Mary Kay Letourneau, the Seattle elementary school teacher who was convicted in 1997 of raping her sixth-grade student, is ready to share her side of the story.
In an A&E Biography special titled “Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography,” a two-hour confession set to debut Tuesday night, the 56-year-old recounts her tumultuous, headline-grabber past.
Letourneau shocked the world when, at age 34, she began an affair with 12-year-old Vili Fualaau.
Their relationship ultimately sent her to prison for nearly eight years before the controversial couple married on May 20, 2005 — he was 22 by then. The pair now share two daughters.
In the documentary, Letourneau detailed how her forbidden romance with Fualaau, now 34, came to be, as well as how it both fascinated and disturbed the country. Fualaau, lawyers, friends, as well as a fellow prison inmates also chose to participate in the special.
Executive producer Brad Abramson told Fox News that while both Letourneau and Fualaau were willing to tell nearly all, one topic that was off limits was their recent split.
In 2017, Fualaau filed for legal separation from Letourneau. At the time of filing, the couple were still living together and raising their daughters.
"I think they’re still trying to figure it out, to be honest," said Abramson. “We told as much as they would tell us. I think … their relationship was evolving as we were shooting. There were no rumors of a separation [at that time]. But I think, for the both of them, they were trying to figure things out and save the relationship.”
Abramson admitted it took some convincing for Letourneau to revisit her shocking past for the special.
“I know it took a lot,” he explained. “I think she was a little nervous about getting started. But she warmed up right away. I think she definitely took responsibility for her actions. She said she regretted doing what she did and she made a mistake. But clearly, when she had two kids, her life came out of that.
"And I think she wanted to tell her side of the story for the first time. This platform, where she’s looking right at the camera in an intimate and personal way, allows her to frame her story… which she was not allowed to do for many years. So I think that was appealing to her. The platform and the presentation of it.”
Letourneau was a married mother of four when her relationship with Fualaau began. She was arrested in March 1997 after a relative of her husband, Steve Letourneau, notified police. She gave birth to a daughter, Audrey, in May 1997, while out of jail on bail.
Letourneau eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape and was sentenced to six months in jail. But as part of her plea bargain, Letourneau agreed to avoid any further contact with Fualaau, a condition she violated in 1998, when she became pregnant a second time by Fualaau. That resulted in her prison sentencing.
Abramson said Letourneau, now working as a paralegal, insisted she felt injustice and betrayal when she lost contact with her children at the time of her sentencing.
“I think reliving the time in prison was brutal,” he said. “Giving birth in prison. And having her baby go away. Missing her kids. Missing all those birthdays. She’s openly weeping as she’s talking about missing her older children’s birthdays while in prison. I think she felt very, very conflicted. It brought back a lot of raw emotions. I was quite surprised to see that after 20 years. Those raw emotions were still close at hand.”
Letourneau, who quickly became the subject of tabloid fodder across the country, still appeared frustrated with the media scrutiny over the years. The former teacher insisted the shocking relationship was always consensual.
“I think the media wanted to see her as a very one-dimensional character in this story,” said Abramson. “The older female teacher, the rapist. And by definition, yes, she is that. But I think she found her soulmate — at least, that’s what she says.
"And I think she was upset that part of the story was never told. It was always the headline, ‘Mary Kay Letourneau sleeps with her former student’ when in her mind, this was a long, emotional love affair that lasted for 20 plus years now.”
Letourneau also claimed in the documentary that she didn't think the forbidden romance could result in an arrest.
“Nowadays, we hear so many [similar] stories over the past 20 years,” said Abramson. “Especially female teachers and young male students. [But] I think it was unheard of at the time. In her mind, it was consensual even though obviously at the age of 13, you can’t give consent. But in her mind, it was all about love. So I think she was either in denial, oblivious, or really, feeling the feelings instead of seeing the clinical nature of the crime she had committed.”
Letourneau went on to also claim how the then-teenager instigated the relationship with his increasingly aggressive advances. Fualaau allegedly bet with one of his friends he could seduce his former teacher.
“One thing that surprised me was that first encounter,” said Abramson. “How he flirted with her, or she says he flirted with her, and he wanted to kiss her first. I think she was pulled to something about him. And I can’t say what it is.
"I don’t think she can say what it was, other than the essence of him that she connected with. He’s an artist. And I think she was pulled towards him in some greater way. This was not a repeat offender. She was pulled to this person her whole life. So I think when she told the anecdote of how their relationship escalated, that to me, made me understand her more.”
Before the couple could wed, Fualaau had to get a court order barring Letourneau from contacting him lifted. By then those who lived near the couple accepted the marriage, despite the high-profile scandal.
“They have seen what we got to see a little bit of in the documentary,” said Abramson. “She’s a family person. She’s a devoted mother. A devoted wife. A devoted member of her community. An active member of the community. Active as a paralegal helping people.
"I think she served her time and since she’s been out, she’s been a valuable member of the community. And she didn’t run. She stayed in that small Washington state town for all these years. And I think people respect her for it.”
An inmate who was in the same prison as Letourneau also claimed the fallen teacher was a model prisoner while she was separated from her children.
“She was trying to make the best use of her time,” said Abramson. “She helped other prisoners. She provided legal advice, counseling. She befriended a lot of people... And I think that helped her cope inside. And I think that made her a stronger person… She says in the documentary 'I did what I did and I’m a sex offender.' She has lived by that.
"She has served her time. She has come out of the other side. She now gives back as a paralegal, helping other people in prison fighting for themselves. I think it’s very clear she understands what she’s done, but at the same time, doesn’t regret the deed because it gave her a family.”
Abramson hopes the documentary will show viewers a new side to Letourneau and Fualaau, one rarely covered by the press.
“She’s there in her house, near where her original family was,” he explained. “She’s still in touch with her four older children from her first marriage. And they are a part of her life now. It’s pretty unimaginable… that 20 years later, you have her and her kids and Villi and her older kids all together as one extended family. It’s pretty remarkable what she has done.”
“Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography” premieres Tuesday, May 29th at 8 p.m. on A&E. The Associated Press contributed to this report.