To his teen victims, Aric Babbitt was an elementary teacher, community volunteer supervisor and mentor. He and his husband Matthew Deyo were friends of their families, so staying overnight or going on trips with trusted adults wasn’t questioned.
That was until Aug. 14 when a juvenile boy and his parents went to South St. Paul police to report an ongoing sexual relationship with Babbitt and Deyo, according to a Dakota County court document made public this week. Investigators would soon learn he wasn’t the only victim.
On the day police tried to get a statement from the couple, they borrowed a gun and several rounds of ammunition from Deyo’s brother and headed to Washington state. A kayaker found their bodies with gunshot wounds on a beach on Lopez Island Aug. 25, and police discovered a suicide note.
The deaths of Babbitt and Deyo, ruled a murder-suicide, hasn’t closed the investigation into the alleged series of sexual assaults, said Cmdr. Philip Oeffling. An internal investigation is underway at the South St. Paul School District, said Superintendent Dave Webb. More potential victims have been identified.
“We continue to make counseling services available to both students and staff, and that won’t stop,” Webb said. “We sent out letters to families to make them aware of the situation.”
Babbitt, 40 was hired by the school district in 2002, and had taught grades 1, 2, 5 and 6 at Lincoln Center Elementary. He was supposed to teach fourth grade this school year, which starts Sept. 6.
He was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 17 after the school district learned about the allegations, Webb said. Babbitt had no disciplinary record with the district.
Deyo, 36, was training to be a chiropractor, a court document said. He and Babbitt lived together in South St. Paul.
The couple’s parents couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday. Babbitt’s father, Dana, was superintendent of the South St. Paul school district from 2003 to 2007.
A search of the couple’s house took place Aug. 16. Police attempted to speak with Babbitt and Deyo and explain the nature of the investigation, but neither agreed to provide a statement, the court document said.
When the initial victim, who is now older than 16, came forward to police, he also turned over pictures of himself naked with Babbitt. The teen said Babbitt agreed to be a mentor for him when he came out as gay to his family, the document said.
Babbitt and Deyo, who were friends with the teen’s family, gave him gifts of underwear, small yoga shorts and asked for photos before he was 16, the document said. The teen’s mother asked Babbitt about the gifts, but he told her it was “a gay thing” and that he was just helping.
The couple also took the teen to a jazz concert and offered to treat him to a hotel stay. He was then given alcohol and marijuana and Babbitt and Deyo had sex with him, the document said. The teen said he didn’t want “to do this, but felt unsure about how to say no.”
They told him that they had never done anything like this before and assured him they didn’t have any diseases, the document said. The couple also told the teen not to tell his best friend, a male who was transitioning to become a woman.
The teen and other victims told police that Babbit and Deyo exposed them to pornography, gave them access to porn subscriptions where they posted nude photos and encouraged them to communicate with them on social media without their parents’ knowledge, the court document said.
At the couple’s house, police found a hidden camera in a clock on the back of a toilet in the bathroom and a computer folder labeled “Kiddies.”
A few months ago, two of the victims were taken to Babbitt’s cabin in Crow Wing County. Again, the victim’s parents knew Babbit and Deyo and entrusted them to take care of their kids for the weekend, the document said.
There was drinking and unwanted sexual advances, the teens told police. Deyo tried to a massage one of the victims because he was a chiropractor, but he was told not to tell anyone afterward because he would prevent him from getting his license, the document said.
Babbitt and Deyo convinced several of the teens to stay with them at a downtown Minneapolis hotel during the city’s gay pride weekend. Babbitt became angry when one of the teens wouldn’t have sex with him because he spent thousands of dollars on them, the document said.
One of the victims knew the couple since he was in 7th grade, calling the men “father figures” because they helped him when his parents were separating, the document said. At one point, Babbitt realized one of the teens was upset after a night of drinking and sex and called him into his classroom to talk. He convinced the teen it didn’t have to happen again, but “that they should keep it between them.”
The teen that first reported the sexual encounters to the police Aug. 14 suffered a breakdown beforehand and told his parents what happened with Babbitt and Deyo, the document said. He was too high or drunk to give consent for sex, he said. His brother became upset because another of Babbitt’s former students told him he had sex with him, but promised to keep it secret.
On Aug. 22, investigators learned Babbitt and Deyo hadn’t contacted family or friends for more than a week. The pair also missed a family outing.
After the couple met with police on Aug. 16, they met Deyo’s brother and said they were going camping. They asked to borrow a gun in case they needed protection from bears, the document said.
Deyo’s brother said the story didn’t make sense because they were going camping near Alexandria, Minn. But they later changed their supposed destination to Grand Marais, Minn. The brother eventually lent them the gun and ammunition. They were found dead days later.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465