Mary Kay Letourneau, convicted child rapist and former teacher, felt “deep remorse” for raping her then 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, according to a source who received a letter from Letourneau prior to her death.

“Absolutely nothing she did during that stage of her life should ever be emulated,” the insider told People, alluding to Letourneau’s sexual relationship with her then sixth-grade student, whom she later married. “She understood that, more acutely at the end of her life. She felt deep remorse.” 

In the months before her death in 2020 from stage 4 colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, the terminally ill teacher reportedly wrote dozens of letters to friends and family in which she apologized for her “mistakes.”

“At the end of your life, you start reassessing a lot of things,” the source said. “And she was trying to make her peace, not only with everyone else, but with herself.”

“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,” the source, whom People identified as a “friend,” continued. “She realized that even though things turned out relatively good, that she was responsible for a wide swath of destruction by her actions. She apologized to a lot of people for a lot of things.”

The Seattle, Washington teacher made national headlines in 1996 when she was caught having a sexual relationship with Fualaau, 38. At the time, Letourneau was 34 and married to her first husband, Steve Letourneau, with whom she welcomed four children.

The elementary school teacher later pled guilty to second-degree rape charges, and while she was awaiting sentencing, Letourneau gave birth to her first daughter with Fualaau, daughter Audrey, in 1997. The state initially sought to sentence the disgraced teacher to six-and-a-half years in prison, but through a plea agreement, Letourneau’s sentence was reduced to six months, with three months suspended. According to her plea agreement, Letourneau could not contact the victim or her five children or have contact with any minors.  

Two weeks after completing her jail sentence, in February 1998, police found Letourneau in a car with Fualaau near her home. In the car, police found $6,200, men’s and infant’s clothing and her passport, hidden under the driver’s floor mat. Receipts adding up to $850 in purchases of men’s, young men’s and infant clothing were also found.

The same month, the Tustin, California native’s plea agreement was revoked and she was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison, during which she gave birth to her second daughter. Fualaau was 15 at the time. Following her release, Letourneau and Fualaau, who was 21 at the time, married in May 2005. In 2017, Fualaau filed for legal separation; however, the paperwork was withdrawn. In 2019, he resumed the process and their separation was granted in August of that year.

According to People‘s source, Letourneau understood that her actions were illegal and immoral towards the end of her life.

Letourneau died at the age of 58 in July 2020, and despite their split, Fualaau said he was there to be by her side during her final moments.

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