World

Mary Kay Letourneau, teacher jailed for raping student, dead at 58

Mary Kay Letourneau, who married her former sixth-grade student after she was convicted for raping him, has died.

The Seattle-area teacher married her former sixth-grade student after she was convicted and jailed

Former Seattle teacher Mary Kay Letourneau has died. Letourneau pleaded guilty to child rape and received a seven-and-a-half-year prison term. (Reuters)

Mary Kay Letourneau, 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. She was 58.

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 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.

About two months after the marina incident, Letourneau became pregnant with the couple's first daughter. Their second child was conceived in 1998, after Letourneau had pleaded guilty to child rape and received a seven-and-a-half-year prison term.

Fifteen-year-old Vili Fualaau, left, with his lawyer in 1998. Fualaau first fathered a child with Letourneau when he was a 13-year-old Grade 6 student of Letourneau's in the Highline School District near Seattle. (Reuters)

Letourneau and Fualaau married on May 20, 2005, in Woodinville, Wash., after she finished serving time in prison.

Fualaau and Letourneau had previously characterized 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.

King County court records show Fualaau asked the court for a legal separation from Letourneau on May 9, 2017.

'Accepted it was a crime'

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."

now