After learning in August that they were being investigated for the sexual abuse of several teens, a Minnesota elementary school teacher and his husband got a gun from a relative and fled the state. Before Aric Babbitt and Matthew Deyo were found dead days later in Washington, in an apparent murder-suicide, they sent a note back to their families defending themselves, according to newly released police documents.
The letter said the couple knew they would be painted “as monsters” once police made public the details of the evidence recovered from their home, according to an investigative file obtained by PEOPLE.
The letter said “they do not believe that they did any harm, nor did they intend any hurt,” according to the documents.
The couple wrote that they “chose to end their lives ‘rather than losing their lives through the courts, loss of employment, loss of freedom and public humiliation,’ ” the documents state.
The newly released records — made available this week after police in South St. Paul, Minnesota, concluded their investigation into Babbitt and Deyo — detail a fuller scope of the serial child abuse perpetrated by the couple over more than a year.
Citing victim statements, photos and videos and other evidence, police say Babbitt and Deyo sexually abused eight minors, mostly boys.
They provided the victims with alcohol and marijuana before sodomizing them, according to investigators. A search of the couple’s residence turned up electronic devices containing numerous images of their victims — all in various states of undress.
“This is a terrible tragedy for everyone involved,” South St. Paul police Cmdr. Phil Oeffling told the Pioneer Press.
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Babbitt, 40, was a fourth-grade teacher at Lincoln Center Elementary School in South St. Paul. He and Deyo, 36, preyed on children over the course of three years, taking them to Minneapolis hotels and a private cabin for sexual encounters, according to the police investigation.
The documents show how the couple had a hidden camera concealed within an alarm clock in their home, which secretly recorded their abuse. Other videos discovered by authorities show the couple’s victims showering.
Detectives also recovered messages between Babbitt and Deyo indicating the couple planned some of the sexual assaults — and groomed the victims.
“Should I be expecting a scantily clad 40 yo and [redacted] to give me some hugs and kisses this weekend?” Deyo asked in one message, according to the documents. “I just want to be able to hug and snuggle [redacted] for a couple mins without [redacted] feeling awkward.”
Babbitt responded, “You just need to grab him and make [redacted] sit on your lap every once in awhile. Also, if [redacted] all snuggled up on the couch or bed or something you just have to snuggle up next to [redacted].”
“Make sure the alarm clock ends up somewhere good,” Deyo wrote in another message, according to the documents.
A police investigation was opened into Babbitt and Deyo on Aug. 14, when a 16-year-old boy and his parents came forward about the abuse. The couple fled Minnesota two days later — after police searched their home and informed them of the sexual abuse allegations.
Before heading for Washington, they told a relative they were going camping and asked to borrow his gun, according to the documents.
A week later — on Aug. 25 — the couple was found dead on Lopez Island in Washington after Deyo’s parents received the suicide note from the couple, postmarked Aug. 21.
In September, the families of Babbitt and Deyo released a joint statement to PEOPLE, saying they were “devastated by the pain and suffering” the couple caused.
Deyo’s father, Richard, echoed that when speaking to PEOPLE, saying “We are devastated by the impact on the family of the victims that are affected by their reported actions.” Richard that he didn’t want further attention called to either family so as not to distract from the victims. For that reason, he declined to say more.
“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, adding, “We pray for the healing of those families involved.”
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South St. Paul Schools Superintendent Dave Webb tells PEOPLE via email, “As a school district, we strive provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students. … This has been very hard on our entire South St. Paul community.”
Webb cited several changes the district had made during the school year, including providing grief and mental health counseling to staff and students and partnering with groups such as the Jacob Wetterling Foundation and local churches.
The district said earlier this month it had completed its own internal investigation into Babbitt’s sexual abuse, according to the Pioneer Press. But Webb told the paper the report could not be released as it was being held in “anticipation of a pending civil legal action.” He did not respond to PEOPLE’s questions about those comments.
The school district’s attorney tells PEOPLE that no suit has been filed but did not comment further.
• With reporting by ADAM CARLSON