The Untold Truth Of Mary Kay Letourneau

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Few true crime cases have confounded as much as the disturbing case of Mary Kay Letourneau. Now known as Mary Kay Fualaau, she became notorious nationwide for engaging in a romantic relationship with a 12-year-old student that led to multiple pregnancies, eventual arrest and incarceration. After her release, Mary Kay married the student, Vili Fualaau, who was 21 years old by the time of her release. The two were together until 2017, when news broke that they were supposedly separating under questionable circumstances.

What makes this case equally troubling and fascinating is that despite the undeniable wrongness of Mary Kay's actions, both the victim and the perpetrator have defended their relationship. It's a lot to wrap your head around, so let's dig deep into the details. Here's the untold truth of Mary Kay Letourneau.

She was a teacher in a troubled marriage

The daughter of U.S. Congressman John Schmitz, Mary Kay and her siblings were reportedly raised in a conservative Catholic household in California. According to the Crime Library, her childhood was filled with trauma. Her brother died when she was 3 years old, and the family later discovered that her father had two illegitimate children. As a college student at Arizona State University, Mary Kay began dating fellow student Steven Letourneau. When she got pregnant, they reportedly followed the advice of family and got married, despite personal reservations. They moved to Alaska for Steve's work, but were supposedly plagued by relationship woes. Though they went on to have four children, financial problems reportedly put further pressure on an already strained marriage. When Steve's work took them to Seattle, Mary began taking courses to become an educator, successfully beginning a career teaching second grade in a Seattle suburb in the early '90s.

She met her victim in the 2nd grade

As a teacher, Mary Kay Letourneau was well-received by students and coworkers alike and even praised by her elementary school principal as "a gift to the entire Highline School District," according to the Crime Library. However, as she gained success professionally, her family life reportedly fell further into disarray. Her husband, Steve Letourneau, was allegedly having affairs with other women, and in response, Mary Kay sought some kind of solace through her work. What she found was a second grader in her class named Vili Fualaau. According to ABC News, the 7-year-old was a gifted artist who reportedly came from a troubled home – his father was behind bars for armed robbery and his mother was busy working long hours at a bakery. Though nothing would occur between the two at the time, they would cross paths again four years later, when Mary Kay began teaching fifth and sixth grade, and Fualaau was her student again.

She never saw herself as a predator

As Mary Kay Letourneau developed a relationship with Vili Fualaau, the closeness between teacher and student became increasingly disturbing to colleagues, neighbors, and family, who noticed them spending an increasing amount of time together and engaging in intimate behavior, such as slow dancing. In the summer after sixth grade, Letourneau reportedly began raping Fualaau, but according to New York magazine, she seemed to view their relationship as one between equals. "He dominated me in the most masculine way that any man, any leader, could do," she said. (Keep in mind, he was 12 and she was 34 years old at the time.) 

Letourneau claimed the illegality of the relationship never crossed her mind. Her primary concern was if Fualaau's mother would be angry. "I definitely knew that it was bizarre," Letourneau said in an interview with Barbara Walters. "...I didn't know that getting into a relationship — a sexually intimate relationship — I didn't know that was a felony or a crime. I knew it wasn't right. I mean, Vili and I loved each other. And still do."

Her husband's family turned her in

When Mary Kay Letourneau became pregnant with Vili Fualaau's child, she reportedly planned to deceive her husband, Steven Letourneau, into thinking the child was his own, but the terrible truth of her affair soon became evident as suspicions became too serious to ignore. Steve eventually discovered concrete evidence in the form of love letters that his wife had written to her student stashed away in their family home. 

Steve's cousin reportedly called Child Protective Services to report Mary Kay's abuse. She was arrested during a teacher's meeting in March 1997, on a charge of statutory rape. "My reaction, I think is disbelief," Steve told a local news station at the time of his wife's arrest. "Just denial." Steve took custody of their four children and moved back to Alaska. "She was a wife, loving wife, good person," he said in an interview. "But does a good mom do what she did?  Does a good teacher do what she did?  Does a good wife do what she did?  No."

Her initial sentence was only 3 months

Mary Kay Letourneau gave birth to her first child by Vili Fualaau in May 1997 while out on bail. Her initial sentence for her crime was extraordinarily lenient: She pleaded guilty to second-degree child rape and received a suspended prison sentence provided she adhere to a number of court orders set by King County Superior Court Judge Linda Lau, including avoiding contact with Fualaau. At the time, Letourneau tearfully apologized to the court for her actions.

But shortly after her release from prison, Letourneau was arrested again after being caught having sex with Fualaau in her car. Judge Lau then sentenced Letourneau to seven and a half years in prison, the maximum penalty available. "These violations are extraordinarily egregious and profoundly disturbing" said Lau at the sentencing, adding that Letourneau's initial sentencing was "an opportunity that you foolishly squandered."

