Mary Kay Letourneau‘s infamous affair with her student Vili Fualaau made headlines in the ’90s — and the scandal has continued to grip the nation.
Letourneau’s personal life became a major topic of discussion in 1996 when news broke about her affair with Fualaau, who was a sixth-grade student at the time. The former teacher entered a guilty plea in 1997 to two counts of felony second-degree rape of a child and served three months in jail. Letourneau, however, continued to remain in contact with Fualaau despite being ordered not to by the court, which resulted in a six-year prison sentence.
After welcoming two kids with Fualaau, the controversial pair got married following Letourneau’s release from jail. They remained together for over a decade before announcing their separation in 2019.
Letourneau and Fualaau’s concerning relationship gained national attention as they attempted to stay out of the public eye. Their life story has since served as inspiration for Netflix’s upcoming film, May December, which follows a fictional romance between a woman and an underage boy and the personal ramifications they face surrounding the truth about their situation years later.
Scroll down to revisit the jarring scandal and for updates on Letourneau and Fualaau:
How Did the Scandal Unfold?
Letourneau met Fualaau when she was his second-grade teacher at an elementary school in Burien, Washington. Mary Kay was married to Steve Letourneau — with whom she shared four kids — when she was later caught spending time with Fualaau, then 12, outside of school. She was arrested in March 1997 and pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape. Mary Kay gave birth to her first child with Fualaau, daughter Audrey, later that year.
Mary Kay was sentenced to six months in prison and three years of sex offender treatment in the rape case. She was released after completing half the time and was ordered not to contact Fualaau. However, Mary Kay was found in a car with Fualaau two weeks after completing her jail sentence and her original prison sentence of seven and a half years was reinstated.
While serving out her second stint behind bars, Mary Kay welcomed her second daughter with Fualaau, Georgia, in October 1998.
What Happened After Mary Kay’s Prison Sentence?
After the scandal, Fualaau dropped out of high school and his mother received custody of his two children with Mary Kay. Fualaau petitioned for the court to drop the no-contact order against Mary Kay once he was over 18 and they officially pursued a relationship. (Mary Kay, meanwhile, had to register as a level 2 sex offender.)
Fualaau and Mary Kay cowrote the 1998 book Un Seul Crime, L’Amour (Only One Crime, Love), which covered their individual accounts of their relationship.
Did Mary Kay and Vili Remain in a Relationship?
The pair tied the knot in May 2005 and raised their two daughters while largely staying out of the public eye. Fualaau filed for separation in May 2017 after 12 years of marriage but subsequently withdrew the filing.
In 2019, Fualaau and Mary Kay finalized their legal separation.
What Did Mary Kay Say About the Controversial Relationship?
During a joint interview with Barbara Walters in 2015, Mary Kay addressed whether she felt “guilty” or “disgusted” for abusing Fualaau. “I loved him very much, and I kind of thought, ‘Why can’t it ever just be a kiss?’” she said. “The incident was a late night, and it didn’t stop with a kiss. And I thought that it would, and it didn’t.”
Fualaau, for his part, recalled his mental health taking a turn for the worst amid the scandal. “I’m surprised I’m still alive today. I went through a really dark time,” he noted about not having a support system when Mary Kay gave birth to their kids while in prison.
What Happened to Mary Kay?
In 2020, Mary Kay was diagnosed with colorectal cancer and passed away later that year at age 58.
“Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease,” her family said in a statement. “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.”
What Happened to Vili?
Fualaau reflected on Mary Kay’s inappropriate behavior toward him during a 2020 appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. “I couldn’t look at a 13-year-old and be attracted to that because it’s just not in my brain. It’s nothing that I’m attracted to. I mean, we all have our preferences, and that’s just not something that I would go towards,” he said after being asked what he would do if he was attracted to a minor. “I’d probably go and seek some help.”
In March 2022, Fualaau and Mary Kay’s daughter Georgia confirmed that her father welcomed a third child.
“Hi Sophia, I’m your big sister! You’re so beautiful, I can’t wait to watch you grow. I’ll be right here by your side no matter what ! I love you 💕,” she wrote via Instagram alongside a photo with the newborn. Details on the baby’s mother have remained private since the news broke.
Fualaau and Mary Kay’s eldest, Audrey, meanwhile, announced in August 2023 that Georgia was expecting her first child. Georgia confirmed that she was pregnant with a baby boy to People one month later. She detailed her six-year relationship with the child’s father — but chose to keep him out of the spotlight.
Why Has the Scandal Made Headlines Again?
Letourneau’s rape case — and subsequent relationship with Fualaau — was the inspiration behind Todd Haynes‘ critically-acclaimed film May December. The movie stars Natalie Portman as an actress named Elizabeth who travels to meet and study the life of Gracie (Julianne Moore), who she is set to play in a project. Gracie’s notorious romance with Joe (Charles Melton), who is 23 years her junior, is the subject of the fictional film.
“I really found myself honoring the distinction in [screenwriter] Samy [Burch]’s script from some of the famous examples of these tabloid stories like Mary Kay Letourneau. I was really looking more for sort of cinematic correlatives because the nature of the script is that you’re left in a state of uncertainty about what to think about these people,” Haynes told The Hollywood Reporter in May 2023. “The reliability you attribute initially to Elizabeth, the character Natalie Portman plays, begins to become destabilized as the film unfolds. You’re in a constant state of reevaluation.”
He continued: “So, I was more curious about how do we tell this story and let all of those ways of reading the film be made pleasurable and allow the audience to feel like it was going to be a fun film to be navigating.”