Who could have imagined that a story that started where a love story shouldn’t and survived where a love story can’t, would wind up here, where a love story belongs—in a waterfront suburban home?
There, a family of four shares smiles. The two growing girls and their loving parents seem downright... ordinary.
The former teacher known around the world as Mary Kay Letourneau now goes by the name Mary Fualaau. She’s been married for a year now to her former sixth grade student—the same young man she was once convicted of raping.
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent: If 10 years ago somebody had told you that the two of you would be together now, married and celebrating your first anniversary, what would you have said?Mary Fualaau: I would’ve just said “wow.” I mean, like, “How’s that gonna happen?”
Last week, I sat down with Mr. and Mrs. Fualaau, now ages 22 and 44, in a hotel near their home. Together, they told their story of how this unusual— if not outrageous— relationship started.
Josh Mankiewicz: How does a 34-year-old woman fall for a 13-year-old boy? Mary Fualaau: Well he’s quite the man, and was back then actually.Vili Fualaau: I wanted her. So I wasn’t gonna stop.
Mary claims at the time it didn’t cross her mind that her new love was illegal.
Mankiewicz: What were you worried about?Mary Fualaau: His mother getting angry.Mankiewicz: You weren’t thinking to yourself, “I could be fired. I could go to jail.” Mary Fualaau: Oh, no.
The couple told me about their life now, their struggle to get full custody of their two daughters, and their surprising relationship with Mary’s four children from her first marriage.
Mankiewicz: Your oldest is how old?Mary Fualaau: 21.Mankiewicz to Vili Fualaau: 21. Almost your age.Mary Fualaau: Couple years, yeah.
And now, is Mary pregnant with the couple’s next child?
Mary Fualaau: Don’t look too close. I have a feeling the camera’s zooming in on me.
In our long conversation, this couple born in infamy did not hold back.
But at its heart, is this a true love story, or a true crime story? Can a couple the law regarded for years as criminal and victim now be accepted as loving husband and wife? Maybe the only way to decide is to listen to what Mary and Vili have to say now, and to judge for yourself.
But first you need to remember the whole story— and what a story it is.
In 1996, Mary Kay Letourneau, Mary to her friends, was a popular 34-year-old teacher at Shorewood Elementary in a Seattle suburb. She was married with four kids, ages two through 11. Vili Fualaau was a student in her sixth grade class. As some of Mary’s colleagues would later testify in a civil trial, Mary and Vili seemed a little too close.
Lawyer (in court): You saw Vili and Miss Letourneau slow dancing?Colleague: correct.
That summer, between Vili’s sixth and seventh grade years, when Vili turned 13, the relationship blossomed from an unlikely friendship to an unfathomable romance.
It was months before they were found out. Mary’s husband suspected something illicit, and one of his relatives tipped off authorities.
By the time Mary was arrested in 1997, she was already pregnant with Vili’s child. Mary only got to spend a few short months with her baby girl Audrey. In the summer of 1997, she pleaded guilty to a felony for her sexual relationship with her baby’s father.
Mary went to jail. Her husband filed for divorce and moved to Alaska, taking the couple’s four children with him.
Steve, ex-husband (1997 interview): She was a wife, loving wife, good person. But does a good mom do what she did? Does a good teacher do what she did? Does a good wife do what she did? No.
After 5 months behind bars, Mary was released on probation—contingent on her attending counseling and staying away from Vili. At the time, it sounded like that’s what she intended to do.
Mary Kay Letourneau (in court): It was wrong and I am sorry. I give you my word, it won’t happen again.
But it did happen again. Less than a month after Mary left jail, police caught Mary and now 14-year-old Vili together in a car at 3 a.m… along with baby clothes, $6,200 in cash and Mary’s passport.
Judge (1998 ruling): These violations are extraordinarily egregious and profoundly disturbing.
Mary Kay Letourneau, by now an international media sensation, was sent to a medium security prison to serve out the full seven year sentence that had originally been suspended. But in the few short weeks she’d been out on probation, Mary had become pregnant again with Vili's second child.
With Mary in a prison cell, and Vili only 15, both their babies were placed in the temporary custody of Vili’s mother.
