5 Things to Know About the Minnesota Teacher Dead in Murder-Suicide During a Child Sex Abuse Investigation
Authorities in South St. Paul, Minnesota, confirm they are investigating multiple accusations of abuse against teacher Aric Babbitt and his husband
The apparent murder-suicide of a Minnesota elementary school teacher and his husband last week now seems to have masked a darker truth: Police say the couple, teacher Aric Babbitt and Matthew Deyo, are being investigated after multiple teenagers accused them of sexual abuse.
Here are five things you need to know about the case:
1. The Couple Knew They Were Being Investigated
Babbitt, 40, and Deyo, 36, knew that police were investigating their alleged sexual abuse of at least one teenage boy, according to court documents obtained by PEOPLE.
The accusations first came to light on Aug. 14, when a teenage boy and his parents went to South St. Paul, Minnesota, police and told them the boy had an “ongoing sexual relationship” with both Babbitt and Deyo, according to search warrants and supporting affidavits obtained by PEOPLE.
Two days later, on Aug. 16, police searched the couple’s home and “explained the nature of the investigation” to the couple, according to the court documents. Neither Babbitt nor Deyo agreed to give a statement, according to the documents.
A week later – on Aug. 25 – they were reportedly found dead on Lopez Island in Washington state. The same day of the police search, they told a relative they were going camping and asked to borrow his gun, according to the documents.
2. The Couple Left a Suicide Note
Babbitt and Deyo were found by passing kayakers not long after they died, in a common use area on Lopez Island, San Juan County Undersheriff Brent Johnson tells PEOPLE. He says that Deyo shot Babbitt before killing himself, as “agreed upon.”
Johnson also says the couple left an “in-depth” suicide note at the scene and sent a similar one back to their families in the mail.
“It was very clear that it was a suicide note and they mention a number of different topics in the note,” Johnson says.
He says the couple had previously been to Lopez Island – a recreation and vacation spot for many – and decided to return specifically for the murder-suicide.
3. The Couple Is Accused of Abusing Multiple Teenagers
Both Babbitt and Deyo allegedly sexually abused multiple teenagers, according to the court documents obtained by PEOPLE. The documents detail repeating cycles of alleged abuse in which the couple would ply their victims with alcohol and marijuana – as well as stronger drugs, their victims suspect – before assaulting and molesting them.
What’s more, “In interviews with … victims, Babbitt and Deyo would expose the teens to porn, give them access to porn subscriptions, and encourage them to communicate with them without their [parents’] knowledge, on social media,” police allege, according to the documents.
The couple would also give their victims gifts, according to the documents: In one instance they gave a teenage boy, who was also gay, some underwear and yoga shorts, with Babbitt telling the teen’s concerned mom that it was a “gay thing” and he was helping.
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The men also allegedly took naked photographs of at least one victim and police suspect they had installed a secret camera in their bathroom in order to record more teens, according to the documents.
Deyo, who said he was training to be a chiropractor, allegedly used that as a pretense on multiple occasions, according to the documents: He would allegedly get his victims naked for massages or to crack their backs, and then he would assault them.
It’s unclear from the court documents how many victims have now come forward, and South St. Paul, Minnesota, police declined to comment to PEOPLE – except to confirm that police were actively investigating Babbitt and Deyo, though police declined to say for what.
South St. Paul Public Schools, where Babbitt had taught for years as an elementary school teacher, confirmed they are also investigating, officials tell PEOPLE.
“As soon as the allegations came to our attention, we immediately put Mr. Babbitt on administrative leave and began an internal investigation,” Superintendent Dave Webb tells PEOPLE in a statement.
The allegations against the couple appear to have been precipitated by one of their teenage male victims, who had a “breakdown and told his parents what was happening,” according to the court documents.
The teen’s female best friend was also a victim and frequent witness to the couple’s alleged abuse, according to the documents, and had gone on multiple excursions with the men along with her friend.
The boy’s older brother “became upset” at these revelations of abuse because his best friend had previously told him about also being abused at Babbitt and Deyo’s home – which the brother had promised to keep secret – according to the documents.
4. Babbitt Was a Beloved Teacher and ‘Father Figure’
Babbitt has been described as an “ideal” and “devoted” teacher, according to the Pioneer Press.
Babbitt was raised in South St. Paul and had worked in the school system since 2002, most recently at Lincoln Elementary School. His father, Dana, is a retired principal in the area and former South St. Paul school superintendent, according to multiple reports.
Such cachet seems to have had an edge, as Babbitt’s victims with Deyo repeatedly described viewing Babbitt as a “mentor” and “father figure,” according to court documents – including one victim who said Babbitt mentored him after he came out as gay to his family.
The victims also describe their parents as friends with the couple, making the victims feel comfortable spending time in the couple’s home or on trips with them, according to the documents.
One longtime resident called the town “heartbroken,” according to the Press: “I can’t even think of anything that’s even close … or anybody who would have even been accused of such a thing,” she said. “It’s such a terrible, terrible tragedy.”
Less is known about Deyo, according to the Press, which reports that he was not as active on social media and did not have such a public-facing job.
5. The Couple’s Families Have Spoken Out
The families of Babbitt and Deyo have released a joint statement to PEOPLE, saying they are “devastated by the pain and suffering” the couple caused.
“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,” the families said in their statement. “We are devastated by the pain and suffering they have caused, and we pray for the healing of those families involved.”
Deyo’s father, Richard, tells PEOPLE that he doesn’t want any further attention called to their families – that this should be about the victims.
Babbitt’s sister, Sara, seemed to confirm the couple’s suicide note in a text message last week, later forwarded to the Press.
“There was an investigation that was going on, and they felt like they didn’t have an out and ending their lives was best for them,” she reportedly wrote Friday. “We received a letter from them in the mail yesterday. We are all devastated and in a lot of pain.”
• With reporting by CHRISTINE PELISEK