Mary Kay Letourneau died on Monday at age 58 after she "fought tirelessly against this terrible disease," her family said

By Benjamin VanHoose and Steve Helling
July 08, 2020 09:20 AM
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Mary Kay Letourneau's family is mourning her loss.

On Monday, Letourneau, the controversial Washington middle school teacher who began a sexual relationship with student Vili Fualaau, died of stage 4 cancer at age 58.

In a statement provided to writer Danielle Bacher, the Fualaau and Letourneau families said they are "deeply saddened" about the loss. They added that Letourneau died "peacefully" after a six-month health battle.

"Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease," said the family of her cancer diagnosis. "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."

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The loved ones added thanks to the medical workers who aided in Letourneau's care.

"We are endlessly grateful for the care and kindness received from the amazing professionals involved in Mary's care," read the statement. "Likewise, the kindness and compassion of friends and others who learned of her condition along the way proved an uplifting gift to us all."

"It is in that spirit that we ask for privacy and respect for our desire to focus on the road ahead for all of us who make up Mary's collective family," they continued. "We ask that our boundaries and need for privacy be honored with continued kindness and understanding."

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The family concluded that they intend to "celebrate and honor the wishes of our wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, beloved family member and loyal friend and concentrate on caring for one another."

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

Letourneau was a sixth-grade teacher when she began the illegal relationship with Fualaau, who was a student and 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.

RELATED VIDEO: Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau’s Relationship Through the Years — from Prison to Marriage

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.

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.

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.

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.