Mary’s feelings for Vili over the years seemed to remain remarkably consistent—just as she’d predicted they would in a 1997 Dateline interview the night before she first went to jail.
Letourneau (1997 interview): I don’t believe that true love—ends because time has passed.
Five years later, when she was in prison and I interviewed her by telephone, she was a bit more circumspect—but she never disavowed her feelings for her former student.
Letourneau (2002 interview): There’s no time that could pass that could change what we were…Mankiewicz: It sounds to me like you still are in love. Letourneau: I didn’t say that. I just know that I very much value what we were and I do know that he does also.
But in truth, Vili’s feelings over their seven years apart seemed to be all over the map. In an interview when Mary first went to jail—when he still wanted his identity hidden—he told Dateline he was in love with Mary.
Vili Fualaau (2002 interview): I would describe her as my soul mate.
But a few years into Mary’s incarceration, Vili seemed to have a change of heart. He and his mother sued the school district and the local police for failing to stop the relationship. On the witness stand, Vili claimed his affair with his teacher had left him an emotional wreck, and swore he was no longer in love with her.
Vili Fualaau (in court): Personally, I just lost feelings for her.
The jury didn’t buy it.
Mankiewicz (2002): Do you believe Vili Fualaau when he says that he doesn’t love Mary Kay LeTourneau anymore? Jury member 1: No. Jury member 2: No.Jury member 3: No. Jury member 4: No way.
Vili and his mom didn’t get a cent. Had he faked indifference towards his erstwhile lover in hopes of a big cash payoff? Just when it looked like the public would never know for sure, along came the biggest development in this case in seven years.
In 2004, Mary Kay Letourneau was released from jail.
She left the lockup in the dead of night, using a decoy car to fool the TV cameras. The next day she followed court orders and signed up with the sheriff’s office as a registered sex offender. But her supposed victim, the same one who had claimed severe emotional damage in court, wasn’t sounding like a victim at all.
In a Today Show interview just after Mary’s release, Vili, by now 21, told Matt Lauer he had big plans for a future with her.
Vili Fualaau: I want to go on a boat cruise. I want to go to the Bahamas or something, or Miami. I don’t know. Somewhere tropical, really hot. Or maybe somewhere really cold.
But those postcard fantasies would have to wait. As a condition of her probation, Mary was not allowed to leave the state of Washington. And there was a bigger problem: that court order prohibiting Mary from having any contact with Vili was still in effect.
So on August 6, 2004, just two days after Mary’s release, 21-year-old Vili petitioned the court to lift that order. And with the stroke of a judge’s pen, Vili Fualaau was transformed from jail bait, to potential mate. By Valentine’s day, they were engaged.
They wanted a joyous, romantic ceremony, just like every couple— but not every couple has their nuptials broadcast nationwide on “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider.”
Mary and Vili’s story has been debated, dissected and judged, but they say once you’ve heard it from their point of view, you’ll see things very differently.
Mary Fualaau: There’s layers and layers of things that just plain weren’t the truth. And so I feel like people deserve the truth. And then from the truth they can have an opinion.
When you hear them tell it, nothing about this story is what you’d expect—starting with how it all began. Though Mary was a grown woman and Vili was a sixth grader, they both insist he was the one who put the moves on her.
Vili Fualaau: I think about the moves I made. I remember I used to like plan the next day, like “What I was gonna do, what I was gonna say, what I was gonna like—what surprise I was gonna leave on her desk.”
Vili says he had no trouble attracting girls his own age, and didn’t see why his teacher should be any different.
Vili Fualaau: And so I was like, “Okay. Lemme see what I can do.” You know? So I started doing the same thing with her. And—Mary Fualaau: And I ignored you.Vili Fualaau: Tried to.Mary Fualaau: Did.Vili Fualaau: Tried to. (Chuckles)Mary Fualaau: Mmmm.
Mary says she tried to keep focused on her teaching, but Vili’s very deliberate attempts at seduction made that difficult.
