The Biggest Scandal of the ‘90s Has Come Back to Light

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You probably remember the biggest scandal of the mid- ‘90s – the Mary Kay Letourneau story – in which a 34-year-old teacher began a very serious relationship with her 12-year-old sixth grade student, Vili Fualaau. Obviously, the case hit the media like a ton of bricks, and everyone had something to say about it. People just didn’t want to accept the fact that this extremely unlikely and controversial couple was really in love.

Mary Kay Letourneau / Vili Fualaau, Mary Kay Letourneau / Mary Kay Letourneau / Vili Fualaau, Mary Kay Letourneau.
Source: Getty Images

But what happened between the two illicit lovers after the media frenzy died down? Did they stay together after Letourneau was released from prison? And what ever happened to her family? The thing is, we don’t have Letourneau to ask anymore. She died in 2020, at the age of 58. We do, however, have the people she left behind…

The Scandal That Rocked the Nation

The relationship between Letourneau and Fualaau didn’t just lead Letourneau to serve two jail terms; it also resulted in a marriage that lasted over a decade. The saga began in 1996, when 34-year-old Letourneau found herself starting a new year as a sixth-grade teacher. What she may not have expected was becoming attracted to one of her students, 12-year-old Vili Fualaau.

Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau sit outside their home.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

By July of that year, the two were having sex. When Letourneau was arrested in 1997, the utterly rocked state of Washington (where they lived) as well as the nation. After all, it’s not often that we hear of female pedophiles. What might have been even more shocking to people was that Letourneau said she was in love with him.

It Didn’t Stop With a Kiss

In 2015, Letourneau told Barbara Walters that the “incident” happened late one night, and it “didn’t stop with a kiss.” She said she thought it would, but it didn’t. She also told Walters that she loved Fualaau very much. Nobody expected this unlikely couple to actually fall in love, have two children, and get married.

Letourneau speaks in a televised interview.
Source: ABC News

It was, without a doubt, a life-changing event for both of them. For Fualaau, it only got worse when Letourneau was sent to prison, where he wasn’t allowed to contact her, and he had to raise their two baby girls alone. Just think of the life this young teenager was thrown into. Fualaau spoke to Walters, too.

Until Her Dying Day

Fualaau grieved that period in his life, telling Walters that he didn’t have the right support – from his family or anyone. His friends couldn’t help him since they were only 14 and 15 years old, without a clue as to how to parent. And why would they? The allegedly “consensual” relationship thrust Fualaau into adult life very quickly and profoundly. And there was no turning back.

Letourneau, Fualaau, and their daughters are at home.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

Rather amazingly, the couple stayed together and even lived a (relatively) normal life in Seattle, Washington. Their daughters grew up and their mom got out of prison, but the marriage ended in 2017. And it was Fualaau who filed for a legal separation. It was also Fualaau who was by Letourneau’s side until her dying day.

Death Bed Confessionals

People magazine reported that during her final days, before dying from cancer, she reached out to her ex-husband. “When it was clear that she wasn’t going to make it, she made her peace with everyone in her life,” a source revealed.

A portrait of Letourneau and Fualaau.
Source: Pinterest

Letourneau managed to make peace with Fualaau, Steve and all six of her children. “Everyone said everything that needed to be said.” There’s no doubt that the conversations were heavy considering the shame, turmoil, and anger her family members had surrounding the choices Letourneau made. It’s not every day that a married mom of four leaves her family for her sixth-grade student…

College Sweethearts in the ‘80s

It all began in 1984, when Mary Schmitz was attending Arizona State University. In college, Mary met Steve Letourneau. Before long, they were married, and she got pregnant with their first child. The couple went on to have four kids together – Steven Jr., Mary Claire, Nicholas, and Jacqueline – and settled into family life in Seattle.

Mary and Steve Letourneau are attending a party.
Source: Pinterest

In 1989, Letourneau earned her teaching degree from Seattle University and started working at Shorewood Elementary School. In September 1991, Fualaau was a student in Letourneau’s second-grade class. By 1996, the boy was 12 and back in Letourneau’s class. This time, he was in the sixth grade.

