Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Kay Letourneau: The Romance That was a Crime

Entertainment Tonight Wedding

A recent photo of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau.
A recent photo of Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau.

The couple set a wedding date of May 20, 2005 and granted exclusive access to the ceremony to the television program Entertainment Tonight that paid for that access. They also gave their first joint interview to ET reporter Jann Carl.

Carl asked Vili, "When you look in Mary's eyes, what do you see?"

Vili replied, "I see my youth. I see heaven."

Asked the same question, Mary Kay answered, "I see a long history. There's just a long, deep history and it's something familiar to me."

Discussing her imprisonment, Mary Kay said, "It sounds dramatic, but it's a real feeling of fear in a place like that. For me there were a few times at the prison that the only thing I cared about was getting out alive."

Mary Kay Letourneau
Mary Kay Letourneau

The ET website reported that the bride had picked a white wedding dress for her second time around. Mary Kay said Vili and she would honor a wedding tradition, "He's not going to see me until he looks back and I am in it."

The wedding took place at the Columbia Winery in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville. Like virtually everything else connected with the couple, their wedding attracted a media outpouring. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer article wrote, "Satellite trucks, waiting camera crews and a news helicopter flying overhead — all became part of the spectacle." However, only ET reporter Jann Carl and camera operators were allowed inside.

Mary Kay's brother Timmy gave the bride away. Her maid of honor was her teenage daughter Mary Claire and her bridesmaids included a woman she had met in prison. Mary Kay and Vili's two daughters, 8-year-old Audrey and 7-year-old Alexis were the flower girls. The couple recited vows they had written themselves. Mary Kay has followed the custom of taking her husband's last name.

Some observers have cautioned that the seemingly happy ending to this story should not obscure the harm done by adult-child sex in general or even the harm done to Vili in this case in particular. Columnist Leonard Pitts wrote that the public should remember, "that she is a convicted rapist and he is her victim." He went on to decry the implication in some of the publicity that "these two are Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed lovers" and noted that boys just out of the sixth grade "ought not to be having sex with anybody, period."

Gehrke echoes Pitts when he discounts the possibility that their lasting love means that the law should not forbid sex between adults and minors. "In every system of laws there are going to be individual inequities and injustices," he says, "and I think children are more deserving of protection because the Marys and Vilis are the exception and not the rule. Most of the time it is victimization and we need to protect the children." He does believe the case indicates that a legal gender distinction regarding sex between adults and minors could be valid. "The state of New York has a different age of consent for males and females," he elaborates, "and that has withstood a court test because the potential harm to young females is greater because of pregnancy. The law should reflect that." He also thinks the law needs more consistency in how it treats minors as victims and as offenders. "When he had sex with Mary, poor little Vili was not responsible at all for his acts because he was just a child," Gehrke notes, "but if he shoots someone or steals a car at that same age, all of a sudden he has personal responsibility. If he commits a crime like an adult, he'll be held responsible like an adult."


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