Mary Fualaau: It was really a big—it was great, great frustration that I have a job. And I was determined to do it. And he wasn’t taking it seriously. Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent: Well, he was 13.Mary Fualaau: Yeah.Mankiewicz: I mean when you say that, you’re kind of expecting him to act and have some responsibilities that an adult would have. And at the time, he was NOT an adult. He was 13.Mary Fualaau: Yeah. There was an air about him that was older.
Young as he was, Vili seemed to have an intuition for how to woo a much older woman, who by her account, was trapped in a chilly marriage.
Mankiewicz: How did you make her fall in love with you?
Mary says it was all about visual contact - long intense gazes from her student’s soulful brown eyes. Vili says he also scored points by giving her poems and drawings, even by starting provocative conversations.
Vili Fualaau: I asked her if she would ever have an affair? You know, to see if I had a chance.
Mary says she tried to use that as a teaching moment, advising young Vili to look up ‘affair’ in the dictionary.
Mary Fualaau: I just was afraid that it might something in the conversation is like, okay he’s like coming too close. And finally I just—“Me personally, no.”Mankiewicz: So you asked her and she said, “No.”Vili Fualaau: Yeah.Mankiewicz: And you thought what? “I can fix that.” Vili Fualaau: I did. (laughter)
Vili says he wasn’t a virgin at the time and he was confident Mary would be his next lover.
Vili Fualaau: I wanted her. So I wasn’t gonna stop. And I was gonna try and do it in… I don’t know, was I aggressive? Or was I pretty much respectful?Mary Fualaau: He was definitely forceful with his advances. Mankiewicz: And you were attracted to him?Mary Fualaau: We really got along well. And I was trying to leave it at a level of—like, “Gee I really think you’re great.” But there was something different though. We had a chemistry that—and the way our heads worked…Mankiewicz: Back when this first broke in the headlines, I think lots of people understand how a 13-year-old would get a crush on his teacher. I think what people didn’t understand—and the question everybody was asking then, and that I’m gonna now ask you is: How does a 34 year old woman fall for a 13 year old boy?Mary Fualaau: Well, he’s quite the man, and was back then actually.
It’s a version of events that will no doubt infuriate a lot of child psychologists and law enforcement officers—and probably some of you viewers and readers too. How could a 13-year-old, no matter how “manly,” be an appropriate partner for a grown woman? Under the law, of course, he can not be.
Mary concedes she knew it would be wrong to let the relationship go any further, but she says as soon as the school year ended, she and Vili did cross that line. It happened after the two of them ate dinner alone at a restaurant called Huckleberry Square. Afterwards, in the parking lot, they say, it was Vili who leaned over and started their first kiss.
Vili Fualaau: I thought that kiss was only gonna last for like a couple seconds. But it ended up lasting for like 30 minutes. Could’ve lasted longer, but I had to go home. So then I got in trouble when I got home. It was like 11:30 at night?
Mary Fualaau: Mmm.Vili Fualaau: Way past my curfew.
Over the next few months, Vili would be missing curfew a lot. They saw each other secretly all through the summer—and began sleeping together, even sometimes at Mary’s home. Then, in his seventh grade year, though he was at another school, Vili would stop back at Shorewood elementary in the afternoons to meet up with the married woman he now considered his girlfriend.
Mary Fualaau: It was very clear that we wanted to be together, and it was serious.
Perhaps it’s understandable that Vili wasn’t concerned about all this leading to serious trouble...
Mankiewicz: Did you have any second thoughts at that point? Did you think “I’m gonna get in trouble or I could get her in trouble?”
Vili Fualaau: The most I really was afraid of was getting a whuppin’ from my mom.
But Mary’s reaction is a little harder to grasp.
Mankiewicz: What were you worried about?Mary Fualaau: His mother getting angry.Mankiewicz: That’s it?Mary Fualaau: Uh-huh (Affirms).Mankiewicz: You weren’t thinking to yourself, “I could be fired. I could go to jail.” Mary Fualaau: Oh, no. There wasn’t a time that I thought or he thought that, “Oh, you could go to prison for that.”Mankiewicz: Ok, I understand that he didn’t think that, but you never thought that? Mary Fualaau: No I wasn’t. I thought, “Gee you know this doesn’t look good.” You know? Just being a teacher.
