The handwritten letter was already mailed from Seattle before elementary schoolteacher Aric Babbitt and his husband Matthew Deyo decided to end their lives in August.
Back in South St. Paul, many of the 10 victims sexually abused by the couple were giving interviews to police. Their house had been searched, and details of their crimes would become public. They knew they’d be “painted as monsters, but we are not,” the couple wrote.
In the letter, Deyo claimed they didn’t harm anyone but agreed to leave their lives behind and choose “our own destinies rather than experience the hatred and inevitable loss of freedom that the justice system would give.” They chose suicide, the letter said, rather than losing their lives through the courts, loss of employment and public humiliation.
So they borrowed a shotgun, drained their bank accounts and headed west. A kayaker found Babbitt and Deyo Aug. 25, dead on a beach from suicide. But even after death, victims continued to give reports to police about lurid sex relationships fueled by drugs and alcohol.
This week, South St. Paul Police Chief William Messerich said his department has closed the investigation into molestation allegations involving Babbitt, 40, and Deyo, 36. Eight of the 10 victims were juveniles in their midteens.
Babbitt was hired by the school district in 2002 and had taught grades one, two, five and six at Lincoln Center Elementary. He was supposed to teach fourth grade in the current school year.
Deyo was training to be a chiropractor and had worked in information technology at South St. Paul High School for several years, a court document said. He and Babbitt lived together in South St. Paul.
Babbitt’s father, Dana, was superintendent of the South St. Paul school district from 2003-2007. The couple’s parents couldn’t be reached for comment.
In the suicide letter, which was described in now-public police reports, Babbitt and Deyo claimed anyone involved with them was a “willing participant” and “actively pursuing access to us and our belongings.”
Because the accusations were “too great to overcome,” they decided to kill themselves, the letter said.
The first victim came forward to police Aug. 14. He 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 boy said he had sex with both men at a downtown Minneapolis hotel during this year’s Pride Festival. The boy was at his family’s cabin when he started to have a panic attack about the sexual relationship and told his parents.
A search of Babbitt and Deyo’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.
A volatile temper
When investigators talked to the Deyos after their son’s death, they expressed concern about Matthew Deyo’s mental health in the last year and a half, police reports said. He had a volatile temper and would scream about something, and then apologize.
Deyo had massive amounts of debt and school loans. He had always been a student, going to DePaul University for several months, graduating from St. Olaf College, and attending medical school in Grenada and chiropractic school in the Twin Cities. Police described him as a computer genius.
The police case file, which is more than 100 pages, describes the sexual relationships in detail. Many followed a similar pattern: meeting the boy on social media, an exchange of nude photos and later a meeting in which Babbitt and Deyo would force or convince them to drink large amounts of alcohol or smoke marijuana.
They bought the boys gifts, ranging from cellphones to clothing. Babbitt bought one victim a tablet, encouraging him to use it to view pornography. Often both men would have sex with the boys, the police reports said.
Investigators had to work their way through complex passwords and double encryptions on Deyo’s computer. He also created an entire e-mail server and had his own domain.
Deyo had videos taken from a hidden camera in the bathroom of their house. Investigators also found many videos of the men having sex with boys.
Besides their home, the couple had sex with boys at a cabin they owned in Crow Wing County. Several victims said they were so drunk and high from smoking marijuana that they didn’t know how to stop the sexual advances.
In the search of the couple’s house, police discovered jars full of marijuana. They also found droppers that appeared to have contained a liquid substance that investigators later determined was a synthetic drug that was being mixed with the marijuana.
In text messages, one of the victims said Babbitt was “nice,” but that he believed Deyo was brainwashing Babbitt. Before sex would take place at the cabin, the boy described innocent activities like watching movies, going out on a pontoon boat and singing songs around a piano.
Deyo’s temper and erratic behavior caught one of the victim’s attention in June. Deyo woke up angry, telling the boy they had hurt Babbitt’s feelings by being on their telephones. Deyo told them that he would kill people for Babbitt.
The couple once boasted that they had sex “like five feet away” from a victim while he was sleeping.
Police suspected Babbitt and Deyo weren’t going to return to Minnesota when Deyo’s mother called the police because the couple hadn’t been responding to their texts and telephone messages. When the suicide letter reached the Deyos — saying the couple was going to die on Lopez Island in Washington state — deputies began to search the area.
The men had also left a suicide note near their bodies. It said little, except that they were from Minnesota and always thought the island was beautiful.
“So we came out here to die,” the letter said.