A judge reinstates the suspended sentence of school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and sends her back to prison for seven years after she is caught violating a no-contact order with her former student Vili Fualaau, when she is found in a vehicle with the boy. Letourneau first met Fualaau when she was a teacher at Shorewood Elementary School, in the Seattle suburb of Burien, Washington, and he was a second-grader. During the summer of 1996, Letourneau, then 34 and a married mother of four, began a sexual relationship with her former sixth-grade student, then 12.
The relationship was eventually discovered and in February 1997, Letourneau was arrested for rape. In May of that year, the former teacher, who was born Mary Katherine Schmitz in California in 1962, gave birth to the couple’s first child, a daughter named Audrey. That August, Letourneau pled guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape. Judge Linda Lau of King County Superior Court showed Letourneau leniency by suspending her 89-month sentence and the former school teacher was ordered to serve six months in jail, attend a treatment program and have no contact with Fualaau. Her case sparked a tabloid frenzy as well as a national debate over whether female sex offenders are treated differently than men who commit similar crimes.
On February 3, 1998, after being released from jail, Letourneau was discovered in a parked car with Fualaau and arrested for violating the conditions of her suspended sentence. Investigators found a large amount of cash in the vehicle, along with a passport and some baby clothes, indicating the couple might have been planning to flee the area with their young daughter. Three days later, on February 6, Judge Lau reinstated Letourneau’s original sentence and sent her back to prison. In October of that year, Letourneau gave birth to her second child with Fualaau, a daughter named Georgia. The children were raised by Fualaau’s mother while Letourneau remained in prison. Fualaau and his mother, Soona, later sued the Highline School District and city of Des Moines, Washington, for over $2 million, claiming police and school officials didn’t do enough to protect Vili. In May 2002, a jury ruled the Fualaaus were not entitled to any money.
In August 2004, Letourneau was released from prison after serving seven and a half years. A judge also lifted a ban prohibiting her from contacting Fualaau, by then an adult. On May 20, 2005, Letourneau, then 43, and Fualaau, then 22, wed in a ceremony with tight security at a winery in Woodinville, Washington. The couple’s two daughters served as flower girls and Letourneau’s daughter from her first marriage, which lasted from 1984 to 1999, was the maid of honor. The television show Entertainment Tonight negotiated exclusive rights to film the ceremony. The couple divorced in August 2019, and Letourneau died a year later, at age 58.