She claims she’d been thinking of leaving teaching anyway. The romance intensified as the months passed. Then that winter, Mary got the biggest news yet: she was going to have Vili’s baby.
Mankiewicz: What went through your mind?Mary Fualaau: Well, that's kind of a sensitive subject. The truth is I felt enormous—freedom— just I can’t even describe.
In a few months she’d be having a baby who probably wasn’t going to look much like Steve Letourneau. That meant freedom, she says, because now she would have no choice but to seek the divorce she’d been too scared to ask for.
Mary Fualaau: When I was pregnant, it was like, there it is. Just—just was so final. Mankiewicz: When you found out Mary was pregnant, what did you think?Vili Fualaau: Course I didn’t know what to think.
Mary and Vili say abortion was not a serious option. And for a brief while they imagined they and the baby could be together as a family.
Mary Fualaau: It just works for us. And it did back then. And it wasn’t definitely was frowned upon in a very serious, serious way.Mankiewicz: It was more than frowned upon.Mary Fualaau: Okay. Yeah.
How could she not know it was a crime? Back in 1997 there hadn’t been a lot of notorious cases in the news of female teachers prosecuted for consensual sex with underage boys.
Mary Fualaau: It was actually my ex-husband had said, “Ha. My divorce attorney says that you can be charged with a felony.” And I was like, “felony?”
Mary Fualaau: I was really thinking there would be a fine, like pay a fine option. Because what I had been to traffic court situations.Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent: Yeah, but you can’t tell me that you thought this was on the order of a traffic violation. Mary Fualaau: Well, what I really believed is that the law would look into it.
Mary says the thought it would make a difference that Vili was a more than willing partner. She says she was stunned to learn that under statutory rape laws, it is illegal to have sex with a 13 year old even if he is willing.
Perhaps even more surprising: her explanation for that night between her incarcerations, when she and Vili were found in a car together at 3 a.m. with cash and her passport.
Mankiewicz: Were you planning on leaving the country then?Mary Fualaau: No. (chuckles) No. No.
She says the money was to pay her lawyer and the passport was just I.D. And get this: She claims she didn’t mind being caught and sent back behind bars. She says it was her only chance to see her kids.
Under the conditions of her release, Mary was prohibited from contact not just with Vili, but with her five children—a ban she found intolerable.
Mary Fualaau: You put me in the community, in a treatment program without any contact with my children. There’s nothing worse.
Mary says she decided she’d prefer to be in prison, with at least occasional visits from her kids. She claims she was already making arrangements to pull out of her treatment program and go to prison, so seeing Vili was no risk at all. But at the hearing where her seven year sentence was reinstated, she surely didn’t look happy about it.
Mary Fualaau: We were away from each other, our families were shattered.
All contact with her young lover was still forbidden. No visits. No phone calls. No letters. But Mary and Vili admit now they did find a way to communicate.
After the birth of their second baby, Georgia, Mary was allowed to pump her breast milk and have it sent to the home where their two babies lived with Vili’s mom and with Vili. Mary enclosed secret messages in the packaging.
Mary Fualaau: We had a pretty sophisticated number code from- - years before that—we understood.Mankiewicz: Gimme just a couple of ‘em.Mary Fualaau: "104" was “I love you.” And if I wasn’t feeling good, or if something was going wrong—there was another one. And then I would write names of songs down. Because the lyrics express how I feel.
Songs like “Oh Happy Day,” and “Let’s Get it On.” Vili says he would play the songs Mary suggested and he kept a printed card for decoding her ultra private messages.
Mankiewicz: What was it like to get the shipments of Mary’s breast milk out of the prison and realize in there was a little secret message for you?Vili Fualaau: It just made me feel really good, really happy about it.
Vili spent months daydreaming about her getting out. But as time passed, he admits he dated other girls—girls his own age. By 2002, with Mary locked away for five years, Vili very publicly proclaimed in that civil trial, that his love affair with Mary Letourneau was over.
Mankiewicz: You sat in a courtroom, under oath, and said that you had lost your feelings for her. And that that relationship wrecked your life.Vili Fualaau: That under oath thing in courtroom, I don’t really believe in all that stuff. I have a really strong belief in a God that really sees a lot of good in people’s hearts.
He says his mom and her lawyers convinced him that disavowing his love for Mary would pay off.
Vili Fualaau: They gave me the pressure that if I didn’t do it, how was I gonna have the funds to raise my kids?
Mary heard about it all in prison from news accounts.
Mankiewicz: Was it painful to hear him say that he didn’t love you anymore?Mary Fualaau: I knew that no once could ever say anything to him to take away what we had. I thought they really convinced him you know to get that money to say whatever he had to say.
Two years later, when Mary was released and this star-crossed couple finally reunited— legally this time— they both say their love was as strong as the night they parted.
Vili Fualaau: I got to hold her. You know, I got to put my cheek against hers and got to hold her hand, and just hold her. (Chuckle) And look at her, and just to even smell her breath, you know, is really good feeling. Mankiewicz: Seven years apart. How did he change? Mary Fualaau: Not very much. I liked—well, what I really liked is that we could go out to dinner, and he could order a glass of wine.
My conversation with Mary and Vili Fualaau took place just a few days after their first anniversary, and the subject of the wedding still brings a glow.
Mary Fualaau: Everything that happened in that, sacred spot, where we were doing our vows. It just was kind of like slow motion, but magical. Vili Fualaau: The best part is—I liked was when—they announced us—husband and wife.
The 43-year-old bride and her 21-year-old groom received a little extra joy on their special day—reportedly as much as a million dollars worth—by selling the rights to their wedding video. It’s paid their bills all year, but also led to some public skepticism about the state of this union.
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent: You know there are people out there who, when they saw you getting married and, in fact, when they see this interview, they’re gonna say—“This is not for real. This can’t be for real.”Mary Fualaau: I don’t think anyone would listen to this and really listen to us and then say that. Mankiewicz: But you know that, for a lot of people, this is just so weird, that they can’t understand it. I mean that can’t come as a surprise to either one of you.Vili Fualaau: If they say that it’s not right for us to be together, I don’t care. I’m just gonna live my life with her, with Mary.
And for the past year, that’s just what he’s been doing in the rented waterfront home he and Mary share with their girls in a Seattle suburb. As they talk about their day to day life, they sometimes gaze at each other like teenagers.
Who gets up earlier?
Vili Fualaau: I do.Mankiewicz: Who takes longer getting ready to go out?Vili Fualaau: She does.Mankiewicz: Who’s a better cook?Vili Fualaau: I am.Mary Fualaau: No, no, no, no.Vili Fualaau: What?Mary Fualaau: He likes to cook, and I let him. (laughter)Mankiewicz: What’s his best dish?Mary Fualaau: He makes a pretty good adobo chicken.Mankiewicz: Who makes the decisions?Vili Fualaau: Both of us. Mankiewicz: Who’s more romantic?Vili Fualaau: I am.Mary Fualaau: Yeah, I like that—Vili Fualaau: Romance is like a lot of show, if you wanna show off, you wanna like make her say, “Oh, wow.” You know? But she kind of says, “Don’t do that. Don’t do this.”Mary Fualaau: I just don’t like real showy...Vili Fualaau: But then when I don’t do it, she complains. Mankiewicz: You understand you’re talking like every husband throughout history? Vili Fualaau: Yeah. Yeah.Mankiewicz: Who hogs the covers?Vili Fualaau: We got big covers. I think we’re okay on that. We’re okay.Mary Fualaau: We’re just one body.Vili Fualaau: But the pillows? The pillows—Mary Fualaau: Oh yeah.Vili Fualaau: Yeah, she likes to hog all the good ones. (crosstalk) No, you always get them first. I just wanna share. And then you ruin my sleep by taking ‘em away from me.Mary Fualaau: That’s because you’ve taken all of them.
Mary and Vili insist they’re perfectly comfortable with their 21 and a half year age difference. Still there are a few occasions when Mary seems to act more like his mom than his wife—like when Vili cranks up the music of rapper Little John.
Vili Fualaau: She’ll listen to it. And she says, “That’s really evil music. Turn it off. Turn it off. Don’t wanna hear it. That’s evil energy coming from that.”Mary Fualaau: I do think it’s bad energy music. I can hear it, it sort of just inside of you.
But a year after the wedding, and a decade after the first sparks ignited in room 39 of Shorewood elementary, Mary says the passion is still very much alive.
Mary Fualaau: Sometimes I just feel like I just wanna—I can’t believe it, and I just wanna get home and run to him and I actually get that feeling a lot. I’m pretty sentimental.
Vili is pretty sentimental too, and not afraid to show it.
Mankiewicz: You got a tattoo you can show me?Mary Fualaau: Sure does.Vili Fualaau: Yeah I do. Okay. It’s big. And it has her name right here. It’s a long story. It’s pretty much my story starting off from- when she went away from prison up to our marriage.
That story won’t be complete, Vili says, until he and Mary and their daughters are a full, legal family. For most of their lives, these two little girls had a teenager for a father and a prison inmate for a mother. But today, their parents say 9 year old Audrey and 7 year old Georgia are happy, active kids with two very involved parents who are eager and able to care for them full time.
Mary Fualaau: Audrey’s bubbly—a lot of energy. Very, very bright. She’s athletic. She’s got a really fun, competitive side to her. Vili Fualaau: Georgia’s more soft spoken. I think she has a lot of dreams. You notice things about your—your children that surprises you. I don’t know what you would call it. It’s a good feeling though.
When I spoke with Vili and Mary last week, they were still on a high from seeing Georgia nail a dance performance the night before.
Vili Fualaau: I feel proud. I feel very proud.Mary Fualaau: Oh my gosh. And just to see her up there—she was so happy. That just took over me. I just thought, “Wow.”
Mary says it felt pretty good after so many years of missing recitals, sports events, and parent teacher conferences. She says these days, the kids still bring up the subject of her prison term from time to time.
Mary Fualaau: They weren’t entirely clear on really where I was. Even though every two weeks they were there for the mother/child day. They had a very natural set-up for—particularly for younger children at the prison. So my girls, they called it—“Remember when we saw you at the painting room mommy?” “Remember when we stayed with you there?”
If that sounds a little like a family in denial, Mary says it isn’t. She says the girls understand their mom was sent away, because at one time, being with their dad was against the rules.
Mary Fualaau: I remind them about that every time they break a rule. And have to have a time out. (laughs) So, “Remember—you know—mommy broke a rule. Mommy had to do a time out. You only have to do three minutes. But you be careful. You have to follow rules.”
During Mary’s stay behind bars, the girls were placed in the temporary custody of Vili’s mother, Soona. Vili says he didn’t like being seen as merely a big brother to his own kids.
Vili Fualaau: I always had my mother or my auntie taking over my job and they meant well, but it’s like they didn’t understand my feelings of wanting that type of privacy as a father with my children.Mankiewicz: And now you’ve got that.Vili Fualaau: I’ve got that now.Mary Fualaau: And the point is, he was ready. It’s a very serious goal to be a father in every aspect.
Some questions may still remain about Vili’s maturity. In April, he was convicted of a DUI charge. He’ll be sentenced later this month. There may be questions, too, about Mary’s history of very poor judgement. But now the state of Washington, which once viewed their relationship as a crime, is apparently sanctioning it. Mary and Vili say they expect to get permanent custody of their girls this summer, under a court supervised transition plan.
And what about Mary’s other children—four from her marriage to Steve Letourneau? Remember, they moved to Alaska with their dad shortly after Mary went to jail.
Now, they’re spending a lot of time right here in Seattle, with their mom and their new stepfather, who’s not a lot older than they are.
Mankiewicz: Your oldest is how old?Mary Fualaau: 21.Mankiewicz: 21. Almost your age.Mary Fualaau: Couple years, yeah.Mankiewicz: Is that weird at all? Vili Fualaau: If I put myself in his shoes, I mean, if my mom was with somebody that was a couple years old—older than me, or—or younger than me, I’d pretty much just, that’s my mom’s business. You know, she loves him, I love him. You know—Mankiewicz: And that how Mary’s kids have reacted?Vili Fualaau: Yes.
