Vili Fualaau, the sixth-grade student that Mary Kay Letourneau raped in the 1990s and later married, ‘lost a piece of himself’ when she died earlier this week, a friend has revealed.
Letourneau, 58, passed away at home in Des Monies, Washington, on Monday surrounded by family members following a quiet nine-month battle with stage four colon cancer.
She made headlines around the world in 1997, when the then-married 34-year-old teacher was found to be having a sexual relationship with her student, Fualaau, who at the time was just 12. The pair later wed in 2005 after she was released from prison before he filed for legal separation in 2017.
Though their controversial romance never found its happily-ever-after, in the three years since their separation the pair remained close and ‘still had a lot of love for one another’, a friend has said.
‘They didn’t speak every day, but she would update him on her cancer treatment,’ a source told PEOPLE. ‘At the beginning, the talk was that she was going to beat it, that even though the prognosis wasn’t good, that she’d fight with everything she had, and that she had a shot of surviving it.’
Vili Fualaau ‘lost a piece of himself’ when Mary Kay Letourneau died this week from colon cancer, a friend said (Pictured: The family on vacation together in New York in 2015, with their daughters Georgina, left, and Audrey,right)
Letourneau (above in 1997) was a sixth-grade teacher at Shorewood Elementary in 1997 when she was discovered to be having sexual relations with Vili Fualaau, then 12
But by June, Letourneau’s cancer had spread so rapidly that she ‘began saying her goodbyes’, the anonymous friend of Fualaau said.
‘She would talk to Vili or he would call her to see how she was doing. The marriage had split up, but they still had love for each other. They had children together and he would always say that she was his first love. So of course he is sad at the loss. He’s sad for the girls, but he’s also sad for himself.’
Letourneau became pregnant twice before Fualaau turned 15, despite court orders aimed at keeping them apart. The couple share two daughters together, Georgina and Audrey.
‘He lost a piece of himself,’ Fualaau’s friend told PEOPLE. ‘He understands how f***ed up everything was in how they got together. He’s not stupid. But he can’t turn off his feelings completely, and it’s a big loss for him. He talked to her right before she passed, and they said everything they needed to say.’
On Wednesday, DailyMail.com reported that Fualaau had been providing Letourneau with around-the-clock care in the final stages of her life.
In an interview with TODAY, her friend and longtime attorney David Gehrke further elaborated Wednesday that Fualaau uprooted his life to ensure he could be there to carry out that care.
‘Vili moved back from California, gave up his life there, and for the last two months of Mary’s life he stood by her 24/7 taking care of her,’ he said. ‘So yes, they were divorced and they had their spats, but they were always in love with each other.
‘He knew that this was Mary’s end coming, fast moving, and for her sake and the family’s sake, and for his sake, he came back up and was with her, and it meant the world to her, Gehrke said. ‘And I know it meant the world to Vili, as painful as it was,’
‘Their marriage lasted longer than most,’ he continued. ‘But they always, always deeply cared for each other.’
Though their controversial romance never found its happily-ever-after, in the three years since their separation the pair remained close and ‘still had a lot of love for one another’ (pictured: Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau during a photo shoot at her beachfront home April 27, 2006)
The couple are shown in 2005, the year they got married. Their divorce would be finalized 14 years later but they remained close
Letourneau is survived by her children, Steven Jr., Claire, Nicholas, and Jacqueline, whom she had with first husband, Steve Letourneau, in addition to the two daughters she had with Fualaau
A source close to the couple told The Sun that both Letourneau and Fualaau were determined to make their relationship work before she succumbed to her cancer on Monday.
‘Everyone’s hearts are very heavy at the moment,’ the source said. ‘I believe she and her loved ones were spending every minute of every moment cherishing time together.
‘I do know that they both loved and adored each other and did everything they could to keep the family intact.’
The families of Fualaau, now 37, and Letourneau released a joint statement about her death on Wednesday, expressing how they had been left ‘deeply saddened’ by her passing.
‘Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease,’ the family said of her battle with cancer. ‘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.
‘We are endlessly grateful for the care and kindness received from the amazing professionals involved in Mary’s care,’ the statement continued. ‘Likewise, the kindness and compassion of friends and others who learned of her condition along the way proved an uplifting gift to us all.’
Friends of the couple have also cautioned posting ‘insensitive’ comments in the wake of her death, despite the controversial beginnings of her and Fualaau’s relationship.
