SEATTLE - Mary Kay Letourneau died at age 58 after a battle with cancer, her attorney David Gehrke confirmed to Q13 News on Tuesday.
Letourneau is a former Seattle teacher at Shorewood Elementary School in Burien who became tabloid fodder when she was convicted in 1997 of raping then 12-year-old Vili Fualaau. She was 34 and a married mother of four when the relationship began.
On Tuesday evening, Letourneau's former attorney David Gehrke spoke with Q13 News about the her passing. Gehrke said she always struggled to accept what she'd done was against the law. But he said she told him one day she'd have a big happy family with Fualaau, but he said it would never be possible.
This past year when Gehrke went to visit her, he admitted he had been wrong about her.
"I looked at her and said, 'Remember that first Sunday when you came by and you just said you wanted to marry Villi and have one big happy family?' That’s what you’ve got. And she looked at me and gave me this smile I’d seen before on her because she was always confident she’d get what she wanted, and she gave me a smile and said, 'Yeah, I told you I would get that," said Gehrke.
Gehrke said Letourneau and Fualaau divorced last year, but even during the past year and with her struggling with cancer, Fualaau remained by her side.
"Evidence by him coming back up here and being with her and by her side almost non stop for the last couple of months, they still obviously loved each other, and she would’ve done the same for him if he was the one who had cancer," said Gehrke.
He said he truly doesn't believe she was a pedophile and that she shouldn't be viewed as one.
"I hope people when they think of her and her legacy, they think of how strong she was and how brilliant she was and how kind she was. And not look at her like a child rapist. We all make mistakes, she overcame hers and she did a lot of good in the world both before and after, and I would hope people look at her that way," he added.
Fualaau and Letourneau had previously characterized their relationship as one of love and even wrote a book together — “Un Seul Crime, L’Amour,” or “Only One Crime, Love.” Their story was also the subject of a USA Network movie, “All American Girl.”
Letourneau and Fualaau married on May 20, 2005, in Woodinville, Washington, after she served a 7-and-a-half year prison term for child rape.
King County court records show Fualaau asked the court for a legal separation from Letourneau on May 9, 2017.
Seattle attorney Anne Bremner befriended Letourneau in 2002, when she represented the Des Moines police department in a lawsuit brought by Fualaau’s mother, claiming the city and school district failed to protect him from the teacher. A jury ruled against the family in the civil action. Bremner visited Letourneau in prison and would meet her for lunch after her release.
“She accepted that it was a crime and that she had to serve her time, but when she got out she didn’t dwell,” Bremner said. “She moved forward in a very positive way and raised those girls. She was somebody I rooted for. I really wanted her to do well, and she did.”
Letourneau is survived by her six children, including two daughters with Fualaau.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.