In 1996, Mary Kay Letourneau's name was splashed across headlines after she began a sexual relationship with her sixth grade student, Vili Fualaau, whom she would later marry. Pinged by the media as a "tryst," despite the charges Letourneau was convicted of, the story of their relationship captured national attention. This week's news that Letourneau had died at the age of 58 forced their story back under the spotlight.
Letourneau and Fualaau had first met when Fualaau was a second grade student in her class. Their student-teacher relationship, however, turned into something much greater several years later when Fualaau was in her sixth grade class. In the summer of 1996, when Letourneau was 34 years old, she began a sexual relationship with Fualaau, who was around 13 at the time. At around 1:20 a.m. on June 19, 1996, police discovered them in a minivan parked at the Des Moines Marina, according to CBS News. Letourneau, who initially told officers that Fualaau was 18, was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty two counts of second-degree child rape.
About two months after the incident at the marina, Letourneau became pregnant with the couple's first daughter. Although she was handed down a three-month jail sentence and probation on condition that she have no further contact with Fualaau, she became pregnant with their second child in 1998. By the time she was released from prison after serving an additional seven-year sentence, Fualaau was an adult, and the couple petitioned the court to allow them to see each other.
On May 20, 2005, Letourneau and Fualaau married in Woodinville, Washington. They would go on to spend the following years together, raising their two children. Their lives, however, remained in the spotlight, the couple even writing a book together titled Un Seul Crime, L'Amour, or Only One Crime, Love. Their story was also featured on a number of TV series, including A&E's Autobiography, during which Letourneau opened up about their relationship and whether or not she holds any regrets.
"[It] sounds young, I get it. He was young, I get it. Am I sorry that he's the father of my children? No I'm not," she said. "Maybe I am just naive in that area of life. Maybe it could have stayed just a kiss. I always thought, 'What if it could have?'"
In May of 2017, after 12 years of marriage, the couple filed for divorce. As the split proceeded, Letourneau and Fualaau still lived together, and they eventually reconciled, though the divorce was finalized in 2019. Although Letourneau and Fualaau lived apart following their divorce, Fualaau was reportedly at her side during her final days.