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Mary Kay Letourneau: Inside the teacher's abusive first marriage and family ties to George Bush and Trump

Mary Kay Letourneau gained notoriety when she was arrested in 1996 for abusing her 12-year-old student, whom she married and also had two children with before he was 15
Mary Kay Letourneau (Getty Images)
Mary Kay Letourneau (Getty Images)

Mary Kay Letourneau, who made national headlines in 1997 when she became pregnant with the child of her then-13-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, died of stage four colon cancer on July 7. Letourneau was a married mother of four and was having difficulties with her marriage in 1996 when she taught Fualaau, a 12-year-old in Letourneau's class at Shorewood Elementary in Burien, a south Seattle suburb.

Early morning on June 19, 1996, police discovered them in a minivan parked at the Des Moines Marina. A 34-year-old Letourneau told police officers that the boy was 18 years old, raising suspicions that something sexual was going on. However, at the police station, both Letourneau and Fualaau denied there had been any "touching", and instead insisted that Letourneau was babysitting the boy and took him from her home after she and her husband had a fight. Two months after the incident at the Des Moines Marina, Letourneau became pregnant. In 1998, she conceived Fualaau's second child after she had pleaded guilty to child rape and received a seven-and-a-half-year prison term.

Letourneau and Fualaau married on May 20, 2005, in Woodinville, Washington, after she finished serving time in prison. Fualaau filed for legal separation in 2017 just before their 12-year anniversary but later withdrew the filing. The couple divorced in August 2019. During the marriage, Fualaau said he was not a victim and was unashamed of the relationship, but came to see it as unhealthy after divorcing.

Letourneau's connections to Donald Trump and George Bush

Letourneau's father, John G Schmitz, was a Republican and was elected to the US House of Representatives, serving from 1970 to 1973. Her brother, John P Schmitz, was the Deputy Counsel to George HW Bush during Ronald Reagan's administration. Bush was then the vice president. Schmitz also served as deputy counsel when George HW Bush served as the president. Her other brother, Joseph E Schmitz, was Inspector General of the US Department of Defense under former president George W Bush. He was also named one of Donald Trump's foreign policy advisors for his 2016 presidential campaign.

Letourneau's first marriage

Before her marriage to Fualaau and during her abuse of him when he was a minor and her student, Letourneau was married to Steve Letourneau, whom she met and married while attending Arizona State University. She later said that she was not in love with him and was urged to marry him by her parents. The couple moved to Anchorage, Alaska, and then to Seattle, Washington, where she graduated in 1989 with a teaching degree and began teaching in the Seattle suburb of Burien. 

The Letourneaus' marriage was not without suffering. They faced significant financial problems and both Steve and Mary Kay engaged in extramarital affairs. Steve's attorney and former neighbor, David Gehrke, said Mary Kay was "emotionally and physically abused by her husband" during their marriage, and twice "went to the hospital for treatment, and police were called", although no charges were ever filed. While imprisoned for child rape in May 1999, she divorced her husband and he gained custody of their four children.