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Mary Kay Letourneau, the former Seattle-area teacher who made headlines in the 1990s for raping her sixth-grade student and then later marrying him, has died of cancer at age 58.
Her attorney David Gehrke confirmed to KING 5 that Letourneau died of stage 4 cancer, though it's not clear what form of cancer she suffered from.
Gehrke told The New York Times the former middle school teacher died at home surrounded by her children and Vili Fualaau—the student she raped and later married.
Fualauu and Letourneau divorced in 2019 after a marriage that lasted more than a decade.
In a joint statement released by the Fualaau and Letourneau families obtained by writer Danielle Bacher, family members said Letourneau “passed away peacefully” on Monday after a six-month battle with metastatic cancer.
“Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease,” the statement said. “Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous battle. We did our very best to care for Mary and one another as we kept her close and stayed close together.”
Letourneau, a married mother of four who taught sixth grade at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, began an illicit relationship with her student — who was just 12 at the time — in 1996.
Letourneau gave birth to the couple’s first child in 1997 as she was awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to second-degree child rape charges, The New York Times reports.
Letourneau was released after serving just three months behind bars as part of a reduced sentence and ordered to stay away from Fualauu.
But the disgraced teacher would soon violate the court order and was forced to return to prison to serve out a seven-year sentence. While in prison, she gave birth to the couple’s second child in 1998.
She was released from prison in 2004 and once again ordered not to have any contact with Fualuaa. However, the pair got married in 2005 after Fualuaa petitioned the court to remove the no contact order.
Both Letourneau and Fualauu have long maintained that their relationship was consensual.
The couple initially split in 2017, but later briefly reconciled, before officially divorcing in 2019, Gehrke said.
The attorney told “TODAY” that after Letourneau was diagnosed with cancer, Fualuaa moved back from California to help care for her during the last two months of their life.
“So, yes, they were divorced and they had their spats, but they were always in love with each other,” he said.
According to Gehrke, Fualuaa’s decision to return to Seattle to care for her “meant to world” to Letourneau.
Longtime friend and attorney Anne Bremner described Letourneau to The Seattle Times as a “wonderful mother” who was a “force of nature.”
“She paid her debt to society. She was brilliant and dedicated to her work and family,” she said in a statement to the paper. “She overcame seemingly insurmountable odds with panache and humility. She will be dearly missed.”
Letourneau leaves behind the two daughters she shared with Fualuaa, Audrey, 23, and Georgia, 21, as well as her children from her previous marriage.
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