Aric Babbitt was not just a teacher to some of his former students; he was also a mentor.
To at least one of them, he was a father figure.
But authorities believe Babbitt used his position of authority to not only gain his students’ trust but also to exploit it.
Newly released police documents state that Babbitt, a 40-year-old elementary school teacher from Minnesota, and his 36-year-old husband, Matthew Deyo, sexually abused eight underage boys over the course several years, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
The South St. Paul residents did not live to see any criminal charges against them. They were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide on an island in Washington state last August — shortly after they found out they were being investigated for sexual abuse.
Now, after a four-month investigation, the South St. Paul Police Department has released a 134-page investigative file detailing the extent of the alleged abuse. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, which obtained a copy of the documents, reported that underage boys were sexually abused at the couple’s home in South St. Paul, at Babbitt’s family cabin about 150 miles away, at Minneapolis hotels and at Deyo’s parents’ farm near Hastings, Minn.
The investigation into the couple began on Aug. 14, when a 16-year-old boy and his parents told police that he had been sexually assaulted, according to an application for search warrant and affidavit filed that month. Shortly after, investigators spoke to two more victims — the boy’s best friend and another teen who said he had known Babbitt since the second grade.
All of them told police that Babbitt and Deyo had sexual contact with them after giving them alcohol and marijuana, the affidavit says. They also suspect something had been slipped into their drinks because they felt almost completely impaired after consuming only a small amount. In most instances, the teens said they either felt pressured to have sex or were too intoxicated to consent.
The 16-year-old told police that Babbitt mentored him after he came out as gay to his parents, court records say.
The other teenager, the 16-year-old’s best friend, said the same. The transgender teen told police Babbitt and Deyo were her mentors as she was transitioning to female.
The third teen told police that Babbitt was his second-grade teacher, who helped him through his parents’ separation. Babbitt remained a father figure to him through seventh grade.
Babbitt bought them gifts, and took them out to dinner and on out-of-town trips. That wasn’t uncommon for Babbitt. Court records say he was friends with the teens’ parents, who trusted him to look after their children.
— Pioneer Press (@PioneerPress) December 29, 2016
The 16-year-old, the first accuser, told police that the first sexual contact with Babbitt and Deyo happened in April, shortly after his birthday. He said the couple took him to a hotel under a false pretense that they were going to a jazz concert. There, the teen became very intoxicated as the couple had sex with him.
He didn’t want to do it, he told police, but he wasn’t sure how to say no.
A few weeks later, the couple took the 16-year-old and his best friend to Babbitt’s cabin in Crow Wing County, court records say. Both said they became very drunk to the point of blacking out.
The alleged sexual abuse happened a few more times in other places until the 16-year-old finally broke down and told his parents, court records say.
According to a search warrant filed on Aug. 23, police found drugs, paraphernalia, child pornography and Polaroid pictures of the victims in “various states of undress” in the couple’s house.
During the investigation, Babbitt and Deyo drained their bank accounts and headed west, the Pioneer Press reported. They were found dead on Aug. 25 on Lopez Island in the northwest corner of Washington state. Authorities believe Deyo shot Babbitt in the head with a shotgun, then turned the weapon on himself, the paper reported.
Deyo’s parents gave investigators a suicide note that the couple sent them a few days earlier, according to the Pioneer Press. It stated that the accusations were “too great to overcome” that the couple decided to “choose their own destinies rather than experience the embarrassment, ridicule, hatred and inevitable loss of freedom that the justice system would give.”
Police spoke with more alleged victims after the couple’s deaths. According to files released to the Pioneer Press last week, detectives spoke last September with a teen who was secretly filmed as Babbitt and Deyo fondled him while they were at Deyo’s family’s farm.
The couple also exchanged inappropriate text messages about one of the underage boys.
“Should I be expecting a scantily clad 40 yo and (victim) to give me some hugs and kisses this weekend? I just want to be able to hug and snuggle (victim) for a couple mins without (victim) feeling awkward,” Deyo said in a text message to Babbitt, according to the Pioneer Press.
Babbitt had been a teacher for South St. Paul Public Schools since 2002. He was placed on paid administrative leave after the school district learned of the allegations Aug. 17.
In a statement sent to The Washington Post, Superintendent David Webb said the whole incident “has been very hard on our entire St. Paul community” and that officials are providing grief and mental health counseling to students or staff who may need it.
The school district had done its own internal investigation of the allegations. Webb said the investigative report and documents related to Babbitt are not considered public information.
Last August, Babbitt’s father, Dana Babbitt, told the Pioneer Press that the allegations were “a complete shock” to the family.
“Our families want to express the sincere grief and sadness we are feeling for the innocent people affected by the actions of Aric Babbitt and Matthew Deyo,” Dana Babbitt, who was superintendent of South St. Paul Public Schools from 2003 to 2007, said in a statement to the paper. “We are devastated by the pain and suffering they have caused, and we pray for the healing of those families involved.”