What Mary Kay Letourneau's Prison Life Was Really Like

On June 18, 1996, police officers were on a routine patrol when they found a suspicious vehicle in the parking lot of a marina near Seattle, Washington. As reported by CNN, a woman and a teen boy were both in the back seat of the car. However, as the officers approached, the woman jumped into the front seat. The officers were concerned, as the male in the vehicle appeared to be underage. However, the woman insisted he was over 18 and the male insisted they were not doing anything inappropriate. Nevertheless, the officers took them both in for further questioning. The woman, who was identified as 34-year-old Mary Letourneau, said the male, who was identified as Vili Fualaau, was visiting the home she shared with her husband and four children. As she and her husband had an argument earlier that evening, she was taking Fualaau home. The officers called Fualaau's mother, who told them to "return him to Mary."

According to CNN, Fualaau's mother was not aware that Letourneau lied about her son's age and was not told any details about how the two were found. She later said she never would have released her son to Letourneau if she knew the truth about the situation. In reality, Fualaau was only 12 years old and he and Letourneau, who was his teacher, had already been intimate on several occasions. Although there were rumors about the inappropriate nature of their relationship, Biography reports Letourneau was not arrested until March 4, 1997.

Mary Kay Letourneau was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years

When Mary Kay Letourneau was arrested, she was already visibly pregnant with Vili Fualaau's child. As reported by Biography, the baby girl, who was named Audrey, was born on May 23, 1997. Five months later, Letourneau pleaded guilty to second-degree child rape and was subsequently sentenced to three months in prison and continued probation following her release. As a condition of the plea agreement, Letourneau was prohibited from having any contact with Fualaau. However, within weeks of her release, authorities found Fualaau and Letourneau together again. According to Biography, authorities believe they were in the process of fleeing the country, as they found baby supplies, $6,200 in cash, and Letourneau's passport inside the vehicle.

Letourneau was ultimately sentenced to 7.5 years in prison for violating the terms of her plea agreement. Eight months after she returned to prison, Biography reports she gave birth to another baby girl, named Georgia, who was also fathered by Fualaau. As reported by Fox News, executive producer Brad Abramson, who interviewed Letourneau extensively for the A&E Biography special, "Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography," said having to give birth while incarcerated, and having the baby taken away, was especially difficult for Letourneau. Although Letourneau's children were permitted to visit her while she was in prison, Abramson said she was distraught over missing important milestones in all six of her children's lives.

Mary Kay Letourneau tutored her fellow inmates

Letourneau's first two years in prison were specifically difficult. In addition to having conflicts with her fellow inmates, Letourneau struggled to adjust to the strict environment and to taking orders from the guards. People reports she was also caught attempting to correspond with Vili Fualaau despite a standing order forbidding her from contacting him. As a result of multiple infractions, she spent at least 18 months of her first two years in solitary confinement. When she began adjusting to the prison rules and environment, Letourneau began writing in her spare time. While incarcerated, DailyHawker reports, she and Fualaau co-authored a book published in France, titled "Un Seul Crime, L'amour" — "Only One crime, Love." She also contributed to a book, which was written by Gregg Olsen, titled, "If Loving You Is Wrong." 

Letourneau also became an active member of one of the prison's religious organizations. In addition to regularly attending mass, Letourneau was an active member of the prison choir. Letourneau utilized her skills as a former teacher by tutoring her fellow inmates and recording audio books for the blind. As reported by People, she also encouraged the prison to increase the number of textbooks available to inmates who wanted to further their education.

Yahoo! Life reports Letourneau developed a routine, and kept herself busy with several activities and projects during her incarceration. However, she was devastated when she was denied furlough to attend her father's funeral in 2001.

Mary Kay Letourneau married Vili Fualaau when she got out of prison

On August 4, 2004, Letourneau was released from prison after serving nearly seven years. As reported by Yahoo! Life, an order was still in place prohibiting Letourneau from having any contact with Vili Fualaau. However, the couple petitioned to have the order dissolved and were engaged within two months of her release. In May 2005, Letourneau, who was 43, and Fualaau, who was 21, were married. Yahoo! reports their two daughters were flower girls at the wedding. Although the entire situation remains controversial, Letourneau and Fualaau both insisted the relationship was consensual and they were in love. However, critics maintain Fualaau was not old enough to consent to a relationship with an adult, and the situation was even more disturbing as Letourneau was in a position of authority over the boy.

According to Yahoo!, Letourneau and Fualaau were married for 12 years before Fualaau filed for legal separation. Although they attempted to reconcile, the divorce was finalized in 2019. Despite their differences, Letourneau and Fualaau remained friends.

In 2020, it was announced that Letourneau had died of cancer. Yahoo! reports she was diagnosed only six months before she died. As reported by People, Letourneau expressed regret for her inappropriate actions toward Fualaau in the months following her diagnosis. A source, who was not named, said, "She realized that even though things turned out relatively good, that she was responsible for a wide swath of destruction by her actions." In November 2023, Netflix released the drama "May December," which was inspired by the Letourneau case.