Former student at school run by Paul Babeu calls Sheriff a liar, says ABC15 report is validation

A former student who attended the boarding school once run by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is calling him a blatant liar and said an ABC15 investigation validates her horrific experience.

“I feel it’s another way for me to heal,” said Melissa Burech, who now lives in the Valley. “To have more people believe me and say that I’m not crazy.”

ABC15 obtained a 1999 home video showing Babeu touting abusive practices used on special needs children at the DeSisto School in Stockbridge, MA.

Burech and other students said the footage is undeniable proof of the abuse they experienced at the school.

“I broke down crying,” Burech said after watching it. “I vomited. That’s how much it shook me.”

Burech attended the DeSisto School from 1998 through 2001 – a period spanning Babeu’s entire tenure as headmaster and executive director. She said personally suffered many of the abusive practices and said Babeu knew all about what was going on.

The home video supports her statements.  In the video, Babeu specifically discusses multiple punishments and called one of the most punitive methods “amazing.” He also said students need to feel hopeless and feel depression. The goal is to make them “bottom out.”

“We were already at our bottoms and to throw abuse into the equation already made it a million times worse,” Burech said.

Burech also spoke to ABC15 in 2012, when the station first exposed widespread abuse at DeSisto under Babeu’s watch. At the time, Babeu threatened to sue ABC15 and denied having any “knowledge” of the mistreatment of students.

“It’s a blatant lie,” Burech said. “I’m finally being validated and listened to.”

She was also angry after reading the Sheriff’s most recent statement about his time at the school, which stated: “This 16-year-old video of a family Christmas gathering shows nothing new.”

“It’s still relevant to me to this day,” Burech said. “I’m going to live with the scars of it for the rest of my life.”

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com.

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