In the 1990’s it was sensational news to learn that a schoolteacher had an inappropriate relationship with a student. It was even more outrageous when we learned the student was a 12 year old boy, and that his teacher would even go on to have his child, twice. Let’s try to understand the case of Mary Kay Letourneau.
Mary Katherine Schmitz was the middle child in a family of seven kids. She was born January 30, 1962 and her parents were devout Catholics.
Her family called her Mary Kay and her father was politically motivated and was elected to office several times. Eventually his political career would be shattered beyond repair after it was learned that he had fathered two children out of wedlock.
Mary Kay attended college at Arizona State University and this is where she met and eventually married Steven Letourneau. They would also have their first child, Steven Jr, while in college. Mary Kay would later say that she was not in love with Steven but was told by her parents to marry him. They would marry in 1984.
The young family would move to Alaska and then to Seattle for Steven’s job with Alaska Airlines. Their second child, Mary Claire would be born in Seattle.
In 1989 Mary Kay graduated and began teaching at a local elementary school. She first taught 2nd grade and this would be the first time she taught Vili Fualaau.
Steve and Mary Kay’s marriage was not ideal but they did welcome two more children into their family, son Nicholas and later daughter Jacqueline. The marriage was suffering due to money problems and Mary Kay’s claim that she had been emotionally and physically abused by her husband.
Vili Fualaau was born June 26, 1983. He was Mary Kay’s student in 2nd grade and then again in 6th grade. In 1996 their relationship went from platonic to sexual.
June 1996, police say a vehicle parked in a marina parking lot and investigated. When he approached the vehicle, Mary Kay jumped into the front seat and Vili pretended to sleep in the back. When questioned they both gave false names and Vili stated his age was 18.
The officer did not believe this and took them to the station. Vili’s mother was contacted and asked what she would like to do and she told police to return her son to his teacher, Mary Kay. Later she would claim that the police never informed her about the false names or what they had been doing.
It was almost a year later, March 1997 when Mary Kay was arrested. A relative of Steve’s contacted police. Mary would plead guilty and while awaiting sentencing gave birth to her daughter Audrey.
Eventually Mary Kay agreed to a plea deal. Instead of serving 7 years in prison, she would serve 6 months, three month suspended. She would also have to take sex offender treatment for three years and have no contact with Vili or any of her children. For life.
In 1998, two weeks after finishing her sentence Mary Kay and Vili were found in a car together, and it was assumed that sexual intercourse had occurred. Inside the car was over $6000, baby clothes and men’s clothes, as well as Mary Kay’s passport.
Mary’s plea agreement was revoked and she was sent to prison for the remaining sentence. In October 1998, Mary gave birth to her second child with Vili, a daughter named Georgia.
This time Mary was allowed visits from her children but was unable to attend her father’s funeral. In prison she wasn’t well liked and was in solitary for over a year.
Vili would drop out of high school, suffered depression, alcoholism, and attempted suicide. His mother would gain custody of his children, her grandchildren.
When Mary was released from prison in 2004, she registered as a level 2 sex offender and shortly after Vili convinced the court to reverse the no contact order. He was now 21 and planned to marry Mary Kay.
The couple married in 2005.
By 2019 their relationship was over and they were legally separated. Vili never claimed to be a victim and was not ashamed of their relationship. He did see that it was not a healthy relationship and chose to divorce.
Mary Kay Letourneau Fualaau would eventually succumb to colorectal cancer in July of 2020. She was 58 and Vili and their daughters were with her when she died. Most of her estate went to Vili.
And that is the story as we know it.
Be strong, make good choices, be safe.