criticism take as a metaphor) as though it's about to occur three minutes from now.

 

It just doesn't sound healthy for anyone concerned, not even Tyler.

You have a very interesting take on religion.   There was an HBO show called Enlightenment written by Mike White who is gay and grew up as a minister's son.  On one episode Laura Dern's character encourages her ex- boyfriend to go to rehab and he talks about a higher power.

 

He decides that he has no faith but he can hold on to hers.  That is enough for him.  Mike White the writer said the same thing about his relationship with his dad.  I found his take somewhat comforting.

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Agreed.  I think that Tyler is trying to use his sexual orientation to come across as this loveable, misunderstood guy who plays the piano and hangs out with his friends.  However, even if he were a straight guy who married Bethany on the up-and up, I'd still think there was something "off" about about him.  Not all gay men who come from fundamentalist backgrounds read "wanna-be cult leader."  That's the vibe that I got off of Tyler...David Koresh, Jim Jones, the guy who led Heavan's Gate.  In Tyler's case, he happens to be gay, but I think we are looking at a Jim Jones type about 20-30 years before Tyler was able to fully become a Jim Jones.  I think that was indeed the dirction he was headed in over time.

 

The authorities may never be able to prove that he was involved with Bethany's death, but I think he was.  I don't think he did it himself, but I think he ordered it done or somehow pursuaded Bethany to do it to herself.  Her best friend called it "worship" of Tyler.  He was running a cult, in my opinion

 

Tyler seriously creeped me out.  On the one hand, he came across as very passive and almost meek but I picked up a very strong undercurrent of aggression.  The fact that he was controlling who dated whom and daily activities of people in his "group" says everything.  It's not normal for anyone; it's a cult mentality, plain and simple. 

 

I do think the fact that Bethany was raised in a conservative family and homeschooled played some part in her fate.  Maybe if she had been exposed to more people as she was growing up or different types of people, she would have realized sooner how warped Tyler was/is. 

 

I'm not sure what to think about her death.  Initially I immediately thought Tyler had someone do it for him but now I'm not sure.  I think it's possible that he mind screwed her so badly that she did something to herself.  It's also possible the knowledge that male members of the "group" sexually assaulting her drove her into depression.  Whatever happened, it's too bad she didn't just pack herself up and go.

 

I do think Tyler showed zero sadness or emotion over what happened to her.

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The person who claimed she was sexually assaulted was the guy who gave the false confession.  I assumed he was lying about everything.  Why would a group of gay men sexually assault a woman?

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My DVR deleted the ep while I was only half way through, so thanks for the Rolling Stone article.  I'm too lazy to find my CBS On Demand Channel!

 

I liked the quote from one of the parents that said, "How did they fall down this slippery slope?" like just ANY of us could find ourselves in a religious cult, marrying a clearly gay man, or being accused of murder.  How could anyone even attend that wedding?  What a farce.  I thought the RS showed pretty clearly it was a very similar situation to a cult, with shunning and the cutting off of family members.  I wonder what other people at the school thought of them, if they were entirely isolated, or if everyone had an idea that something bad would come down.

 

I think they were drugging her so she would sleep through the sex and things escalated from there.  They thought it was a religious experience and have a subtext of wanting to have sex with God, so I guess that's the slippery slope.  But these kids were completely nuts and living in a supernatural world, so even the confession I could imagine him lying about because in reality he had just willed/prayed for her death and felt guilty when it really happened.  The article mentions they thought they had killed before.

 

I love how every generation things they.are.the.one who will be around for the rapture.  We ain't that special.

Edited by Morbs.
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I'm leaning towards the suicide theory, but the bag about the face is odd.  Not many people could calmly suffocate - you struggle to breathe as you're dying, and it would be reflexive to pull the bag off.

 

That is what made me think it was suicide, because if someone else was suffocating her, wouldn't there have been marks on her neck from the person trying to keep the bag there? As well as a struggle (skin under her fingernails, etc) as Bethanny tried to remove the bag or fought with the person keeping it there?

 

One of the officers said something that I thought was odd as well. He said that one of the reasons they thought Bethanny was killed was that her eyes were open. But eyes often open after death just due to the fact that it takes muscles to keep your eyes closed, which of course the dead person no longer has. Many people die with their eyes closed (as did my Mom) but their eyes open after death. I thought it was odd that a cop would not know that.