Who Is Mary Kay Letourneau?

She was born as Mary Katherine Schmitz in 1962 in Tustin, California. The daughter of Mary and John Schmitz – a former chemist and college instructor and politician – she was always known as Mary Kay to her family.

A portrait of Mary.
Source: Wikipedia

The fourth of seven children, she was raised in a “strict Catholic household.” When she was two, her father ran as a Republican candidate in the state legislature. He was as a California state senator and U.S. Congressman and ran for president as an American Party candidate in the 1972 elections.

A Tragic Death at the Family Pool

A year later, Letourneau’s three-year-old brother drowned. When Letourneau was 13 years old, her younger brother died in the family pool at their house in Spyglass Hill of Corona del Mar, California. She was playing with another brother in the shallow end.

A picture of Mary.
Source: A&E

Later, she went to an all-girls’ Catholic school in Anaheim, California and joined the cheerleading squad. What you might find interesting is that the girl who became the most hated woman in America had a father who dealt with a similar fate…

Her Father’s Political Scandal

In 1978, her father’s political career came to a halt due to a scandal of his own. He was going to run for the U.S. Senate in 1982, but it came out that he had fathered two children out of wedlock with his mistress.

A portrait of John G. Schmitz.
Photo By Bill Wunsch/The Denver Post/Getty Images

Oh, and get this: His mistress was his former student at Santa Ana College. He was teaching political science at the time. The affair caused Letourneau’s parents to separate, only to later reconcile.

(As a side note, one of Letourneau’s brothers, John Schmitz, was the deputy counsel to President George W. Bush. Then there was Joseph E. Schmitz, her other brother, who was Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Defense under George W. Bush.)

Who Is Vili Fualaau?

Fualaau is a DJ under the name DJ Headline. He was born on June 26, 1983 and is one of four children born to Samoan parents, Soona and Luaiva Fualaau. He was born in the United States and became a troubled boy from a broken home. His family was living in a rough part of Seattle when the scandal hit.

A picture of Vili Fualaau in his teens.
Source: Pinterest

His father had served time in prison for an armed robbery, and his relationship with his mother had never been a good one. Some interviews have reported that Fualaau was the one who wanted his friendship with Letourneau to become a sexual relationship.

He Tried to Win Her Over

He told Dateline television that he thought about what he could do to win her over. “I remember I used to like plan the next day, like ‘What I was gonna do… What surprise I was gonna leave on her desk?'”

Vili Fualaau talks to the press.
Photo by Robert Sorbo/Sygma/Getty Images

Letourneau said how she saw him as more of a young man than a young boy. It’s beyond comprehension to many of us who heard of the story in the news, but to this unlikely couple, it was their love story. And this is how it went down…

The Point of No Return

1996 was the point of no return. The teacher started spending extra-curricular time with the student, helping him develop his drawing skills. Fualaau even went to the Letourneau home and became friendly with her son, Steve Jr.

Letourneau and Fualaau speak on television.
Source: YouTube

By June, the teacher-student relationship developed into a sexual one. The two were now involved in a secret affair. Fualaau later claimed that it was her husband Steve who discovered their relationship. Fualaau and Letourneau wrote a book called One Crime, Love, and in it, he describes an unforgettable moment that no 12-year-old should ever experience…

When Mr. Letourneau Confronted Him

“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 wrote. He went on to say that, at that moment, he was “worried about everything,” so he said “okay.”

A portrait of Mary.
Source: YouTube

He didn’t want people knowing. The fear of his mom’s reaction and how everyone would be affected by it was one of his “biggest fears.” It was “kind of devastating,” as Fualaau recalled, but he relented, and told Mr. Letourneau that it would end. But the relationship didn’t end…

A Parked Minivan

It was about to be too late for the couple and everyone else involved in their lives. Their relationship was no longer just a hush-hush affair – the police were about to find out. In June 1996, the police found Letourneau and Fualaau together in a parked minivan at the Des Moines Marina.

