Mary Kay Letourneau always seems ready for her close-up. From mocking her child-rape conviction with a “Hot for Teacher” nightclub appearance to selling (for a rumored $750,000) film rights of her wedding to her former grade-school student, she has brilliantly played the role of perpetrator/victim/entrepreneur. Even the husband she met in her Shorewood Elementary classroom in Burien—he a 12-year-old student, she a 34-year-old teacher and married mother of four—says he was star-struck. “She was like a movie star,” Vili Fualaau recalled the other night on national TV. But even with all the headlines, interviews, books, and made-for-TV films that the press and Hollywood have churned out since the kid impregnated his teacher almost two decades back, there is so much more to be told, it seems.
“I don’t know if enough time will pass to take away what the media did to our story,” Letourneau told Barbara Walters in her latest interview, “because it was so big and they ran with it so fast. There is a story of us that has a life of its own, but it isn’t our story.” By the way, added Seattle’s best-known sex offender, she plans to ask a court to end her obligation to register as one. Then she will return to teaching, she thinks. And she will not have to experience further embarrassments of registry, such as recently being barred from visiting one of her daughters in a local children’s hospital.
The 53-year-old paralegal and grandmother and her 31-year-old music-mixing husband, known as DJ Headline, will have been married 10 years in May. Their paths first crossed, they remember, when Fualaau was 7 and in her second-grade class. By the time he reached sixth grade, he had matured enough in Letourneau’s preying eyes to have sex with her. She recalls an “emotional attraction” at first, then a bonding. She ignored the kid’s interest, but claims he flat-out asked her, at age 12, “Would you ever have an affair?” She found that uncomfortable, she says, but the student continued to seduce his teacher. When she looked deep in his eyes, she “felt something . . . Basically he said he was in love with me.” At the time her first marriage of 12 years was crumbling—and then late one night, “It didn’t stop with a kiss. I thought it would. But it didn’t.” Did she feel guilty about the illegal sex? Or the unique tests she gave her student, stripping off one piece of clothing for every right answer he gave? No, she loved him, and that made it all right. Other than the seven-plus years she spent in prison, they have essentially been together since.
At one point—after becoming a father at 14, then again at 15—Fualaau was struggling. His teacher was in prison and he was the babysitter of his own kids, who were in his mother’s custody. “I’m surprised I’m alive today,” he says; “it was a dark time.”
Letourneau has kept the story alive with network appearances, and it appears the saga has now moved to the next stage. Friday night, the mostly happy couple (marriage has its ups and downs, Fualaau conceded) introduced their teenage children, Audrey and Georgia Fualaau, whose births generated headlines in the late 1990s.
Letourneau’s 1997 pregnancy with now-17-year-old graduating high-school senior Audrey confirmed that Letourneau and Fualaau had obviously had an affair. She was convicted of rape and did three months, with most of her sentence suspended on condition she stay away from the kid. But they were found steaming up the windows one night—$6,200 in cash, baby clothes, and Letourneau’s passport were found in the car—and she went back to prison. There she made more headlines, giving birth behind bars to now-16-year-old cheerleader Georgia. Both teens attend school in the same district, Highline, where Letourneau and Fualaau met.
Though father Vili says he certainly wouldn’t approve of his daughters having sex with their teachers—he’d be “like any parent,” he says—the kids became aware of Mom and Dad’s backstory after Googling it, and they support them. Now they are becoming players in the ever-unfolding tale, which will get its next airing in a new series hosted by Walters on the Investigation Discovery channel, called Scandals. Their parents thought it best to bring the girls along for Friday’s TV interview because they wanted to prepare them for what lies ahead.
“No matter how protective we are,” said Letourneau, “there’s going to be a wave of intrusion in our life right now that we can’t stop. So it’s about doing the most responsible thing to protect our girls for the inevitable.” She apparently was referring to intrusions of fame, or infamy—not that there’s a difference anymore.
Rick Anderson writes about sex, crime, money, and politics, which tend to be the same thing. His latest book is Floating Feet: Irregular Dispatches From the Emerald City.