Mary Kay Letourneau's ex-husband, whom she married after being convicted of raping him when he was in sixth grade, was by her side for the final two months of her life before she died of cancer on Monday, her lawyer said.
Vili Fualaau, 37, who divorced Letourneau last year, uprooted his life to be with her until her death at 58, attorney David Gehrke told TODAY.
"Vili moved back from California, gave up his life there, and for the last two months of Mary’s life he stood by her 24/7 taking care of her," Gehrke said. "So yes, they were divorced and they had their spats, but they were always in love with each other."
Letourneau was diagnosed with cancer about six or seven months ago, according to Gehrke.
"(Fualaau) knew that this was Mary's end coming, fast moving, and for her sake and the family's sake, and for his sake, he came back up and was with her, and it meant the world to her," Gehrke said. "And I know it meant the world to Vili, as painful as it was."
Letourneau made worldwide headlines in 1997 when the Seattle-area teacher was convicted of second-degree child rape of Fualaau, who had been her student. At the time, he was 12 and she was 34 and a mother of four. After her conviction, she gave birth to the first of their two children.
She was paroled in 1998 but then returned to prison after she was found breaking her parole for having contact with Fualaau. She gave birth to the second child while in prison.
The couple's adult daughters, Audrey, 23, and Georgia, 21, spoke about their childhood in the wake of the scandal in a 2018 interview with an Australian television show.
"I think I understand about it, just like how it was surprising to people,'' Audrey said. "It's been feeling different because it's not really been brought to our attention, just because we grew up with it, so we're adapted to it."
The couple eventually married in 2005 and were together until Fualaau filed a petition for legal separation in 2017. Their divorce was finalized last year.
"Their marriage lasted longer than most,'' Gehrke said. "But they always, always deeply cared for each other."
Letourneau and Fualaau and their two daughters were friendly with Gehrke and his wife, who lived near them in the Seattle area.
Gehrke recalled a happy time in 2009 in which Letourneau and her two daughters gathered at Gehrke's house around the Christmas holidays along with three of Letourneau's children from her first marriage, who traveled to Seattle from Alaska.
"My wife was talking with the little girls, they were 10 or so, and the kids from Alaska were helping out, and it was one big happy family,'' he said.