It was a story that made national headlines the mid 1990s, when Washington state elementary school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested and went to prison for having sex with her 6th grade student Vili Fualaau. She died on July 7, 2020 at the age of 58 following a battle with stage four colon cancer, her attorney tells TMZ. Despite their age gap and the tabloid notoriety around their relationship, Mary Kay and Vili married in 2005 after having two children together. “Mary was a client, a good friend, a wonderful mother, and a force of nature. She was brilliant and dedicated to her work and family. She overcame seemingly insurmountable odds with panache and humility. She will be dearly missed,” Mary Kay’s friend, Seattle WA lawyer, Anne Bremner tells HollywoodLife.com EXCLUSIVELY
Though the couple split in 2017, her lawyer David H. Gehrke told TMZ that Vili had been taking care of Mary Kay while she was in hospice care for the month prior to her passing. The then-married mother of four’s 1997 arrest and scandal with Vili came as one of the first major national cases of a teacher arrested for having sexual relations with a minor student. The couple ended up explaining their forbidden attraction to each other in a 2015 interview with Barbara Walters. We’ve got five things to know about Mary Kay.
1. Mary Kay was married with four children when she became involved with Vili. She wed fellow Arizona State University student Steve Letourneau, and the pair went on to have four children. She had said in numerous interviews their marriage had been an unhappy one. They legally divorced in 1999, two years after Mary Kay’s scandal with Vili broke and while she was imprisoned. Steve got custody of their kids, two of whom ended up attending their mom’s 2005 wedding to Vili.
2. Mary Kay was convicted of child rape after having sex with Vili. The sixth grader was 12-years-old at the time of their scandal, while Mary Kay was 34. Their relationship became sexual in the summer of 1996, after he was one of her sixth grade students at Shorewood Elementary School in Burien, WA. Mary Kay ended up pleading guilty to two counts of second degree child rape.
3. Mary Kay gave birth to their first child while awaiting sentencing in her case. The former teacher delivered their daughter Audrey in May 1997.
4. Mary Kay had their second child in prison. In a plea agreement, Mary Kay got a six month county jail sentence, three months of which were suspended. But she was required to have no contact with Vili or any other minors. In Feb. 1998, she was caught in a car with Vili, just two weeks after being released from jail. Mary Kay was then sent to prison to serve out the original seven a half year sentence after breaking her plea agreement’s no contact order with Vili. She gave birth to their second daughter Georgia on October 16, 1998 while behind bars.
5. Mary Kay and Vili married in 2005. Sadly, they split in 2017. After Mary Kay completed her full prison term in Aug. 2004, the couple wed at a Washington state winery in front of over 200 guests. At the time, she was 43 while Vili was 22. They were married for 12 years until Vili filed for separation in 2017. Their divorce was finalized in 2019.