She wrote a book with Vili

Impregnated by Vili Fualaau a second time during her weeks of freedom, Mary Kay Letourneau gave birth while incarcerated. Both of those children were raised by Fualaau's mother. (Steve Letourneau divorced Mary Kay and received custody of their four children.)

In 1999, Mary Kay was placed in solitary confinement after attempting to contact Fualaau by writing letters to him. While behind bars, she also managed to co-author a book with Fualaau, Un Seul Crime, l'Amour, which to this date has only been published in France. "Most American publishers were looking at this as an icky story," said Bob Huff, a lawyer for Latourneau who facilitated her connection with the French publisher, "but the French saw it as a love story." 

The highly controversial tome supposedly aimed to defend the illegal, illicit relationship on the grounds of true love, but the result was a disturbing combination of Mary Kay's romantic musings and Fualaau's graphic contributions. "Her idea of the book was this romantic valentine to the love of her life," noted true crime author Gregg Olsen, author of a book about the case, "and he's just talking about boinking the teacher."

Vili and his mother sued the school and the city

Vili Fualaau and his mother, Soona Vili, sued the school district that employed Mary Kay Letourneau, as well as the city of Des Moines, Iowa in 2002, reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. According to Fualaau's lawyer, both the school and the city had evidence suggesting there was an inappropriate relationship between Fualaau and Letourneau, yet neither entity took action. Fualaau's complaint against the city stemmed from an incident in which Des Moines police officers found him in a parked van with Letourneau. His complaint against the school was related to several incidents in which he and Letourneau were caught in intimate moments, including when a janitor caught them in a "darkened faculty restroom," the Seattle paper reported. Fualaau and Vili sought $1 million from the school district and the city.

According to a subsequent report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, jurors in the civil case sided with the school and the city, noting that police "didn't see any illegal sexual activity" at the time and that Fualaau's mother even allowed him to go home with Letourneau following the incident. "We never had any responsibility for what happened," said Geri Fain, assistant superintendent of the Highline School District. "I do know that [Faulaau] has issues he has to deal with, and I hope he gets all the help he needs."  

Vili married Mary Kay

Within hours of Mary Kay Letourneau's release from prison in 2004, Vili Fualaau, then 21, was working with the courts to rescind a no-contact order between him and his former educator, who was 42 years old at the time. Though he expressed emphatically in his motion that he did not fear or feel forcible compulsion from Letourneau, many in the press found the continuation of the formerly illicit relationship to be disturbing. Author Gregg Olsen said their reunion spoke volumes about Letourneau's pathology. "She has a personal need to get back together with him to prove to the world this is a love story and not a crime story," he said.

Their marriage sparked a tabloid frenzy

News of Letourneau and Fualaau's impending marriage sparked a tabloid media blitz, and Entertainment Tonight paid big money for exclusive footage of their wedding. The 2005 nuptials, held at a winery in Washington in front of an audience of about 250, were attended by two of Mary's children from her first marriage. According to an interview with Barbara Walters, Letourneau said that apart from the Entertainment Tonight presence at the ceremony, "media wasn't privy to the location; we were trying to protect our guests."

Blending her two families was difficult

According to a source for Radar Online, Mary Kay Letourneau's four children with ex-husband Steve Letourneau "tried to give her a chance to rebuild a relationship with them" after she was released from prison a second time. "Two of them even moved to Seattle to try to get to know her and to try to understand her new life." An anonymous insider claimed, "They were very positive about their new relationship with her at first, but as time went on their feelings changed." 

Likely making things difficult was the fact that Vili Fualaau was just a year and a half older than Mary Kay's eldest son. "It's an awkward feeling, for sure, to be close in age with someone technically your stepson or stepdaughter," Fualaau said. Are they on good terms with him now? "I don't know if it's good or bad," he said. "They did their own thing, and I did mine. It really got too personal."

Her husband filed for separation (but it might not be why you think)

The couple made waves and generated new controversy in spring 2017 when news broke that Vili Fualaau was separating from Mary Kay Letourneau, adding a new wrinkle to a perplexing case that has fascinated the press for decades. While initial reports did not elaborate on the reason for the split, rumor had it the separation was not as it appeared on the surface. Instead of a dwindling romance, some reports suggested the separation was a form of legal subterfuge initiated so that Fualaau could pursue a marijuana business, which is legal in Washington, his state of residence. "It's not necessarily what you think," Fualaau said. "Everything is fine between us." 

But what seemed at first to be a clear-cut clarification soon turned dubious, with Fualaau's lawyers refuting the report, and Letourneau's lawyers filing a petition to have Fualaau's separation case dismissed. What the future holds is anybody's guess. The best that we can hope for is that everyone involved ends up with the outcome they deserve.