Steve Letourneau discovered the illicit relationship in February 1997 when he came across love letters his wife had stashed away. He didn’t know just yet that she was six months pregnant.
A relative of her husband reported her to the police, and Letourneau was arrested and charged with rape of a child. The argument that the tween-age boy pursued her and she didn’t know that what she was doing was a crime, and that they were so in love, roundly fell on deaf ears.
“There was a respect, an insight, a spirit, an understanding between us that grew over time,” Letourneau told the Seattle Times in 1997. “It was the kind of feeling you have with a brother or sister—a feeling that they’re part of your life forever.” But she “didn’t know what it meant.” And it certainly wasn’t sexual at first. “I felt that one day he might marry my daughter,” she added.
(Meanwhile, when you look at all the press coverage from the time, Vili is frequently referred to as “the boy,” or “the student,” because names of victims or alleged victims of sex crimes aren’t generally published, especially when they’re minors.)
Apparently the affair wasn’t exactly a secret at the school, according to Gregg Olsen, author of If Loving You Is Wrong, a 1999 book about the case. “A janitor caught them in the stall, in a bathroom stall at one point. Other teachers saw them kiss,” he told CBS News. Vili said in a court deposition that they snuck up to have sex one night on the roof of Letourneau’s house.
During the trial, in May 1997, Letourneau gave birth to her first child with then 14-year-old Vili, daughter Audrey Lokelani.
She ended up pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape, telling the judge, “Your honor, I did something that I had no right to do, morally or legally. It was wrong. And I am sorry. I give you my word that it will not happen again. Please, please help me. Help us, help us all.”