Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mary Kay Letourneau: The Romance That was a Crime

The Deal
Goes Dud

In July 1997 her lawyer worked out a deal for Mary Kay.   She would plead guilty to child rape, take her medication for at least six months and serve three months in jail when she would be released on probation.   After being released from the three months in jail, she would participate in a treatment program for sex offenders.

Judge Linda Lau
Judge Linda Lau
That August, Mary Kay spoke in a televised court hearing. The slender woman in powder blue and looked pretty but pale, wan, and frail. Under her blonde curls dark roots were easily visible.

Mary Kay spoke to Judge Linda Lau before sentencing.

The defendant's voice sounded thick with shame and fear.  "Your honor," she began, "I did something that I had no right to do, morally or legally.  It was wrong and I am sorry.  I give you my word that it will not happen again.  Please help me.  Help us all."  She sniffled as she spoke and appeared to fight back tears.

Judge Lau accepted the plea bargain with two conditions.  One was that Mary Kay give up custody of Audrey to Vili's mother until her release.  The second was that she never again have any contact with Vili.  The defendant agreed to both conditions.

Un Seul Crime, L'Amour
Un Seul Crime, L'Amour
After serving three months behind bars, Mary Kay was freed in January 1998. 

On February 3, 1998, Seattle police officers who were on a routine neighborhood patrol pulled up along a gray Volkswagen Fox sedan.  The windows were steamed up and two people appeared to be having sex.  Officers ordered the people inside to open the doors.  The police instantly recognized Mary Kay Letourneau.  She was arrested for violating parole.  Vili Fualaau, then a high school freshman, was in the vehicle with her.

Three days later, Mary Kay was back in court.  Television viewers saw an unkempt, devastated looking Mary Kay in contrast with the well-groomed woman of previous appearances.

Judge Lau came down on Mary Kay like a ton of bricks.  "This case is not about a flawed system.  It is about an opportunity that you foolishly squandered," she told Mary Kay. The judge, vacating the plea bargain, sentenced Mary Kay to seven and a half years in prison, the maximum for child rape.

Audrey Fualaau with father Vili
Audrey Fualaau with father Vili
Prison officials soon found out that Mary Kay was pregnant for the second time by Vili Fualaau. They made the decision not to prosecute her for an additional charge of child rape.  Seven and a half years would be enough for her. In October 1998, Mary Kay gave birth to a daughter she named Georgia.  Like her older sister Audrey, Georgia is being raised by her grandmother Soona and dad Vili.

In November 1999, Mary Kay was placed in six months' solitary confinement because letters she had tried to send to Vili were intercepted. 

John Schmitz died of cancer in January 2001.  Mary Kay asked to attend his funeral.   Her request was denied.

Vili and Soona co-authored a book that has only been published in France.  Written in French, Un Seul Crime, L'Amour (Only One Crime, Love) has not been published in the United States for a couple of reasons.  One is that it names a woman Steve Letourneau supposedly impregnated who passed the child off as her husband's.  Another is that Mary Kay disputes the accuracy of some quotes.

Letourneau defense attorney
Letourneau defense attorney
Vili and Soona Fualaau filed a lawsuit against the Des Moines Police Department and the Highline School District.  They sought $1 million in damages because these organizations had failed to prevent the relationship between the boy and his former teacher.  The financially strapped family supposedly wanted the money to help raise the teenager's two children.  The jury found against them and refused to award any damages.

Mary Kay Letourneau in court
Mary Kay Letourneau in court
As of this writing, Mary Kay Letourneau is still confined in the Washington Correctional Facility for Women.  She will be eligible for parole in 2004.  She will be 42 years old.  Vili will be 23.  He has had several scrapes with the law.  He has pled guilty to auto theft, received probation, and paid a fine.  Mary Kay is said to still hope that Vili's love will last, that he will wait for her, and that they will marry and build a life together.  Those close to her believe that it is unlikely that Vili's adolescent crush will last.

Mary Kay's friends hope that she will be able to cope if he ends the relationship.  As Michelle Rheinhart-Jarvis commented, "I just hope that this is as bad as it has to get before she deals with all her childhood traumas and faces all her demons.  I just hope that this is as bad as it gets."


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