Police: Minnesota teacher, husband abused 8 underage boys
SOUTH ST. PAUL, Minn.—A South St. Paul elementary school teacher and his husband allegedly had sexual conduct with eight underage boys over several years, according to police documents released Tuesday.
South St. Paul police closed their four-month investigation into teacher Aric Babbitt and Matthew Deyo last week, and the 134-page case file obtained by the Pioneer Press on Tuesday shows the scope and extent of the alleged sexual contact and inappropriate conduct.
The investigation began Aug. 14 after a 16-year-old boy and his parents went to South St. Paul police to report "an ongoing sexual relationship" with Babbitt and Deyo. The couple was found dead, an apparent murder-suicide, in Washington state eight days later. Neither man had been charged with a crime.
Babbitt was a 1998 Concordia College in Moorhead graduate.
Although police have said previously that they suspected additional victims, the number was not clear until the case file was released.
"This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved," South St. Paul police Cmdr. Phil Oeffling said Tuesday. He said with the case now closed, the department would not be issuing further comment.
In addition to the eight underage boys, police also identified a man who allegedly was unknowingly videotaped nude in Babbitt and Deyo's South St. Paul home.
The redacted case file includes victims who came forward with allegations after the investigation became public, as well as ones identified through photos and videos on phones, computers and media devices that belonged to Babbitt and Deyo.
The file also paints a partial picture of what Babbitt, 40, and Deyo, 36, did in their final days.
Babbitt, a teacher at Lincoln Center Elementary since 2002, was put on paid leave by South St. Paul schools after the district learned of the allegations Aug. 17.
DETAILS OF ABUSE
The alleged abuse happened at the married couple's home, at Babbitt's family cabin in Crow Wing County, at Minneapolis hotels and at Deyo's parents' farm south of Hastings, according to the case file report.
In many instances, Babbitt and Deyo gave their alleged victims alcohol and marijuana. They also bought phones and other devices, encouraging the alleged victims to communicate with them and to watch pornography.
The first accuser told police that Babbitt was his former elementary school teacher, volunteer work supervisor and mentor. The boy reported that Babbitt had agreed to be a mentor for him when he came out as gay to his family and that the teacher gave him gifts of underwear and yoga shorts and also asked for photos before he was 16.
The boy told police that shortly after he turned 16, Babbitt and Deyo asked to take him to a jazz concert and a hotel in Minneapolis during Memorial Day weekend, according to the case file report.
Once there, Babbitt and Deyo provided the teen with alcohol and marijuana and he became very intoxicated, the documents said. They did not go to the concert. Instead, all three had unprotected sex, the report states.
Babbitt and Deyo told the boy to "keep this our little secret," according to the report.
A second boy told police that his first of many interactions with Babbitt and Deyo took place in December 2013 or early January 2014 at the couple's home. The boy said they were watching movies and that "it got weird" when Babbitt and Deyo gave him marijuana and said he needed to get naked to smoke with them.
The boy told investigators he "felt numb" from the marijuana and Deyo touched his private parts.
Another boy told investigators that Babbitt and Deyo took him and his friend to Babbitt's family cabin, where they drank alcohol, smoked marijuana and went skinny-dipping in the lake. The boy said he witnessed Babbitt and Deyo touching his friend inappropriately.
During its investigation, the Dakota County Electronic Crimes Unit discovered that other boys were videotaped in the bathroom at the couple's home, footage that was captured by a camera hidden in a bathroom clock.
Text messages between Babbitt and Deyo detailed the abuse, according to the report.
When Babbitt referenced a victim staying overnight, Deyo text-messaged him, "Make sure the alarm clock ends up somewhere good. I was going to surprise (victim) with hot tub ... in case it improves chances of skinny dip."
In another text message, Deyo asked Babbitt, "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."
Babbitt responded by texting, "You just need to grab him and make (victim) sit on your lap every once in awhile."
Investigators also found videos taken at Deyo's parents' farm south of Hastings, where a boy was videotaped in a shower.
Deyo's parents would later tell investigators that Babbitt and Deyo sometimes would take care of their horses at the farm when they were out of town.
On Sept. 1, investigators spoke with a victim who was unknowingly filmed being touched by Babbitt and Deyo while they played video games at the Deyo family farm. The boy was upset about the video and hesitant to speak with an investigator about what happened.
"I told (the victim) that they had done similar things to other kids and that one minute they would be playing a game and the next, touching was happening," the investigator wrote. "I advised (the victim) that it was not OK that they did that and (the victim) was not alone."
The investigator told the boy's mother that it was not uncommon for a sexual abuse victim to deny "bad stuff has happened to them," the report read. "I told her that she needed to have (the victim) talk to a therapist so that (the victim) could deal with this now, rather than later."
Other videos show Babbitt filming himself masturbating in a school bathroom and in his empty classroom, near a student's desk.
On Tuesday, South St. Paul schools Superintendent Dave Webb acknowledged the end of the police investigation and said the district continues to provide grief and mental health counseling for any staff and students in need.
"As a school district, we strive to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students," Webb said in an email to the Pioneer Press. Steps the district has taken since the start of the school year, he said, include partnering with local churches, Dakota County, the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, 360 Communities and other social service agencies to offer training and support for staff on trauma, mental health, early warning signs and related issues.
"This has been very hard on our entire South St. Paul community," Webb said.
ON THE RUN
In an Aug. 16 search of Babbitt and Deyo's South St. Paul home, officers found marijuana, as well as the camera hidden in a bathroom clock. Several computers and media devices were confiscated.
On the day of the search, investigators tried to speak with them and explain the nature of the investigation; neither agreed to provide a statement.
Search warrants of the couple's bank accounts show that the couple charged $860 in camping gear and other items on a card at Walmart on Aug. 16 while investigators were still at their house searching for evidence.
On Aug. 25, Babbitt and Deyo were found dead on a Lopez Island beach, in the San Juan Islands in the northwest corner of Washington. A coroner for San Juan County ruled that Deyo shot Babbitt in the head with a shotgun the evening of Aug. 24, then turned the gun on himself.
A note on the dashboard of the couple's station wagon stated they had the "vacation of a lifetime" on Lopez Island and that it "brought (them) great peace to end (their lives) on Lopez," the case file reads.
Deyo's parents provided investigators with a suicide note the couple sent to their family members, dated Aug. 21 and postmarked Aug. 25 out of Seattle. The letter said they stayed in a motel near Sturgeon Lake, Minn., trying to figure out what to do.
They then drained their bank accounts and headed west, staying in motels in Minot, N.D.; Havre, Mont.; and Kalispell, Mont. They spent two nights in Seattle before heading to Lopez Island.
"The letter advised that some would paint them as monsters, but they advised that they are not," the report read.
Babbitt and Deyo said in the letter that because the accusations were "too great to overcome," the couple decided to leave their lives behind and "choose our own destinies rather than experience the embarrassment, ridicule, hatred and inevitable loss of freedom that the justice system would give."