Attorney for Letourneau says couple cared for each other ‘all the way to the end’
Mary Kay Letourneau, a Burien teacher who married her former sixth-grade student Vili Fualaau after she was convicted of raping him in a case that drew international headlines in the late 1990s, died Monday after a battle with colon cancer.
The story of Letourneau’s case broke early in Dori Monson’s career, and was a topic of discussion almost daily for a while. Even though they disagreed on some of the issues of the case, Letourneau’s attorney David Gehrke became a friend of the Dori Monson Show.
“Who’d of thought when we first met all those years ago that we’d still be talking about the same subject?” Gehrke said on the show Wednesday.
Gehrke said he knew Letourneau wasn’t doing well, but the news of her death still hurt.
“I ran into her once [recently]. She obviously was not vibrant, was anxious to see people and all of that. I did run into her and exchanged greetings and best wishes, and she ended up home bound, bed bound, and that’s where she passed,” Gehrke said. “She just was not out and about near the end.”
Fualaau and Letourneau married in 2005, and formally separated in 2019. The two remained close up to her death.
“They both grew up a lot, if you will, over the last couple of decades, and didn’t always see eye to eye, but the love between them was always there, strong,” Gehrke said. “And Vili, to his credit, when he found out about [her illness], and then especially the last couple of months, he moved back from California and he gave her 24/7 care, literally all the way to the end.”
“That was the love they had,” he added.
Their love is what made the case different, Gehrke believes.
“I agreed that there should not be some sort of a self-defense argument of, ‘well, they were in love,'” he clarified. “Whether they were or not, you cannot change the law to allow that because a good groomer will have the victim in love with them just to get laid. In Mary’s case, I do firmly believe that it’s love.”
The decades long, loving relationship between the two prove that, he added.
“I always argued with her. I never told her it couldn’t be love. What I told her is, ‘Mary, you were the adult, and the law says you have to remain an adult until he is. You can’t be breaking the law just because of love,'” he said. “And she finally understood that. She never agreed with it because they were in love, but she understood that.”
Gehrke was Letourneau’s attorney, but grew close to her and her family over the years. Letourneau had four kids from her first marriage, and two kids with Fualaau. So how’s the family doing?
“They are all doing great,” Gehrke said. “They are one very strong, integrated family, all the kids. And as big as [the case] was back then for you and me, the kids, they moved to Alaska, the four older ones. They were just the Letourneaus, there wasn’t that stigma.”
For the younger kids, Gehrke pointed out that you could ask kids in high school today if they know the story of the Letourneaus, and the response from most would be, “who?”
“So they weren’t really stigmatized as bad as they could have been,” he said.
Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.