In fact Mary’s oldest son is currently living with the couple. Her 18-year-old daughter goes to art school in Seattle and often spends weekends with them. The younger ones, now in their early teens, visit too. None of Mary’s kids from her first marriage want their faces shown on television. Vili admits he’s not comfortable disciplining Mary’s older kids, but overall, Mary and Vili say their unconventional family gets along surprisingly well.
Mary Fualaau: It’s like such a joy to watch. It’s my older children with our young children. And just the way they just love each other.Mankiewicz: You got this blended family going here.Mary Fualaau: Mm-hmm. (AFFIRMATIVE)Mankiewicz: I would have to say that most people would have thought the odds were against that, going into this.Mary Fualaau: My older children, they are natural peacemakers and there’s such compassion in them.
And will Mary and Vili be having more children together? For the first time, there’s no law against it.
Mary Fualaau, suburban mom and registered sex offender, is piecing together a normal life with the husband who was once considered her victim. The next step: finding work. 22-year-old Vili, a talented artist since childhood, is considering employment at a tattoo parlor.
Here he is practicing his craft on a grapefruit.
Vili Fualaau: I know how to draw. So it’s pretty easy. It’s just that I’m not used to a vibrating pen.
Mary, now 44, surprised us with her career plans—she says she wants to go back to teaching.
Josh Mankiewicz, Dateline correspondent: Can you become a teacher again?Mary Fualaau: Well, I am a teacher. I just don’t have my Washington state license anymore.
Because of her conviction, Mary will never be able to teach in public school again, but she says she hopes to get a job teaching math at a private school or community college.
But even as they look to the future, Mary and Vili acknowledge it’s not easy shedding a past that so many have found so disturbing for so long.
Mary Fualaau: Every time my name comes up, a mug shot, boom, boom, boom. You know, just at large. You know, and zoom into the eyes.
But can new images replace the old ones? Can a love that just about everyone agrees was wrong at the start age into something acceptable, even beautiful? To some, theirs will forever be a tainted, even deviant relationship. But Mary and Vili see themselves in very different terms—a triumph of love against the odds.
Mankiewicz: You were locked up. And you waited for her.Vili Fualaau: Yeah.Mankiewicz: Ever a doubt in your mind about that?Vili Fualaau: Waiting? No.Mankiewicz: Most young men wanna go out and experience the world, meet a bunch of different girls.Vili Fualaau: I’ve had my experience. And you know, and I got that. I got that experiment. And personally, it makes me love her even more today, now, you know, that I’ve had an experiment.
And you know, I just, makes you even more sure that she’s the one for me.
Mary says Vili has been the one for her too, ever since he finished up his sixth grade year.
Mary Fualaau: I didn’t want to lose him as a friend. I wanted him as my friend forever. Cause we just got along so well. And he wanted forever in a different way. So, and then he just pretty much swept me up. And anyway.Mankiewicz: And you’re tearing up now?Mary Fualaau: Yep. Got my friend forever, huh? Mankiewicz: I gotta ask this. You ready for when you’re 45 and she’s-- 67?Vili Fualaau: Yes.Mary Fualaau: 66. (overtalk)Vili Fualaau: I wonder who’s gonna be in a wheelchair first. You or me? Because I got a bad back at an early age. I have a really bad back.Mary Fualaau: Hmm.Vili Fualaau: You might just go out, legs go out, and you have to be pushing me around.
But they say they’re much more focused on the here and now—spending precious time with each other, their two kids, and maybe, one more.
Mankiewicz: You guys gonna have another baby?Vili Fualaau: Trying to.Mary Fualaau: Everybody hopes. Yeah. We would love to. So—Mankiewicz: But nothing you wanna like share with us right now? No news?Mary Fualaau: We would love to. Don’t look so close. I have a feeling like the camera’s zooming in on me. (laughs.) No, nothing.Mankiewicz: Nothing yet?Mary Fualaau: No. Not that I know of.
They have another project underway, too. Mary Fualaau, the teacher once known as Mary Kay Letourneau, is of course writing a book. It’s the story of their lives.
Mary Fualaau: It’s not really about, “Gee, how much we love each other,” and what, you know, all the passion that we had. It’s about a family that was shattered. And we’ve come back together. And, sigh, we’re so happy.