Sheriff Babeu responds to ABC15 investigation

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu says he never had a sexual relationship with a student at the DeSisto boarding school in Massachusetts where he served as Headmaster.

Babeu's attorney sent ABC15 a statement, claiming it was signed by the former student.

In that statement the former student denies an inappropriate sexual relationship with Babeu.

The ABC15 Investigators cannot verify the authenticity of the signed letter.

It was not addressed, dated or notarized.

The student, who we are not naming, also has not responded to our requests for comment.

The ABC15 Investigators have spoken with several former DeSisto students .

They confirm Paul Babeu did have a relationship with a 17-year-old student at the school.

"It was widely known but not discussed," said former student Holli Nielsen.

"Everybody knew about it," said another former student, Melissa Burech. "He broke every rule to be with that student."

Burech was a student at DeSisto the entire time Babeu was Headmaster.

She lives in the Valley now and contacted us after seeing our investigation on allegations of abuse at the school.

She says the abuse got worse once Babeu arrived.

"Definitely. Everything was more strict, more people were cornered. The punishments were harsher," she said.

The State of Massachusetts launched an investigation into the abuse allegations.

Records obtained by the ABC15 Investigators document punishments given to students.

The records describe being "cornered" as punishment where students were forced to sit facing a corner for up to 14 hours a day for weeks and sometimes even months.

Burech told us that she was stripped searched by fellow students as a form of punishment.

State records don't specifically name Babeu, and he was never accused of participating in the abuse, but students say he was aware of what was going on and Burech confirmed, "He was there for all of it. He was part of all the meetings."

The ABC15 Investigators also found the school was operating without a license while Babeu was in charge.

State records show lack of licensing violated the law, since 30-percent of students had "special needs".

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