A parked white minivan.
Photo by National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Letourneau told the cops that Fualaau was 18, but they were still taken into the police station. Although the teacher and her student were released after claiming “no improper conduct,” the two were now on the police’s radar.

Her Husband Found Their Love Letters

By September 1996, when Fualaau entered seventh grade at Cascade Middle School, he and Letourneau were already deeply involved. So much so that Letourneau discovered she was pregnant with his baby. In February of 1997, Steve Letourneau found love letters between his wife and her student.

Steve Letourneau speaks in a televised interview.
Source: A&E

On March 4, 1997, after a tip was relayed to the authorities from Steve’s relative, an arrest was made. Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested for second-degree child rape. However, she was released on bail. At the time, she was about seven months pregnant.

A Three-Month Stint in Jail

On May 23, 1997, Letourneau gave birth to their first daughter, Audrey. That August, Letourneau pled guilty to child rape charges in exchange for a three-month jail sentence and probation. Judge Linda Lau (of the King County Superior Court) approved the plea bargain on condition that Letourneau end all contact with Fualaau, despite the unchangeable fact that she was now the mother to their infant daughter.

Mary holds her baby daughter.
Source: Pinterest

By January 1998, Letourneau completed her three-month sentence, and officially entered the sex offender registry. In spite of all the measures put against them, Letourneau and Fulaau continued to see each other.

Cash, Baby Clothing, and a Passport

On February 3, 1998, the police once again caught Letourneau and Fualaau together in another vehicle. This time, Letourneau was arrested for parole violation. What the police discovered seemed to be a getaway package: $6,200 in cash, baby clothing and Letourneau’s passport inside the car.

A mugshot of Mary.
Source: Tumblr

It was speculated that the two were planning to flee the country with their baby, meaning that Letourneau was willing to not only become a fugitive, but to leave her four other children behind forever. Oh, and the cherry on top? She was pregnant again…

Then Comes Baby No. 2

In early 1998, Letourneau was pregnant again with their second baby. That year, Letourneau was plastered on the cover of People with her baby, looking like amateur models in a Sears catalogue. But the generic photo would have deceived you if you hadn’t read the accompanying headline: “The Teacher and the 6th Grader: Their Bizarre Story of Obsessive Love.”

Mary, Vili, and their children drive along the beach.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

The cover story exposed that the now 36-year-old teacher is “pregnant again” after “trysting” with her former student. She was on her way to prison, yet again. In February that year, Letourneau appeared before the same Judge Lau.

Back to Prison

The judge told Letourneau that she was given “an opportunity that you foolishly squandered.” She was now sentenced to her initial punishment of 7 ½ years. Letourneau was back in prison and pregnant again. By October, she gave birth to Georgia behind bars.

Fualaau walks the beach with his two daughters.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Fualaau was forced to be a single dad to his two very young daughters, trying his best to make do in his extremely strange situation. Due to his age, the baby girls were officially in the custody of his mother, Soona.

A Really Dark Time

In that 20/20 Barbara Walters interview, Fualaau revealed that he really struggled with depression during those years. “I’m surprised I’m still alive today,” he admitted. “I went through a really dark time.” He and Letourneau were making it work, though, via a civilian-inmate relationship.

Mary and Vili speak in a televised interview.
Source: YouTube

But what about Steve and the four kids? What happened to them and how did they feel about the whole embarrassing and devastating situation? Well, in 1999, the Letourneaus divorced. Steve and the four kids then moved to Alaska. All the kids remained in the sole custody of their father.

Meanwhile, in Alaska

It was only after her arrest that the Letourneaus’ marriage came to light. It was reported that Steve and Mary were not in a happy marriage and that both of them engaged in extramarital affairs. Letourneau’s attorney went so far as to claim that Letourneau was “emotionally and physically abused by her husband.”

A wedding picture of Mary and Steve.
Source: Pinterest

Steve has been working for Alaska Airlines for the past three decades, keeping a low profile since the scandal. Steve later remarried but divorced his second wife Kelly Whalen, after having two more children.

The Forgotten Dad

“He has little communication with Mary Kay,” a source close to Steve reported. “But he’s gotten on with his life and everything is positive. He is a wonderful man and father. None of the kids have turned out bad and he did it all on his own. Steven is a wonderful, hardworking man. He’s always provided and cared for his family.”

A wedding portrait of Mary and Vili.
Photo by Bauer Griffin

As you can imagine, Letourneau and Fualaau had an “awkward” relationship with her first four kids. Letourneau was able to rebuild a relationship with her oldest children; her daughter Mary Claire was her maid of honor at her wedding to Fualaau.

Was the School to Blame?

Before the two got married in 2005, Fualaau sued the Highline School District for negligence in 2002. He claimed that the school didn’t recognize and act upon the damaging sexual contact between him and his teacher.

Exterior view of the Highline School.
Source: Highline Public Schools

The jury ultimately rejected his claim, and the case was dismissed. Two years later, in August of 2004, Letourneau was finally released from the Washington Corrections Center for Women, after serving her full sentence. Fualaau was now 21, a full adult, and so he filed a motion in court, requesting a reversal of his and Letourneau’s no-contact order.

Becoming Mr. and Mrs. Fualaau

The motion was granted, and for the first time, Letourneau and Fualaau were legally allowed to see each other. That’s when they decided to double down and get married. They married in February of 2005. That May, Letourneau took Fualaau’s last name.

Guests arrive for the marriage of Letourneau and Faulaau at a winery.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

Fualaau told Barbara Walters in 2015 that he has a relationship with his stepchildren, some of whom are strangely older than he is. The blended bunch is by no means your typical family. “It’s an awkward feeling, for sure, to be close in age with someone [who is] technically your stepson or stepdaughter,” Fualaau admitted.

22 Years in the Spotlight

Come 2015 and the two celebrated their 10th anniversary. Their daughters were already in their teens: Audrey was 17, and Georgia was 16. But by 2017, the marriage came to an end. In May of 2017, Fualaau filed for separation.

Letourneau plays in the park with her daughter.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

They remained separated until the divorce was official in 2019 – 22 years after their relationship first made headlines and one year before Letourneau passed away. On July 6, 2020, Letourneau died from stage four cancer at 58. As it turns out, Fualaau was with her until the very end and spoke about those last few months…

She Texted Him Years Later With Bad News

After the two split up, they remained friendly as co-parents. But once she started feeling ill, she reached out to him by text. “She told me that she was feeling a bit sick,” Fualaau said in an interview with Dr. Oz in September 2020.

Faulaau cries during a televised interview.
Source: CBS

She told him that she got a colonoscopy and discovered that she had cancer and that it had already spread to her liver. “I was in disbelief… I didn’t want to believe it,” Fualaau told Dr. Oz. So, he got on a plane and went out to see her.

She Was Waiting for a Miracle

Less than three months after her death, Fualaau recounted her final days on her deathbed. He chose to be by her side during such a precious period. He said how she still looked “pretty healthy on the outside.” But it didn’t last.

Faulaau speaks on Dr. Oz's television show.
Source: CBS

“Within six months, her health declined rapidly. It was really just unreal to see her that way.” Whether it was denial or delusion, Letourneau didn’t see herself as close to death. “She believed that a miracle was going to happen,” Fualaau recalled. She believed that she was going to be healed and that the cancer would go away.

In the ER With a Broken Arm

Of course, the subject of logistics had to be covered – things that had to be taken care of were she to died – but the idea of her not surviving wasn’t discussed very much. “She didn’t want to talk about that,” Fualaau said. “That thought of her dying was just unbelievable for her.”

An entrance to the hospital.
Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/getty Images

She only found out that she was in stage four because she broke her arm. She was in the process of dealing with the original diagnosis and fell one day, landing her in the ER with a broken arm. When she went to the ER, she discovered that her cancer had spread.

When Reality Set In…

During the CT, doctors saw that the cancer had spread to her spine and to her brain. “They told us that there wasn’t much that they could do at this point,” Fualaau recalled. Only in the last few weeks of her life did Letourneau start to realize that she was going to die, and “it was a difficult thing” for all of them.

A patient receives an MRI scan.
Photo by skynesher/Getty Images

It was during that final period that Fualaau fully realized the role she had played in his life. She was his best friend, and he felt as though she was “the only person that actually cared.”

Saying Goodbye to His Best Friend

Being next to her on her deathbed provided Fualaau with an opportunity to look back on their time together. When they first met, he was much younger, and just like that – she was ripped out of his life. He was simply too young to fully grasp the gravity of the situation.

A portrait of Vili Fualaau.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

“This time there’s not going to be another letter, and there’s not gonna be a phone call or a text. Preparing myself mentally for that was the hardest part,” he told Dr. Oz. Her last words to him were that he was the “most important person” to her.

Her Last Breath

As the days passed and Letourneau got closer and closer to the end, he was by her side, constantly checking to make sure she was breathing. There would be pauses sometimes, but she would come back. On July 6, her final breath was witnessed by both their youngest daughter and Letourneau’s youngest daughter from her previous marriage.

A portrait of Mary smiling at the camera.
Source: YouTube

As Fualaau recalled, the three of them were talking and laughing together when they turned around and noticed that her chest wasn’t moving. He waited, as he usually did, to see if she’d come back. She didn’t.

He Used to Question Her Intentions

Fualaau then had to tell the others the news and make all the calls. In his talk with Dr. Oz, Fualaau admitted that he used to question Letourneau’s intentions, especially when she became a registered sex offender and was labeled a pedophile.

Letourneau and Fualaau are entering their home.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

But then he looked at the bigger picture, explaining how he knew there was no perversion or history of Letourneau having any “odd things with the other minors.” Dr. Oz asked Fualaau what he would do if he were, now in his 30s, to find himself attracted to a teenager.

“We All Have Our Preferences”

“I’d probably go and seek some help,” he stated. The way he put it: “I couldn’t look at a 13-year-old and be attracted to that because it’s not in my brain.” He then added: “We all have our preferences.”

The press follows Vili Fualaau.
Photo by Robert Sorbo/Sygma/Getty Images

Dr. Oz then asked him how he would feel if his daughters were to come home with someone two decades older. Fualaau said he would react the same way, asking “what is this guy’s intentions?” He told the talk show host that he would dig deeper. But all in all, he said he wouldn’t agree with it.

They Married for the Sake of the Kids

At the end of the day, he would never wish upon his daughters the kind of life he had. “There’s nothing I can’t say to people that don’t care to listen or don’t care to learn,” Fualaau concluded. “That is my wife, and she is my best friend.”

Guests attend the marriage of Letourneau and Fualaau.
Photo by Ron Wurzer/Getty Images

“We had our kids together, and we did get married. And we had a whole life together.” Why did they marry? Fualaau explained his decision: “I wanted both my kids to have both parents under the same roof, something I’d never had. I did it for them.”

They Call Him Their “Friend-Dad”

Fualaau confessed that he would think about splitting up “every now and then,” but didn’t want to divulge any further. His daughters, Georgia and Audrey, are now in their early 20s and they call him a “friend-dad.”

Georgia and Audrey speak in a televised interview.
Source: SN /Channel 7

They graduated from the same school where their mother used to teach. As for their upbringing, they were mainly raised by their grandmother, Soona, who understandably had a complicated relationship with her daughter-in-law, Letourneau. “I can’t say I hate Mary,” she said when testifying in 2002. She gave a little anecdote…

The “Most Talked About Family on Earth”

Her granddaughter once asked her, “Do you love my Mary mommy, Grandma?” And Soon said that she wasn’t going to tell her, “Yeah, I hate your mother.” She couldn’t do such a thing. Which is why she could never truly hate the woman.

A still from Letourneau’s trial.
Source: YouTube

But she obviously never approved of her son’s relationship. In 2018, Audrey and Georgia went on Australia’s Sunday Night news program, which focused on the “most talked about family on earth,” as they were called. “We grew up with it. We’re adapted to it,” Audrey said of her family’s (unwanted) fame.