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That is what made me think it was suicide, because if someone else was suffocating her, wouldn't there have been marks on her neck from the person trying to keep the bag there? As well as a struggle (skin under her fingernails, etc) as Bethanny tried to remove the bag or fought with the person keeping it there?

I guess you could make the argument that she had been drugged with the Tylenol PM, but diphenhydramine isn't that powerful of a sedative unless they'd poured it down her throat.  It's also unlikely it would have killed her by itself unless she took more than 50 pills, and even then, it's 50/50.  The acetaminophen would have done it by killing her liver, but that's slow and very painful.  But a nurse would have known that.

 

OTOH, if Micah was telling the truth, and the cult had been drugging her with Seroquel, why not just use that?  It's basically a coma in pill form, and wouldn't have shown up in her blood unless they'd known to look for it.

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I guess you could make the argument that she had been drugged with the Tylenol PM, but diphenhydramine isn't that powerful of a sedative unless they'd poured it down her throat.  It's also unlikely it would have killed her by itself unless she took more than 50 pills, and even then, it's 50/50.  The acetaminophen would have done it by killing her liver, but that's slow and very painful.  But a nurse would have known that.

 

OTOH, if Micah was telling the truth, and the cult had been drugging her with Seroquel, why not just use that?  It's basically a coma in pill form, and wouldn't have shown up in her blood unless they'd known to look for it.

 

I really didn't understand the cop's assertion that she must have been killed because her eyes were open. To me he was saying that she wasn't drugged enough for her eyes to be closed (ie she did not drug herself). I am not sure why he didn't think that someone else could have drugged her enough for her eyes to be closed. But either way her eyes being open should have no significance considering they most likely opened after death regardless. And the fact that he used that as one of the major reasons to think she was killed was to me was both surprising and disturbing.

Edited by UsernameFatigue.
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I guess you could make the argument that she had been drugged with the Tylenol PM, but diphenhydramine isn't that powerful of a sedative unless they'd poured it down her throat.  It's also unlikely it would have killed her by itself unless she took more than 50 pills, and even then, it's 50/50.  The acetaminophen would have done it by killing her liver, but that's slow and very painful.  But a nurse would have known that.

 

I had so many thoughts on that episode, most of them expressed quite nicely here, but this point really stuck with me.  No self-respecting nurse would commit suicide with Tylenol!  I am one also, and theoretical morbid conversations about "so how would you kill youself?" are pretty common...  We would know how to do it, and it would more likely be with insulin or something.  Tylenol is an awful way to die, if it would even work.  And what was with the bag on her head?  Also,  did I miss exactly HOW she died, or did they strategically leave that part out?

 

That Tyler was a piece of work .  I actually read the RS article (thanks for the link!) as I watched the episode, and it explained in far more detail the world they lived in and his bizarre, controlling behavior.   It was very distubring.  I was also totally creeped out by the piano playing because I'm sure he had something to do with it.  I wonder if he convinced Micah to do it, if Micah was even involved.  I felt so sorry for her family, for her death of course but also how they lost her before that.  I guess it all seemed well and good at first because she was involved in a religious group...  I was surprised about the dad saying he thought it was suicide, I couldn't help but wonder if it just made things easier for him, somehow.  And poor Bethany, brainwashed to exist like that, praying in all her spare time and being married to that guy.

 

And  the crazy thing?  As someone else pointed out, if Tyler hadn't been such a controlling freak and possibly a murderer, I would've felt sorry for him too!  Maybe if he could've just been himself, as a gay man, maybe he woudln't have had to invent this crazy world where he could "justify" affection/sex with men.  My youngest  brother came out in 2007, the same year, and he's the same age as Tyler.  It pained me to hear how Tyler thought being gay was like "being a villian, like the worst thing ever".  It was 2007!  So sad some people really still think that way.

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I think they were drugging her so she would sleep through the sex and things escalated from there.

 

 

You bring up a really good point and I'm not sure if it was ever mentioned during the program if Bethany died from the overdose or from suffocation or the time of death.  What if they were drugging her in order to assault her, or drugging her while they went about their own sexual activities, and she died of an overdose?  It would make more sense to me than a suicide.

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There was a (barely) fictionalized version of the story called "Ungodly Acts" that aired on Lifetime last night.

 

I don't have cable, but I'm wondering if it's as hilariously over the top as I imagine.

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