Vili Fualaau steered a motor boat in Des Moines, Washington, while his wife, Mary Kay Letourneau, sang “Here with you, here with me is where I’m meant to be.” The two have known each other since second grade, when she was his 31-year-old elementary school teacher at Shorewood Elementary School in Burien, Washington.
On Aug. 8, 1997, Letourneau pleaded guilty to rape of a child, Fualaau.
More than 20 years later, the Fualaau family – including daughters 21-year-old Audrey and 19-year-old Georgia Fualaau – spoke with Australia’s Sunday Night about their family dynamics. The video, which was linked in a previous version of this story, has since been taken down from YouTube. In it, the daughters said that they understood the obsession with their family, but, as Audrey said, they have adapted to it.
Audrey was born while her mother was on trial; Georgia was born while Letourneau was in jail. Fualaau and his mother raised the girls, but he continued to send Letourneau love letters despite their arrangement that he was free to date who he chose. When she was released in 2005, they wed.
At her sentencing hearing, Letourneau said she did something she had no right to do, “morally or legally,” but in the interview she contradicted this, stating she did not know having sex with then 12-year-old Fualaau was illegal.
“If someone had told me, if anyone had told me there is a specific law that says this is a crime,” she said. “… If you had someone on here that knew Mary back then, ‘Did Mary know? Would Mary have known?’ ”
At one point, she referred to her actions as a character flaw.
“Flaw me, flaw me as an adult,” she said. “I did the best I could.”
Her lawyer and neighbor, David Gehrke, told the Sunday Night interviewer that he had to explain to Letourneau multiple times that what she did was a crime.
At the time, Gehrke said Letourneau repeated to him, “But we’re in love, I didn’t make him do anything, if anything he was wanting it, he was pushing for it. We’re in love, how could it be a crime?”
When the lawyer was asked whether the rumors that Letourneau and Fualaau had engaged in activities on the roof of her family home, Gehrke responded that he was not there and could not confirm something like that, and then winked at the interviewer, but in Fualaau’s deposition, he did confirm this.
Letourneau reiterated on multiple occasions that Fualaau had pursued her, which he admitted was part of a bet with his cousin. When the interviewer pointed out that she was the adult in the situation, she countered that he had been the boss in their relationship, turns to Fualaau and asks him who was the boss back then.
Fualaau hesitated. “Well, it was me pursuing you,” he said.
Letourneau asked him repeatedly, “Who was the boss?” and at one point Fualaau called the line of questioning “ridiculous” and said “this is getting weird.” Letourneau maintained that she had attempted to spurn his advances and that love could not be a crime.
Letourneau described their beginning at summer art camp as a “boyfriend/girlfriend” relationship.
“It felt really great,” she said, laughing. “I’m just saying it felt great because we felt really close as friends and then just to not be his teacher in any capacity.”
She also claimed that she had been wrongfully imprisoned.
“I did the best that I felt at the time with the decision that I made and I tried to take the guilty plea back when,” she said. “I realized I was tricked and coerced into it,”
Fualaau’s feelings on the matter are more nuanced. Growing up, his father had five wives and he himself had 17 siblings. He wanted his daughters to grow up with two parents under the same roof.
Still, he has been thinking more about their story now that he is 35, the same age his wife was when their relationship began.
“I think about it, you know, like could I have ever done that, could I have ever been with a girl that’s 13 years old right now, and I just can’t see myself doing it,” he said.
In 2017, the couple had a trial separation but ultimately decided to stay together.
The Sunday Night interviewer asked Fualaau what advice he would have for his teenage self, and Fualaau responded, “Don’t do it!” followed by laughter.
“I can’t regret my two daughters and the entire life that I’ve already lived,” he said.
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