By

Don Jacobson
July 8 (UPI) — Mary Kay Letourneau, a Washington state elementary school teacher famously convicted 20 years ago of raping a teenage student whom she later married, has died of cancer at the age of 58.

Attorney David Gehrke told The New York Times that Letourneau died at her Seattle-area home Monday near Vili Fualaau, her former student, and their two children.

People Magazine reported that Letourneau was diagnosed with cancer six months ago and that her health deteriorated quickly in recent weeks.

“Mary fought tirelessly against this terrible disease,” the Letourneau and Fualaau families said in a statement. “Mary, and all of us, found great strength in having our immediate and extended family members together to join her in this arduous struggle.

“We did our very best to care for Mary and one another as we kept her close and stayed close together.”

Letourneau was widely vilified over her relationship with Fualaau in the late 1990s when the case drew worldwide attention. She was convicted of rape in 1997.

It was revealed in legal proceedings that the relationship began when Fualaau was 12. The couple had two children before he turned 15. Both defended the relationship as consensual and they married in 2005 after Letourneau had served a seven-year prison term.

Fualaau filed for legal separation in 2017 and the couple split last year.

Letourneau had four children with her first husband, Steve Letourneau. They divorced in 1999 while she was in prison.