‘She does leave behind six children and two grandchildren. As unconventional as the relationship started, it was real and they lived a loving life,’ The Sun’s source said. ‘It’s time to let children move on in their adult lives without reading or hearing persecution from strangers.’
Fualaau had been providing Letourneau around-the-clock care in the final stages of her life
Friends of the couple have cautioned posting ‘insensitive’ comments in the wake of her death, despite the controversial beginnings of her and Fualaau’s relationship (pictured: Mary Kay Letourneau, 36, is brought into a King County courtroom)
A source close to the couple said that both Letourneau and Fualaau were determined to make their relationship work before she succumbed to her cancer on Monday
A fifteen-year-old Vili Fualaau is seen clutching a present for one of his daughters in 1998
Letourneau first met Fualaau when he joined her second grade class in 1992, but they did not begin their sexual relationship until four years later when he was 12.
In 1996, after the school year had ended, the pair enrolled in summer classes at the same community college and began spending more time together.
One day after class, the pair went out for dinner. In a 2018 interview, Fualaau recalled that after the meal he asked to kiss Letourneau inside her car, which she accepted.
TIMELINE OF THE MARY KAY LETOURNEAU AND VILI FUALAAU
1992: Letourneau first meets Fualaau when he joined her second grade class, aged 8
1996: Their sexual relationship began when he was 12 and she was 34. She says it began when they went to dinner after a day of summer classes and that he asked to kiss her in her car. She let him
They had sex later that summer which they described as the start of their physical relationship
1997: Letourneau’s husband Steve finds love letters between the pair.
One of his relatives alerted the school and Letourneau is arrested on statutory rape charges.
Steve files for divorce and gets custody of their four kids.
August 1997: Mary Kay gives birth to her first daughter with Fualaau while awaiting sentencing
November 1997: She serves three months in prison as part of a plea deal
August 1998: The pair are caught having sex in a car again and she is sentenced to seven years in prison. She is already pregnant with their second daughter
October 1998: Their second daughter is born in prison
August 2004: Mary Kay is released from prison
2005: The pair get married
2017: Fualauu files for separation but they reconcile
August 2019: The separation is finalized
July 2020: Mary Kay dies from colon cancer
Letourneau then had sex with Fualaau for the first time later that summer, when her husband, Steve Letourneau, was out of town.
At about 1:20 a.m. on June 19, 1996, police found the pair in a minivan parked at the Des Moines Marina. Letourneau was seen jumping into the front seat as officers approached the vehicle, while Fualaau pretended to be asleep in the back.
Fualaau and Letourneau denied there had been any ‘touching.’ They initially provided false names and Letourneau told police that Fualaau was 18.
Letourneau then said she had been babysitting the boy at her home and took him away in her van after she and her husband had a fight.
They were taken to the police station but no further action was taken.
However, the true nature of their relationship was uncovered in February, 1997, when Steve Letourneau found love letters that the pair had penned to one another. He confronted Fualaau, demanding he end the relationship otherwise he’d inform his parents.
‘He came to my house and confronted me about it and told me if I don’t want my mom knowing about this or anyone knowing about this, it was going to end,’ Fualaau explained in a 2018 interview. ‘I was worried about everything, about Mary, myself and I said, “OK, I don’t want this to get out anywhere.”
‘The fear of my mom’s reaction and the thought of everyone being affected by it was one of my biggest fears, so I said, for the better of everyone, OK. It was kind of devastating.’
However, one of Steve’s relatives had already alerted school authorities about their relationship and Letourneau was arrested on statutory rape charges.
Shortly after, Steve then filed for divorce. He received full custody of their four children and moved the family to Alaska.
Letourneau was initially sentenced to three months in jail as part of a plea agreement in November 1997, in which she agreed to no longer have any contact with Fualaau.
She was pregnant with her former student’s child at the time of her conviction.
Letourneau was then paroled in 1998.
However, shortly after her release from jail, she was once again found having sex in a car with Fualaau on February 3.
A Judge then revoked Letourneau’s prior plea agreement and she was ordered to serve seven years in prison on second-degree child rape charges for violating the no-contact order.
She gave birth to Fualaau’s second child while in prison. The father had still not yet turned 15.
