Mary Kay Letourneau, the ex-schoolteacher who had sex with a 13-year-old boy and bore his baby, may have been influenced by groupies to make some of the decisions that got her sent to prison, those close to her say.
A British physicist, an Episcopal priest, a struggling writer and others who became enamored of Letourneau from afar were the subject of a warning by her lawyer, David H. Gehrke, on Nov. 26, 12 days after she received a suspended sentence for two counts of second-degree rape of a child.
Addressed to “a broad circle of Letourneau’s friends and acquaintances,” Gehrke’s warning asked them to encourage her to comply with the terms of her release and continue to submit to therapy and other treatment for sexual deviancy.
“I am very, very concerned about the ability of Mary to make it through a treatment program, given the attitudes and thoughts she is constantly being bombarded with,” the attorney wrote.
After her release from jail Jan. 2, Letourneau fought with Dr. Terrance Copeland, her treatment supervisor, and quit taking the medication she had been administered for bipolar disorder, a neurochemical disease characterized by irrational behavior and severe emotional highs and lows.
On Feb. 3, she was caught by police with the boy in her car, violating one of the most critical conditions of her release - that she have no contact with juveniles. Three days later, her seven-year, five-month prison term was reinstated.
Like heroes such as downed Air Force pilot Scott O’Grady or villains on the order of serial killer Theodore Bundy, Letourneau was the object of erotomania, the delusion that one is involved in a relationship with someone of public prominence, said Dr. Howard Zonana, a Yale University forensic psychiatrist.
The more sensational and bizarre the story, the more likely the public will respond personally, Zonana said.
“There are some people who do it for quasi-altruistic reasons,” he said. “Others get caught up in the notoriety or feel that someone is being mistreated and want to get involved.”
Letourneau’s followers sent letters to first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Gov. Gary Locke, suggested she get the boy a pager, and proposed that she seek organic alternatives to her medication. They deluged the King County prosecutor’s office with faxes and e-mail, and some called senior staff members at home in the middle of the night to plead her case.
Some told her to take her money and flee to a foreign country where she could legally marry the boy.
Dr. Julia Moore, a psychiatrist who conducted six hours of interviews with Letourneau in October, said “the groupie-group” reinforced Letourneau’s belief that she was involved in a tragic romance.
“I think they courted the grandiose illusions, the sexual behavior, the delusions,” Moore said.
One of the most active in the group is Anthony Hollick of Bristol, England, a semiretired physicist who has compiled hundreds of pages of notes, statutes, poetry, fiction and news stories about the case on a personal Web site.
“Ultimately this was a relationship between Mary and the young man,” Hollick said in a telephone interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “In the years of the founding fathers, this relationship would have been perfectly legal.”
Hollick said he personally suggested to Letourneau, 36, that she take the boy on a trip to Holland, where marriage is permitted at age 14 with parental consent, or Spain, where the legal age of marriage is 18 but with some exceptions permitted.
Hollick’s Web site is http://www.agora.demon.co.uk.