Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Kay Letourneau: The Romance That was a Crime

"Soul Mates"

If Loving you is Wrong
If Loving you is Wrong
In October 1996, an excited Mary Kay phoned her friend Michele Rheinhart-Jarvis to tell her that she was in love.  According to If Loving You Is Wrong, "She practically gushed into the phone, spewing out adjectives and descriptions of the most wonderful person in the world.  He was the person that she had been searching for her entire life... She'd found the perfect love.  There hadn't been any sex, she claimed, but they were considering it."

Mary Kay said, "We talk about everything.  He's my soul mate... "

A few weeks later, Michele got another phone call from Mary Kay.

"I'm pregnant," the teacher and mother of four revealed, "and it's not Steve's."  She wanted Steve to think he might be the father while she was pregnant, Mary Kay confided, so she had lured him into making love with her.  However, she did not believe the deception could last after the birth.

Why?

"Because it's going to have black hair and dark skin," Mary Kay said.

Apparently Steve soon realized the truth.  He swore some of his relatives to secrecy but told them he believed his wife was "pregnant by that 13-year-old." 

It was only a few weeks into his wife's fifth pregnancy that he began hitting her.  He would frequently shout at her, often in front of their children.  She would later claim that he once repeatedly punched her in the stomach to try to cause a miscarriage of what he called the "nigger baby."  When somewhat calmer, he urged her to get an abortion.  Mary Kay claimed that her own mother, staunch pro-lifer Mary Schmitz, also advised terminating the pregnancy.

On February 25, 1997, a cousin of Steve Letourneau made an anonymous phone call, first to Child Protective Services and then to the Highline School District to report that Mary Kay had had sex with a 13-year-old.  Child Protective Services forwarded the report to the police. 

Vili was now a seventh-grader attending Cascade Middle School.  The day after the phone tip, a detective questioned him there.  As quoted in If Loving You is Wrong, the policewoman wrote in her report: "I asked him what kind of relationship it was.  He was very quiet and did not say anything at that time.  I asked him if it was a boyfriend-girlfriend type relationship.  He said it was.  I asked him if it went any further than that.  Vili said they had sex."  However, he told the officer it had only been about four or five times.  Later, he told others he downplayed the amount of sex for fear of sending Mary Kay to prison for life.

That same day, an obviously pregnant Mary Kay was called out of a teacher's meeting and placed under arrest for statutory rape.  She broke down in the police interrogation room, weeping frequently. 

TV and newspapers were filled with the story of the teacher and the 13-year-old.  Like her father before her, Mary Kay was at the center of a sex scandal that would rip her family apart.  Also like John Schmitz, Mary Kay was having a child with someone who had formerly been her student.

Vili Fualaau
Vili Fualaau
Some were concerned that Mary Kay might have had sex with boys beside Vili.  Investigators quickly concluded that she had not touched any other child in any inappropriate way and that there had been no incest with her own children.  Crime writer Ann Rule has called Mary Kay Letourneau "the Humbert Humbert of the female sex."  That is an apt description.  Like her famous fictional counterpart becoming obsessed with the off-limits because underage Lolita, Mary Kay was only entranced by one youngster.

Later, released on bail, Mary Kay went home to an empty house.  Steve was gone and so were her children.  Her mother, Mary Schmitz, phoned to tell her that her four children had been taken in by relatives.

When the case broke, Vili maintained that he was not the "victim" he is routinely called and was not traumatized by anything that happened with Mary Kay.  His mother, who disapproves of their sexual relationship, also said her son is no victim and thought the case should never have been prosecuted.  However, some children definitely were traumatized by the Letourneau case.  Among them were Mary Kay's four children who were suddenly ripped away from their mother and who heard her described as a "child rapist."  Other youngsters upset by the matter were those who had been in her class.  They lost the teacher they adored and were confused by hearing at least some of the tawdry facts of her life.

Mary Kay Letourneau with daughter Audrey Fualaau
Mary Kay Letourneau with
daughter Audrey Fualaau
Mary Kay underwent a series of court-ordered psychiatric examinations.  Dr. Julia Moore found that Mary Kay had extreme mood swings and diagnosed her as suffering from bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depression).  The doctor prescribed mood-stabilizing drugs and psychotherapy.

In May 1997, Mary Kay gave birth to her fifth child.  It was a daughter and Mary Kay named her Audrey Lokelani Fualaau.  She was named Audrey after an aunt of Mary Kay's; "Lokelani" is a Samoan name meaning "rose of heaven."

With her husband and first four children gone, her career permanently derailed, and facing the possibility of a lengthy prison term, Mary Kay nevertheless appeared to forget her many troubles in her joy over her newborn.  Defying the court, Mary Kay allowed Vili to spend much time at her house.  The 14-year-old father changed his baby daughter's diapers and heated her formula.

 

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