Seattle: Mary Kay Letourneau, 58 years old, a teacher who married her former sixth-grade student after she was convicted of raping him in a case that drew international headlines, has died.
Her lawyer David Gehrke told multiple news outlets Letourneau died Tuesday of cancer. He did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.
Letourneau was a married mother of four having difficulties with her marriage in 1996 when Vili Fualaau was a precocious 12-year-old in Letourneau’s class at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, a south Seattle suburb.
At about 1:20 a.m. on June 19, 1996, police discovered them in a minivan parked at the Des Moines Marina.
Letourneau, then 34, initially told officers the boy was 18, raising suspicions that something sexual was going on. But back at the police station, Fualaau and Letourneau denied there had been any “touching.” Instead, they said, Letourneau had been babysitting the boy and took him from her home after she and her husband had a fight.
Fualaau and Letourneau had previously characterised their relationship as one of love, and even wrote a book together — “Un Seul Crime, L’Amour,” or “Only One Crime, Love.” Their story was also the subject of a USA Network movie, “All American Girl.”
Seattle attorney Anne Bremner befriended Letourneau in 2002, when she represented the Des Moines police department in a lawsuit brought by Fualaau’s mother, claiming the city and school district failed to protect him from the teacher. A jury found against the family in the civil action. Bremner visited Letourneau in prison and would meet her for lunch after her release.
“She accepted that it was a crime and that she had to serve her time, but when she got out she didn’t dwell,” Bremner said. “She moved forward in a very positive way and raised those girls. She was somebody I rooted for. I really wanted her to do well, and she did.”
In the civil trial following the multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by Fualaau’s mother, the police department and school district insisted the romance was so bizarre that no one could have predicted it. The district’s lawyer said it began off school grounds after the academic year had ended. Police argued that they simply had no evidence of sexual abuse until it was too late.
Bremner said of Letourneau and Fualauu’s relationship: “Everyone said it wouldn’t last, but it did, at least for 20 years.”
Steve Lopez is the Editorial Page Editor for News Raise. He covers Health. He has won more than a dozen national journalism awards for his reporting and column writing at seven newspapers and four news magazines.