Teacher Mary Kay Letourneau made headlines in 1997 when news that she was having a sexual relationship with one of her 12-year-old students, Vili Fualaau, became public. In a bizarre twist of fate, the two later reconciled and were married. During this time, Letourneau had been battling colon cancer, which ended up taking her life this past July. In her will, she left her entire estate to Fualaau and their two daughters.

The couple met in 1996 while Letourneau was teaching Fualaau’s sixth-grade class at Shorewood Elementary in Seattle, Washington. Letourneau was already married with children at the time, though, the marriage was characterized by financial worries, affairs and at least two instances of alleged abuse. Letourneau’s relationship with Fualaau was discovered while the two were found in a compromised position by a police officer in her car in a parking lot. Fualaau’s mother was informed but chose not to press charges, going so far as to suggest her son be returned to Letourneau. Letourneau was only prosecuted after a member of her husband’s family alerted the police in 1997. She gave birth to her first child with Fualaau during sentencing.

While Letourneau was convicted of two counts of child sexual abuse, she only served six months after a plea deal. Part of her sentence was a no-contact order meant to keep her away from the young boy, but the two were later discovered together in 1998, leading to her plea deal being revoked and her resuming the full sentence. Letourneau gave birth to their second daughter that same year while serving her sentence. In 2004, she was released after Fualaau convinced the court to reverse the no contact order so that they could marry later in 2005. She still had to register as a sex offender as a condition of her release.

Letourneau told NBC in an interview, “If someone had told me, if anyone had told me, there is a specific law that says this is a crime, I did not know. I’ve said this over and over again. Had I’d known, if anyone knows my personality. Just the idea, this would count as a crime.” Fualaau at the time seemed to share her feelings, but later filed for separation in 2019, though the two still lived and spent time with each other.

Letourneau still held enough affection for her husband to leave him and their now-adult children her entire estate upon her death after her diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. She died in July, with her family by her side.

Read more about: