With the Netflix film May December loosely based on the aftermath of her illegal relationship with her student and her premature death, how did Mary Kay Letourneau die is a question viewers may be asking. Born Mary Katherine Schmitz on January 30, 1962, in Tustin, California, USA, she grew up in a middle-class family and had a relatively ordinary childhood.
She attended Arizona State University and later became an elementary school teacher in the Seattle area. In 1984, she married Steve Letourneau, with whom she had four children. However, their marriage faced difficulties and ultimately ended in divorce in 1999.
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But while teaching at Shorewood Elementary School in Burien, Washington, Letourneau would become infamous after she developed a close relationship with one of her students. Vili Fualaau was only 12 years old when their relationship turned inappropriate, and it became sexual when he was 13. In 1997, the illicit relationship was discovered, leading to Letourneau’s arrest. According to police reports, the two were caught having sex in the back of her car. Letourneau jumped from the backseat to the front once she realized officers were approaching while Vili pretended to be asleep in the back. They both provided false identification, including Vili claiming that he was 18 years old.
In November 1997, Letourneau plead guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape, and she was sentenced to six months in jail. As part of the plea deal, she agreed to undergo sex offender treatment and not have any contact with Fualaau. Despite this court order, Letourneau and Fualaau continued their relationship, and she was arrested again in 1998 for violating the terms of her plea agreement. This time, she received a seven-year prison sentence. But she passed away at age 58, so how did Mary Kay Letourneau die and what happened to her? Here’s what we know.
How did Mary Kay Letourneau die?
Mary Kay Letourneau was released from prison in 2004. She and Fualaau married in 2005. The marriage drew widespread media attention due to the controversial nature and origins of their relationship. Letourneau and Fualaau eventually separated in 2017 after 14 years of marriage. Fualaau filed for legal separation in 2019. She passed away on July 6, 2020, at the age of 58, due to complications from colorectal cancer.
Despite their relationship breakdown, Fualaau and their children were with her in her final moments. “I didn’t see her chest moving, and I thought it, maybe, it was like one of those pauses she has and then she’ll come back. She’ll take a deep breath, and she’s gonna come back,” Fualaau recalled in an episode of The Dr. Oz Show, which aired in September 2020. “I would count in between those pauses, and it was just the longest count that I had.”
He continued: “And I turned off her breathing machine just to hear if she was breathing just really soft, and at that moment, I had to, you know, tell the kids that they need to call the rest of the siblings to come and say their goodbyes. This is it,” Fualaau said.
Mary Kay Letourneau & Vili Fualaau’s children
In 2018, Audrey and Georgia gave an interview with Australia’s Sunday Night talk show and reflected on their parent’s relationship. “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’ve adapted to it.”
As mentioned, Letourneau gave birth to both girls while she was in jail for sex offenses. Audrey was born while Letourneau waited for her initial sentence—six months with three months suspended, for second-degree rape of a child after engaging in a sexual relationship with Fualaau when she was 34 and he was 13 in 1996.
As part of a plea deal, the disgraced teacher was court-ordered to have no contact with Fualaau but violated the court order. Thus, she was arrested again in 1998 and this time, she received a seven-year prison sentence from 1998-2004. She gave birth to Georgia during that time.
Vili Fualaau’s parents
Not much is known about Vili Fualaau’s parents, Soona Vili and Luaiva Fualaau, but we do know that they were Samoan immigrants who welcomed their son Vili on June 26, 1983. Soona said she had no idea of the nature of her son’s relationship with his teacher.
In 2002, Vili and his mother sued the Highline, Wash., School District and the Des Moines, Washington, Police Department for $1 million, contending that officials should have noticed the warning signs around Letourneau. She was shocked because she had let her son stay over at Letourneau’s home and go on family trips with her. “How could you? I trusted you,” Soona confronted the sex offender during her testimony.
While incarcerated, Letourneau gave birth to two daughters fathered by Fualaau: Audrey Lokelani was born in 1997 and Georgia Alexis was born in 1998. While Soona told the court Letourneau ruined her son’s life, she harbored complicated thoughts towards the woman who bore her two grandchildren.
Soona told the court: “I can’t say I hate Mary. Just a couple of weeks ago my granddaughter turned around to me and asked, ‘Do you love my Mary mommy, Grandma?’ And I’m supposed to tell her ‘Yeah, I hate your mother?’ I can’t. I can’t. … And looking at my granddaughters, I can’t consciously say I hate this woman.” In the same testimony, she added that Letourneau was still abusing her son. She added, “I never condone[d] the relationship … what happened was morally wrong. She was married and this was a teenage boy, but I will do what I need to do to get through this.”
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