What The Last Few Months Of Mary Kay Letourneau's Life Were Like

In 1997, Seattle school teacher Mary Kay Letourneau made national headlines for all the wrong reasons: In February, she was arrested for rape, after her abuse of a 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, was reported to authorities. At the time, Letourneau was 34 and a married mother of four (per History). She had first met Fualaau when he was 7; Letourneau was his second-grade teacher. In May 1997, Letourneau gave birth to Fualaau's child and in August, she pled guilty to second-degree rape of a child.

According to E! Online, Letourneau claimed that she and Fualaau were in love. She was sentenced to 89 months in prison but was paroled after 80 days. At this point, she had already given birth to their first child, Audrey. Upon her release, Letourneau was told to stay away from Fualaau. She completely ignored this stipulation and became pregnant with their second child, Georgia, in 1998. Letourneau was subsequently sent to prison for seven and a half years.

People reports that when she was released, Fualaau, then an adult, asked the court to dissolve a no-contact order that had been placed. By 2005, the couple had married and were raising their two daughters in Washington state. In 2017, Fualaau filed for legal separation. Although they eventually divorced, Biography states that Fualaau was with Letourneau when she died in 2020. In December 2023 Netflix released a film loosely based on the scandalous relationship between Letourneau and Fualaau called "May December." 

Mary Kay Letourneau had stage 4 cancer

Mary Kay Letourneau had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer six months before her death, according to Entertainment Tonight. In an interview with Dr. Oz (via Biography), Fualaau recalled that his ex-wife was feeling ill and decided to get a colonoscopy. That's when Letourneau discovered that she had cancer and that it had already spread to her liver. Fualaau said that Letourneau did not look sick at first but said that her health rapidly declined. People reported that she lost weight and was frequently exhausted. Even so, Letourneau was reportedly in denial about her impending death and hoped for a "miracle."

Per Biography, things took a turn for the worse when a CT scan for a broken arm revealed that cancer had spread to her brain and spine. Fualaau told Dr. Oz, "They told us that there wasn't much that they could do at this point. And so, the very last weeks of her life, she started to realize that she was going to go — and it was a difficult thing for all of us."

On July 6, 2020, 58-year-old Mary Kay Letourneau died. Her family released a statement that read, "Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease." It went on to say, "Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous struggle."

Vili Fualaau became her caregiver

Mary Kay Letourneau spent her final moments in hospice care, according to Entertainment Tonight. After her death, her attorney, David Gehrke revealed that Vili Fualaau was Letourneau's caretaker despite their divorce. Per Biography, Fualaau went on to say that when Letourneau told him of her diagnosis, "I was in disbelief ... I didn't want to believe it and so I got on the plane right away and I went out there."

Fualaau noted that witnessing Letourneau on her deathbed made him realize how much she had meant to him. Fualaau, his daughter Georgia, and Letourneau's youngest daughter with her first husband were by her side when she died. A friend of Fualaau's later told People that, "He lost a piece of himself" when Letourneau died. The friend also explained that the pair had not been together for three years. Even so, Letourneau still updated Fualaau on her cancer prognosis early on.

Gehrke was not surprised by this and explained to Fox13 News "Evidence by him coming back up here and being with her and by her side almost nonstop for the last couple of months, they still obviously loved each other, and she would've done the same for him if he was the one who had cancer."

She was anguished by her past

A few months after her death, an unnamed source told People that Mary Kay Letourneau felt "deep remorse" for initiating a relationship with and raping a then-12-year-old Fualaau. Despite her marriage and two daughters, the source stated, "The bottom line was that she understood on a very deep level that she had really made a mess of her life and the lives of many other people back in 1996." Another article from People explains that prior to her death, Letourneau had written 30 letters to friends and family to atone for her mistakes. It's unknown if she wrote a letter to Fualaau.

Her attorney, David Gehrke, didn't believe that she was a pedophile. He told Fox13 News, "We all make mistakes, she overcame hers and she did a lot of good in the world both before and after, and I would hope people look at her that way." In an interview with Dr. Oz (via Biography) Fualaau admitted that he was not okay with his daughters dating anyone who was significantly older than them. Additionally, he divulged that he did not see Letourneau as a rapist. He said, "There's nothing I can't say to people that don't care to listen or don't care to learn. But that is my wife and she is my best friend. And we had our kids together, and we did get married. And we had a whole life together."

Regardless of the couple's complicated past, the family they created continues to grow. In September 2024 People reported that Georgia, the couple's youngest daughter, was expecting her first child at 24 years old.