Mary Kay LeTourneau, the former schoolteacher recently released after a 7 1/2-year prison term for having sex with one of her grade school students, now plans to marry the student.
LeTourneau told ABC News' Barbara Walters that she and her former student Vili Fualaau always planned to marry and their plans haven't changed. LeTourneau already had two daughters with Fualaau, now 21.
When her relationship with Fualaau began in 1996, LeTourneau was a 34-year-old married mother of four living in suburban Seattle. But her marriage was falling apart and she tells Walters she was feeling emotionally overwhelmed.
LeTourneau said she felt as if even the slightest setback was too much. "I had that feeling if I missed one light everything in my life might just crumble," LeTourneau said.
Teaching was a bright spot in her life. "When I was in the classroom, I absolutely knew that I was in the right place. I don't know how many people can walk into their work every day and say, 'I am in the right place.' And I could say that," she said.
An 'Emotional Attraction'
During this difficult period, Fualaau was a student in LeTourneau's class of sixth-graders. The two developed what she described as an "emotional attraction." She began spending extra time with Fualaau, who she said "had a unique gift in art."
LeTourneau spent more and more time with Fualaau, helping him to develop his gift for drawing. But an incident at the end of the school year, she says, changed everything.
"He just came straight out and said, 'Would you ever have an affair?' " LeTourneau said.
LeTourneau said she tried to resist the boy's flirtations, but admits now that she "felt a very deep love for him."
LeTourneau described an incident that led to the turning point in her relationship with the boy, when he was 13.
"He said, 'How old do you think you're going to be when you die?' And I said, 'Oh well, I'll probably be 100, like my grandmother,' and he said, 'Well, then I'm going to be 80 when I die, because I'm not living another day, on this Earth, without you.' "
LeTourneau said she realized that kids often develop crushes on their teachers, but said she felt Fualaau's feelings were different. Still, she said, "I was absolutely sure that there was nothing that he could do to persuade me to have an intimate relationship. I was going to be single, and I was going to have to get my life together, to take care of my four children and there was no place in that for a relationship. No matter what the age was of this person."
‘How Did It Get to This?’
But she says her resistance faded. LeTourneau says the affair began with a single incident — a kiss. "I thought, ''That's OK, but it's not going to go any further.' "
Not long after that initial kiss, the two had sex.
LeTourneau said she didn't feel guilty about having sex with her student. "I didn't feel any different than I had felt years earlier before I was married in a couple of situations with a few guys where I thought, 'How did it get to this?' "
In hindsight, LeTourneau tells Walters, she realizes the emotional struggle she was having due to her marital troubles may have drawn her to Fualaau.
"I knew it wasn't right. But Vili and I loved each other, and still do. But I believe very strongly there was a much healthier way to have worked through everything that was going on at the time. And it didn't happen that way. We didn't ask for help, and now, there's a lot of hurt, right now," she said.
Arrested and Charged With Statutory Rape
By the summer of 1996, LeTourneau's affair with Fualaau was spiraling out of control.
They were having sex at all hours of the day — at her home, at school, in her car. All the while, they were hiding their relationship from both the community and their families.
LeTourneau said she was hoping that she could be with Fualaau in a few years, after she finalized her divorce and established herself on her own with her children.
The relationship became more difficult to hide when LeTourneau became pregnant.
Secretly carrying Fualaau's child, she still hoped her relationship with the boy would not be discovered. But shortly after, in early 1997, her husband found a love letter she had written. He confronted Fualaau who admitted he was sleeping with LeTourneau. A relative of LeTourneau's husband contacted the authorities. She was pulled out of a faculty meeting at school and arrested by the Seattle police.
LeTourneau had been hoping she could make it through another month "put in for my maternity leave and retire," she said. Even after her arrest, LeTourneau said she didn't realize the serious charges she could face.
"I was imagining there's probably some community service hours, for situations like this, and I actually didn't think that I needed an attorney even," she said.
She was charged with raping a child, a felony that carried a 7 1/2-year prison sentence in the state of Washington. She was advised to accept a settlement with reduced prison time, and she pleaded guilty.
LeTourneau served six months in jail. The rest of the 7 1/2 years would be suspended as long as she agreed to attend psychiatric counseling and stay away from Fualaau, who had just become the father of her fifth child — a baby girl.
Staying away from Fualaau upon her release wasn't as easy as it sounded. In addition to being barred from seeing Fualaau, she said a counselor told her she would not be permitted any contact with her children during the first six months of her release.
As soon as she was released from jail, she resumed her relationship with Fualaau. A month later, they were caught by the police at 3 a.m. parked in her car on a quiet street corner, just one block from her home.
LeTourneau was arrested and ordered by the court to serve out the rest of her sentence.
She said she decided to violate the terms of her release, so she could be returned to prison where she would be permitted to have visits from her children. "There was no deterrent for me to not to see Vili Fualaau. He was the father of my newborn, we loved each other and the worst that could happen was that I would go to prison, which I was going to anyway," she told Walters.
Thinking she could fight her case from prison, LeTourneau figured she had nothing to lose. Then there was another bombshell: LeTourneau was pregnant again, with Fualaau's second child.
LeTourneau's life had now hit rock bottom. She was being led away in handcuffs, ridiculed by the tabloids. Her new baby — another girl — would be born in prison. And her husband would soon file for divorce and move their four children to Alaska.
Reunited and Planning to Wed
But that chapter of Letourneau's life is over. Upon her release from prison, Fualaau asked the court to lift its no-contact order against Letourneau. They are reunited, very much in love, and planning to marry.
Now 42, Letourneau said, "I just can't imagine traveling and seeing something without him, learning together, being with him, supporting him for what he would like to do in this life."
For now, her future is in limbo. She hopes to re-establish her relationship with her four older children and launch a new career, possibly in legal research.
The scandal changed Letourneau's life forever, branding her as a pedophile and requiring her to register as a sex offender.
Walters asked LeTourneau if her involvement with Fualaau was worth the scandal and the pain it caused her and her family.
"I don't look at life that way," she said. "I do my best. So if you ask me that question, 'Did you do your best in every situation?' … I can say I did my best."