Mary Kay Letourneau, the suburban Washington teacher who raped and later married her former sixth-grade student, died Tuesday of cancer at 58.
The case drew massive media attention as Letourneau, then 34, and her student, Vili Fualaau, then 12, were found in a minivan in June 1996, at a marina outside Seattle.
Letourneau would become pregnant months later. She pleaded guilty to child rape in 1997 and served only a few months in prison on the condition that she have not further contact with Fualaau. Soon after, she was caught having sex with the teen again and became pregnant with their second child. A judge later sentenced her to serve more than seven years.
In 2005, Letourneau and Fualaau married after Letourneau's jail time was up, but Fualaau filed for divorce in 2017.
Her lawyer, David Gehrke, told the New York Times that she died at home surrounded by her children and Fualaau.
Here's what to know about the case:
Mary Kay Letourneau was Vili Fualaau's second and sixth grade teacher
Letourneau taught Fualaau in second and sixth grade at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, a south Seattle suburb.
Shortly after her release from prison, Letourneau told journalist Barbara Walters in an interview that her relationship with Fualaau began as an emotional connection.
"We just bonded, we had similar interests," she said.
A mother of four, Letourneau was having trouble with her marriage before she raped Fualaau.
The marina incident occurred in the early hours of June 19, 1996. Police found Letourneau and Fualaau in the vehicle at the Des Moines Marina.
Letourneau said the boy was 18 and both denied there had been any "touching." They said Letourneau was babysitting the child.
However, months later, Letourneau became pregnant with their first daughter.
Letourneau sentenced, then caught with Fualaau again
Letourneau pleaded guilty to second-degree child rape in 1997 and soon gave birth to the pair's child.
A judge reduced Letourneau's sentence to only six months as part of a plea agreement, which stipulated that she have no further contact with Fualaau.
However, weeks after her release, Letourneau was found by police in a car with Fualaau. A judge revoked her plea agreement and reinstated the full 7½-year prison term.
Letourneau gave birth to their second child in 1998 after she began her second stint in prison.
Letourneau, Fualaau marry in 2005, divorce years later
In 2004, after her release from prison, Letourneau told Walters that within hours of the "no contact" order being lifted, she and Fualaau had reunited.
They married in Woodinville, Washington, in 2005.
Fualaau and Letourneau had previously characterized their relationship as one of love, and even wrote a book together — "Un Seul Crime, L'Amour," or "Only One Crime, Love." Their story was also the subject of a USA Network movie, "All American Girl."
Seattle attorney Anne Bremner befriended Letourneau in 2002 during a civil suit tied to the case. Bremner said Letourneau "accepted that it was a crime and that she had to serve her time, but when she got out she didn’t dwell."
"She moved forward in a very positive way and raised those girls. She was somebody I rooted for. I really wanted her to do well, and she did," Bremner added.
When asked by Walters in 2015 whether she stole Fualaau's childhood, Letourneau said: "The only benefit if there is any benefit that I was away, is that he had years to be without me and not in a relationship. ... I think that even though we did start when he was a young teenager, I was gone for a while, so he had plenty of time to do his thing."
But Fualaau told Walters that having children was a "huge change in his life," and that he didn't feel like he had support from his family or friends.
He dropped out of high school, and his mother was granted custody of the two children.
"There's this hopelessness, like nobody understands you, you can't talk to anyone," he told Walters.
In 2017, Fualaau filed for divorce, which was finalized in 2019.
Bremner said of the relationship: “Everyone said it wouldn’t last, but it did, at least for 20 years.”
Letourneau's family has ties to Bush family, Trump
Letourneau was the daughter of John G. Schmitz, an ultraconservative U.S. representative who ran for president in 1972 as the American Independent Party's candidate.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Letourneau's younger brother Phillip drowned in the family pool when he was 3 years old.
"There is no question that her brother’s death, combined with other traumas Mary Kay suffered later, contributed to the tragedy of her life today," Dr. Julia Moore, a psychiatrist who evaluated Letourneau and diagnosed her with manic depression, told the newspaper in 1998.
Two of her brothers also worked in conservative politics. John P. Schmitz is a former deputy counsel to President George H. W. Bush, and Joseph E. Schmitz served as an inspector general of the Defense Department under President George W. Bush. Joseph Schmitz is also a former executive with Blackwater Worldwide and was a foreign policy adviser to Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.
Contributing: Mary Bowerman and The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mary Kay Letourneau, ex-teacher who raped student Vili Fualaau, dies