Mary Kay Letourneau Dies of Cancer at the Age of 58

The ex-teacher gained notoriety after she was jailed for sexually abusing her student and then later marrying him

Mary Kay Letourneau, the Washington middle-school teacher who raped 12-year-old student Vili Fualaau and later married him, has died of stage 4 cancer, PEOPLE confirms. She was 58.

According to two sources close to Letourneau, she died Monday after quietly battling the disease for several months.

A source close to Letourneau tells PEOPLE that her health began to deteriorate dramatically in recent months. She lost weight and was constantly tired. "It was a very sad ending," the source says.

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Her family and the family of her estranged victim Fualaau, released a statement on her passing late Tuesday, confirming Letourneau died after being diagnosed with metastatic cancer six months ago.

"Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease," the Letourneau and Fualaau families said in a statement provided to writer Danielle Bacher.

"Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous struggle. We did our very best to care for Mary and one another as we kept her close and stayed close together," the statement continued.

Mary Kay LeTourneau Credit: Courtesy A&E
Courtesy A&E

Letourneau was a sixth-grade teacher when she began the illegal relationship with Fualaau, who was then just 12 years old.

Ultimately, she was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape. She twice became pregnant with Fualaau’s children before he was 15, despite court orders aimed at keeping them apart.

By the time she was released from prison, Fualaau was an adult — and he petitioned the court to allow them to see each other. A restraining order against Letourneau was dropped, but Letourneau remained a registered sex offender in Washington state.

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The couple married in 2005, despite the criminal history of their relationship.

But it ultimately didn’t last. Letourneau and Fualaau split in 2017 after Fualaau filed for legal separation.

As the split proceeded, Letourneau and Fualaau still lived together. They were occasionally spotted out in the Seattle area. They both remained active in the lives of their two daughters, Georgia and Audrey.

But despite several reconciliation attempts, the case moved to private arbitration in February 2019. The separation became official late last year and the two began living apart.

Her death was first reported by Susannah Frame of KING 5 News.

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