Mary Kay Letourneau becomes a free woman Wednesday. It'll be a new chapter in the story of one of the most intriguing criminals of the past decade.
KOMO 4 News' Kathi Goertzen is the first journalist to talk with her face-to-face behind prison walls. Mary told her in own words about her plans for the future and her thoughts about the love affair with a boy who was once her student -- Vili Fualaau, who is now 22 and with whom she has two children.
Though we were not allowed to bring the KOMO cameras inside, for 2 hours and 15 minutes Mary spoke freely and candidly about building a new life that she says may or may not include Vili Fualaau.
Mary Kay Letourneau is now 42 years old. She told me her years in prison have been hard on her physically, and that her first priority is to get "back to health as a woman and a mother."
When we met in the prison visiting area, we were accompanied by two attorneys, both looking to help Mary get back on her feet when she's out.
Our conversation was monitored by prison security.
Mary dressed in a white T-shirt and blue skirt. Her long hair was pulled back and up in a clip.
She told me her prison years were spent doing "a lot of legal work and volunteering in the law library." That she "taught math, read books for the blind, cleaned and worked in the kitchen, and even sang in the prison choir."
'Nothing Has Gone Normal'
But Mary also spent 9 months in 'the hole' -- in segregation as punishment for trying to contact Vili Fualaau.
Fellow inmate Christina Dress told me Mary was frequently in trouble for small things too.
"Nothing has gone normal where Mary's concerned from the very beginning and it still doesn't," Dress said. "Mary was infracted, like getting a ticket, she was infracted one time for just waving to someone in the visitor room."
Dress has written a book called "Mass With Mary". It's a diary-like account of days in prison with Letourneau, who she often met at Catholic Mass.
Mary told me she "knew about the book and liked Christina," (who is now out of prison) but says, "she had little involvement."
A Duty To Speak
It's not the first time people have sold Mary Kay Letourneau's story. There are a couple of books, and a movie.
"There's no question she's been the most famous, infamous prisoner Washington's ever had and we've had some good ones here. But the world wants to know about this one," said Gregg Olsen, author of the book "If Loving You Is Wrong."
Mary told me the world will know what she calls "the real story" when she is released. She feels she has a "duty to speak" and help people understand the decisions she made more than 8 years ago.
Until her first public appearance in court that day in 1997, Mary Kay Letourneau was known only as a mother of four young children and school teacher at Shorewood Elementary in Burien.
Mary had developed an intense interest in one of her sixth graders -- Vili Fualaau. The boy spent many hours at their home.
But with the Letourneau marriage in trouble, that interest turned to something much more, and teacher Letourneau started having sex with her 12-year-old student.
"I thought it was infatuation at first," said her husband Steve Letourneau. "I thought she was way out there overdoing her duties as a teacher and mentor to this student and it wasn't exactly wrong, but it wasn't exactly right."
'Please Help Me'
Years later, Vili Fualaau would vividly describe in court their multitude of sexual encounters.
"She was sitting down like this and I got on top of her and I was, I had my hand on her head and I was feeling on her breast," Fualaau said. Lawyer: "How were her arms and legs?" Vili: "Her legs were open, her arms were around, wrapped on me."
When their affair was finally reported to authorities, Mary Kay Letourneau was pregnant with Vili's child, and pleaded in court.
"Your honor, I did something I had no right to do, morally or legally... it was wrong... and I am sorry. I give you my word it will not happen again... please help me... help us all."
"That is a big acting job," Olson said. "She told me it was. She told me her lawyer told her to look sad and act sad and she said, 'I gave an Academy Award performance.' "
Judge Linda Lau bought it and gave her a 6-month sentence, with an order to have no contact with the boy.
Mary told me, "at the time, though she felt bad about the relationship because she was still married", she "didn't even know that what she'd done was a felony."
But it was only one month after her release from prison that Seattle Police found Mary and Vili parked in her car, caught in the act with thousands in cash, clothes and passports at the ready.
"I took Mary back to my patrol car, when she finally told me who she was and the boy who was in the car with her was the father of her baby," said Todd Harris with the Seattle Police Department.
No Leniency This Time
Her attorneys and her experts argued Mary was sick and needed help.
"Your honor, the one person who really needs to be protected from Mary Letourneau is Mary Letourneau," said Letourneau's attorney David Gehrke in 1998.
But this time there was to be no leniency.
"This case is not about a flawed system, it is about an opportunity that you foolishly squandered," said judge Linda Lau. "The suspended sentence is hereby revoked."
By this time, Mary Kay Letourneau was at the center of a media storm; her story was plastered on the cover of every tabloid.
Mary was headed back to prison, and she was pregnant again.
I asked Mary if she regrets what she did and she said: "Knowing what we had, I should have waited."
And she started to cry when she talked about the impact on her children saying: "I can't touch the pain my children have gone through."
Mary told me her main goal now is "reunification with her whole family including her mother." She said she is in the "healing process" with all six children -- the four she had with first husband Steve, and Audrey and Georgia -- the girls she had with Vili.
Vili's mother Soona Vili was given custody of the girls -- Audrey, who is 7, and Georgia, who is almost 6. Mary is hoping to establish some parental rights when she is released.
But what about Vili Fualaau?
"We don't really think about him too much in this story, do we?" Olson said. "It's always her, her, her. But to see that maybe he'll be OK and make his own decisions about what's best for him."
Olsen tells me he recently saw Vili Fualaau.
"He indicated '(Mary and him) really don't know each other,' " Olson said. "That what we had was great but what the future holds we really don't know any more. What will connect us is our two kids."
Mary was careful about what she said. Until Vili goes to court himself to lift the no-contact order, she is still not allowed to see or talk to Vili Fualaau. And so far, that order has not been lifted.
"I'm not allowing myself to think about being with him," she told me. "We had a beautiful relationship and I value it for what it was.
"I'm very settled and secure whether I end up with him or not. I do believe our core values haven't changed."
And those who know her think along with her children, Vili will be Mary's first order of business.
When asked: "Do you think she honestly believes that Vili is her true love?" Cristina Dress replied: She does believe it. She really does."
When I asked Mary if she would ever have another baby, she told me: "If we are so blessed to continue a relationship and if that's what he wants, for him I would."
I also asked Mary if she thought that after all these years, she and Vili may have drifted apart, she just looked at me, smiled, and said "no."
Where Do They Go From Here?
First, she'll have to register as a level two sex offender. And she's ordered to stay away from Vili Fualaau until he goes to court to lift a no contact order.
The Department of Corrections must approve where she lives and works, and she must tell them if she begins any romantic relationship. She tells me she plans on living in an apartment on Capitol Hill.
As for Vili, she told me she's not allowing herself to think about being with him. But on the other hand, she talks about the 'beautiful relationship' they had. She still wears his ring.
Now, of course the big question: Will Vili Fualaau go to the court and ask that that no contact order be lifted?
I'm hearing he already has a local attorney who will represent him before Judge Lau.
As for seeing her kids, by all accounts, Vili's mother Soona has done a good job raising the two little girls. But Mary would like to get extended visitation rights, and for that, she'll have to go to family court to argue for that.
She's had some contact with her four other children who've been living in Alaska and told me she wants to continue the healing process with each of them.