Earlier this month, notorious former teacher Mary Kay Letourneau passed away from late-stage cancer at the age of 58. Letourneau made national headlines because of her illegal relationship with a twelve-year-old student.
According to an anonymous source, the terminally ill sex offender reached out to “make peace” with her two ex-husbands and six children before she died.
Trying to Understand Why
Mary Kay’s family history is littered with tragedies and affairs. It began when she was 10 years old and her little brother drowned in a swimming pool while she played nearby.
Ironically, Mary Kay’s father, a Republican senator from California, was caught up in his own scandal in the early 80s. John G. Schmitz, who also taught political science, was revealed to have fathered two children out of wedlock with his former student at Santa Ana College.
Her first marriage was reportedly an unhappy one, with both parties conducting affairs. A neighbor claimed that Mary Kay’s husband was emotionally and physically abusive, to the point that she had to be hospitalized. However, after her arrest and eventual imprisonment, Steve Letourneau took over custody of their four children.
While armchair psychologists can debate whether any of these events contributed to her behavior, nothing could excuse the harm she caused Vili Fualuu.
A Child’s Life Stolen
Steve Letourneau is one of the ex-husbands that Mary Kay allegedly made peace with. However, her second husband is the reason her death made headline news.
When Mary Kay was 34 years old, she raped a 12-year-old child. Vili Fualaau had his choices taken from him by his abuser. The fact that he continued to have a relationship with her over the next two decades doesn’t excuse or recontextualize the illegal and damaging nature of what she did.
After being arrested in 1997, she gave birth to Fualaau’s child while awaiting sentencing. She ended up spending just three months in jail–but part of her plea bargain was that she could never contact Fualaau or any of her children again.
Two weeks after leaving prison, police caught Mary Kay with her victim again. With her plea deal revoked, the court sentenced her to seven years and a half years in prison. She gave birth to a second child, fathered by Fualaau, while serving that sentence.
She married her victim in 2005 after getting out prison. They did multiple interviews in the intervening years that framed their relationship as something neither of them could resist.
However, he eventually filed for separation in 2017; it became finalized in early 2019. Now 37 years old with two daughters in their twenties, Fualaau was reportedly by his abuser’s side during the last two months of her life.
The conversation about Mary Kay Letourneau and her victim, Vili Fualaau, has changed since news broke of their illegal relationship. In 1997, tabloids treated the story like a juicy scandal, with headlines that played up the idea of being “hot for teacher.”
Now, the very gossip magazines that allowed Mary Kay to push her narrative of “endless love,” such as People, are finally acknowledging that Fualaau was the victim of abuse.