Mary Kay Letourneau sexually abused her former student when he was just 12 years old

By Steve Helling
July 13, 2020 12:35 PM

In the final days before her July 7 death from stage 4 cancer, former teacher  and convicted child rapist Mary Kay Letourneau spoke to her family members about her past crimes -- including sexually abusing former student Vili Fualaau when he was just 12 years old.

"When it was clear that she wasn't going to make it, she made her peace with everyone in her life," a source close to Letourneau tells PEOPLE. "She died having made peace with Vili, Steve [Letourneau, her first husband], and all six of her kids. Everyone said everything that needed to be said."

Letourneau was a sixth-grade teacher in 1996 when she began sexually abusing Fualaau.  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.

Splash News Online

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 until her death.

The couple married in 2005, despite the criminal history of their relationship. However, Letourneau and Fualaau split in 2017 after Fualaau filed for legal separation.

AP Photo/Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer/AP

At the time, Letourneau was represented by David Gehrke, a high-profile attorney who got to know the now-married couple well — and kept in touch with them for more than two decades. “I’m not surprised that they got married,” Gehrke told PEOPLE in 2017, “and I’m not surprised, in this day and age, that they are separating.”

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

Mary Kay Letourneau, Vili Fualaau and daughters
Heidi Gutman/ABC

In addition to her family with Fualaau, she had four children with her ex-husband, Steve Letourneau. He retained primary custody of the four children, who are now adults. After his divorce from Mary Kay, Steve remarried and had more children, and seldom spoke about his notorious former spouse. "I've moved on," he told PEOPLE in 2017.

In a joint statement after Letourneau's death, the Fualaaus and Letourneaus said they are "deeply saddened" about the loss. They added that Letourneau died "peacefully" after a six-month health battle.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.