Mary Kay Letourneau, a Seattle-area middle school teacher who became infamous in 1997 after raping one of her students, serving a lengthy prison sentence, and then marrying the student after her release from prison, died Monday following a battle with cancer. She was 58.
Her attorney told Seattle NBC affiliate King 5 that Letourneau had stage 4 cancer and was diagnosed in 2019. The nature of her cancer was not provided.
In 1996, Letourneau, then age 34, was a sixth-grade teacher in Burien, Washington. In June of that year, she was found alone in her car with one of her students, 12-year-old Vili Fualaau. After first attempting to lie about their names and the circumstances under which she was in the car with Fualaau, Letourneau was taken into custody and Fualaau’s mother was contacted. Letourneau denied that anything sexual had occurred however, and Fualaau’s mother — who later said police did not inform her of the circumstances — allowed him to remain in Letourneau’s company.
Nine months later, in March 1997, Letourneau was reported to police by a relative of her husband and arrested. It then came out that she had repeatedly raped Fualaau and was now pregnant. She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape and prosecutors sought a 6-year sentence. But she initially avoided a prison sentence via a plea deal which included three years of sex offender treatment and three months in county jail. She gave birth to a daughter while awaiting sentencing.
In February 1998, shortly after being released from jail, she was arrested after being discovered having sex in her car with Fualaau, who was 14 at the time. Her plea deal was then revoked and she was ordered to serve the full sentence. She gave birth to her second child with Fualaau later that year while in prison.
After she was released from prison in 2004 Fualaau, at that point age 21, convinced a court to rescind the restraining order preventing them from being in contact, and they married the next year. They divorced in 2019. During their marriage, Fualaa defended their relationship but after their split People magazine reported that he now considers the relationship “unhealthy.”