Mary Kay Letourneau's name is back in the headlines after the teacher convicted of raping her 12-year-old student, then later marrying him, was announced Tuesday to have died of cancer at age 58. Letourneau has been a controversial figure in the public eye since her arrest in 1997 for having sex with her sixth-grade student, Vili Fualaau.
The relationship between the two has taken a number of twists over the years, from the birth of their daughters to their 2005 marriage and 2017 separation. Keep scrolling to read a timeline of the case that rocked the nation and its aftermath.
At the Beginning
The saga began in 1996, when Letourneau, 34, was Fualaau's sixth-grade teacher. By July of that year, the pair's relationship had turned sexual, making Letourneau a child rapist as Fualaau was only 12. After a few close calls at being discovered, a now-pregnant Letourneau was turned in by her husband at the time in March 1997 after he discovered love letters between his wife and the child. She was then arrested for second-degree child rape and released on bail.
In a 2015 interview with Barbara Walters, Letourneau, said of the escalation of their relationship, "The incident was a late night that didn't stop with a kiss. I thought that it would and it didn't. ...And I kind of thought, 'Why can't it ever just be a kiss?'"prevnext
In May 1997, Letourneau gave birth to her first child with Fualaau, a daughter named Audrey. She was already mother to four children from her first marriage. She would later give birth to a second child with her former student in October 1998, a daughter named Georgia, while behind bars.
Fualaau told Walters in 2015 he felt abandoned as the fervor swirled around him concerning the case. "I don't feel like I had the right support or the right help behind me. From my family, from anyone in general," he said. "I mean, my friends couldn't help me because they had no idea what it was like to be a parent, I mean, because we were all 14, 15."prevnext
Letourneau's court case grabbed headlines from the start. In August 1997, she pleaded guilty to child rape in exchange for a three-month jail sentence and probation on condition that she have no further contact with Fualaau. In January 1998, Letourneau finished her three-month jail stay, and was entered into the sex offender registry.
In February 1998, police caught a pregnant Letourneau and Fualaau together in a vehicle, despite the no-contact order, and arrested Letourneau on a parole violation. Police also discovered $6,200 in cash, baby clothing and her passport inside the car, which authorities said was proof the couple planned to flee the country together. Appearing in front of a judge, Letourneau was officially sentenced to the full 7 1/2 years she had initially avoided through the plea bargain.prevnext
In August 2004, Letourneau was released from the Washington Corrections Center for Women, having served her full sentence for child rape. Fualaau, then age 21, requested a reversal of the no-contact order against Letourneau in court, which was granted by Judge Linda Lau. In February 2005, the couple set a wedding date, and on May 20, 2005, married at a winery in Washington in front of 250 guests. At the time, she was 43 and Fualaau was 22. Their two daughters acted as flower girls. Two of her children from her first marriage would attend.prevnext
In May 2015, Letourneau and Fualaau celebrated their 10th anniversary after largely staying out of the public eye. In May 2017, however, the couple's marriage would re-enter the public sphere, when Fualaau filed for separation from his wife. Their divorce was finalized last year, but neither member of the couple would comment on the reason for the dissolution of their marriage.prevnext
"Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease," the families' statement added. "Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous struggle. We did our very best to care for Mary and one another as we kept her close and stayed close together." The families added they were "endlessly grateful" for the care and kindness from the people involved in her medical care. "Likewise, the kindness and compassion of friends and others who learned of her condition along the way proved an uplifting gift to us all," they continued.prevnext
Family Statement (cont.)
The families concluded, "It is in that spirit that we ask for privacy and respect for our desire to focus on the road ahead for all of us who make up Mary's collective family. We ask that our boundaries and need for privacy be honored with continued kindness and understanding." Therefore, they planed to "celebrate and honor the wishes of our wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, beloved family member and loyal friend and concentrate on caring for one another."prev