Their illegal relationship was uncovered by Letourneau’s husband at the time, Steve Letourneau, who found love letters exchanged between his wife and Fualaau. He divorced her and moved to Alaska. She is seen, right, at her trial
Vili Fualaau, 15, is shown in court on October 25, 1998. He had just arrived in Seattle from London promoting a book he had written about his relationship with Letourneau
Former Seattle teacher Mary Kay Letourneau, whose affair with one of her ex-pupils caused a national scandal, breaks down February 6 as she is ordered to prison for 7-1/2 years for seeing the boy again
Letourneau with her first daughter, Audrey, in 1997. Fualaau opened up about the difficulties he faced trying to raise his two daughters alone when he wasn’t even an adult yet himself. The teen was eventually forced to drop out of high school and slipped into depression and alcoholism
Letourneau gave birth to Fualaau’s second child while in prison. The young father had still not yet turned 15
Upon her release from prison, Fualaau, who was by then an adult, petitioned in court for a judge to remove the no-contact order.
The restraining order against Letourneau was dropped, but the shamed teacher remained a registered sex offender in Washington state.
Letourneau and Fualaau then once again shocked the world when they tied the knot in 2005.
They remained married for 12 years, until Fualaau filed for divorce in 2017.
The pair continued living together while the legal separation proceeded and were occasionally spotted out with one another in the Seattle area, with their two daughters, Georgina and Audrey.
Despite several attempts to reconcile, the couple finalized their split in February last year and began living apart.
‘They don’t hate each other.
‘But they’re both looking forward to getting on with their lives and moving forward,’ a source close to the couple said at the time.
Letourneau was initially sentenced to three months in jail as part of a plea agreement in November 1997, in which she agreed to no longer have any contact with Fualaau
Letourneau broke down in 2018 as she discussed the media fallout from the couple’s relationship.
‘It’s shock value. That’s what it was all about. Shock. I call it media carnage. Road kill. Blood,’ she said on the A&E special ‘Autobiography’.
‘Everybody wants to hear the story. Whether it’s because they want to analyze it or criticize it. It’s been 20 years but it’s still there.’
Letourneau went on to claim the media’s portrayal of their relationship was incorrect. She said that the relationship between the two did not start until after the school year was over, and that it quickly became physical.
‘The incident was a late night that it didn’t stop with a kiss. And I thought that it would and it didn’t,’ said Letourneau. ‘I loved him very much, and I kind of thought, “Why can’t it ever just be a kiss?”
Fualaau, who also appeared, reflected on their relationship and said he ‘wasn’t thinking’ when they started having sex when he was just 12 years old.
‘The age difference, all of that stuff wasn’t going through my mind,’ he said. ‘A lot of things that should have gone through my mind at the time, weren’t going through my mind.’
In a separate interview the same year, Letourneau claimed she had no idea it was illegal to enter a sexual relationship with a child at the time.
‘If someone had told me, if anyone had told me, there is a specific law that says this is a crime,’ she told Channel Seven’s Sunday Night.
‘I did not know. I’ve said this over and over again. Had I’d known, if anyone knows my personality. Just the idea, this would count as a crime.’
Fualaau was a troubled Samoan boy from a broken home living in a rough part of Seattle at the time of the scandal. His father served time in prison for an armed robbery, and he had a difficult relationship with his mother
Fualaau was a troubled Samoan boy from a broken home living in a rough part of Seattle at the time of the scandal. His father served time in prison for an armed robbery, and he had a difficult relationship with his mother.
He also opened up on the program about the difficulties he faced trying to raise his two daughters alone when he wasn’t even an adult yet himself.
The teen was eventually forced to drop out of high school and slipped into depression and alcoholism, he said.
‘I don’t feel like I had the right support or the right help behind me,’ he said. ‘From my family, from anyone in general. 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.’
Letourneau is survived by her children, Steven Jr., Claire, Nicholas, and Jacqueline, whom she had with first husband, Steve Letourneau, in addition to the two daughters she had with Fualaau.
‘I truly believe she was never a threat to any other boy than the one she ended up marrying after spending seven years in prison,’ Gehrke told Q13 News. ‘I feel nothing but sadness for her children, whom she loved more than anything.’
Her daughters, Audrey, 23, and Georgia, 21, spoke about their childhood in the wake of the scandal in a 2018 interview with an Australian news channel.
‘I think I understand about it, just like how it was surprising to people,’ Audrey said. ‘It’s been feeling different because it’s not really been brought to our attention, just because we grew up with it, so we’re adapted to it.’