The former teacher spent seven years in prison for raping a 12-year-old student who she later married
Before her 2020 death from stage 4 cancer, former teacher and convicted child rapist Mary Kay Letourneau sat down in front of her laptop and wrote a series of letters to friends and family, a legal source close to the former teacher tells PEOPLE.
"She had a lot of wrongs to right," says the source, who knew Letourneau for more than 20 years and received a note from her. "She had a lot of things to say. She made a lot of mistakes in her 58 years — not just the big one everyone knows about — and she wanted everyone to know that she was sorry for the mistakes she made."
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"She told me she wrote a lot of letters," says the source. "She was closing in on 30 of them."
The source doesn't know if Letourneau wrote a letter to husband, Vili Fualaau, with whom she had two daughters, Georgia and Audrey. "I don't know if he received a note, but I do know that she made things right with him as best as she could," says the source. "She loved him until the end."
Letourneau was a sixth-grade teacher in 1996 when she began sexually abusing Fualaau, who was her 12-year-old student. Ultimately, she was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for child rape. She twice became pregnant by Fualaau before he was 15, despite court orders aimed at keeping them apart.
By the time she was released from prison, Fualaau was an adult — and he petitioned the court to allow them to see each other. A restraining order against Letourneau was dropped, but Letourneau remained a registered sex offender in Washington state until her death.
The couple married in 2005, despite the criminal history of their relationship. They settled in Washington and raised their daughters. It lasted until 2017, when Fualaau filed for legal separation from his former wife.
"I'm not surprised that they got married," Gehrke told PEOPLE in 2017, "and I'm not surprised, in this day and age, that they are separating."
In a joint statement after Letourneau's death, the Fualaaus and Letourneaus said they were "deeply saddened" about the loss. They added that Letourneau died "peacefully" after a six-month battle.
The insider tells PEOPLE that Letourneau hoped that others would learn from her mistakes.
"She knew, especially near the end, that the ends don't justify the means, and that even her wonderful daughters and long marriage didn't excuse how she got there. And she hoped that no one else would ever make the mistakes that she made."