Back in 1996, Mary Kay Letourneau, 34, was a married mother of four who taught at a Seattle elementary school. Vili Fualaau was a 12-year-old sixth grade student in her class. They began a sexual and romantic relationship that would lead to nationwide television coverage, multiple jail stints, books about forbidden love, two children and in 2005, a marriage.
Now, Letourneau and her husband, Fualaau, are making yet another tabloid headline — they are legally separating, according to TMZ.
People magazine, which confirmed the story, quoted an unnamed individual close to the couple saying, “They’ve been having issues for a while now. They tried to work through them, but it didn’t work. They’re still committed to being good parents to their children.”
Letourneau’s lawyer, David Gehrke, told People that Fualaau filed for separation.
Letourneau’s relationship with the boy was first exposed after a relative of her husband found out about it and told police. After Letourneau’s first arrest in March 1997, she gave birth to her first child with Fualaau, a daughter named Audrey, while she was out on bail.
She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape and was sentenced to six months in jail. She was required to undergo sex offender treatment.
She was released from jail after serving three months. Two weeks later, she was caught having sex with Fualaau in a car. She was arrested again and sentenced to seven years for violating the terms of her parole. While in prison she gave birth to Georgia, her second child with Fualaau.
In 2004, Letourneau was released from the Washington Corrections Center for Women.
In 2005, Fualaau and Letourneau were married in front of 250 guests. They reportedly received six figures for the TV rights to their wedding, the first of several attempts to capitalize on their notoriety.
They co-authored a book published in France under the title “Only One Crime, Love,” in 1999. In 2009, they hosted a nightclub event in Seattle called “Hot for Teacher” night where Fualaau served as DJ for the night. They took photos and signed T-shirts.
Their relationship sparked controversy beyond their 22-year age difference. In 2004, a New York Times writer, Robin D. Stone, wrote a column about how differently the Letourneau saga would have been portrayed if she were a man in a relationship with a female student. Instead of outcry from the public for her to be locked up, the article said, people saw Letourneau as “the siren who betrayed her husband and abandoned her four children in a misguided quest for love.”
Their courtship was consistently described as a “relationship” as opposed to her being called a predator or him being called a victim.
“Boy-Toy Bliss For Mary Kay” read one New York Post headline. Time magazine published a story — “Mad About the Boy” — in 2001 that made the argument that Letourneau suffered from an untreated mental illness and depression from her previous miscarriage years earlier that led to her behavior.
On the occasion of the couple’s 10th wedding anniversary in 2015, Letourneau said in an interview with ABC, “If it wasn’t strong enough in the beginning, it wouldn’t have carried through those years.”
“I think, ‘What would my life have been like if I had never made a move on Mary?” Fualaau said in an interview with People magazine in 2006. “What if I had kept it as a crush and left it at that? Where would I be and where would she be — what would life be like?”
More from Morning Mix: