Sex abuse of boys not only trait duo share.
Like Mary Kay Letourneau, Tennessee woman risks all for relationship with victim!
By BONNA de la CRUZ
As well as the blonde hair and the 13-year-old victim, the Tennessee former teacher convicted of sleeping with a student has much in common with the most famous teacher caught in a sex scandal — Mary Kay Letourneau of Seattle.
Troubled marriages. Child-like behavior. Larger-than-life father figures. And most of all, a recklessness to continue the relationship when courts have told them not to.
Former gym teacher Pamela Rogers, 28, who once taught at a Warren County elementary school, was arrested again last month on charges that she sent text messages, nude pictures and racy videos of herself to her underage victim, despite a court order against it.
Eight years ago, Letourneau, then 34, also defied court orders to stay away from her teenage victim, Vili Fualaau, and was caught having sex with him only a month after she was released from jail.
"The most striking similarity … is the fact that nothing keeps these two apart," Anne Bremner, a Seattle trial attorney and TV legal analyst, said of Rogers and her illicit messages to the boy.
"That's what happened with Mary. Nothing could keep her apart from Vili, and you know the end of the story. She marries him," said Bremner, an expert on the Letourneau case. (Bremner defended a Washington state police department against a civil lawsuit filed by Fualaau and his mother, alleging the police and school district failed to protect him. A jury rejected those claims.)
Letourneau, now 44, and Fualauu, 22, are raising their two young daughters, 8 and 7, one conceived during the original offense and one during a probation violation.
Letourneau shocked the world nearly a decade ago when the Seattle-area elementary school teacher threw away her suburban life with her husband and four children for a 13-year-old.
"When you find the same elements — teacher, pretty, a 12- or 13-year-old boy, a love story, a crime story — the conclusion is it's another Mary Kay Letourneau," Bremner said.
Those elements are the same that pushed the Pamela Rogers case to national attention, similar elements as those in the case of Debra Lafave, a blue-eyed, blonde Florida teacher caught up in a similar situation in 2004.
“They’re all gorgeous,” Bremner said of the women.
Other abuse cases involving female teachers and minor victims in Tennessee haven’t gotten the same kind of attention.
An East Tennessee prosecutor, who has handled two such cases, said neither of his cases became media sensations.
“I think the fact that Pamela Rogers is an attractive woman probably gave it more publicity,” said Al Schmutzer, district attorney general in Sevier County. In her college days, Rogers was the glitzy Ms. Monday Nitro of World Championship Wrestling at spring break festivities in 1997.
He also theorized that women such as Letourneau and Rogers like the media attention.
“It’s bizarre behavior,” Schmutzer said. “They come into the courtroom, and they’re looking their best, not like other defendants you see in court.”
Letourneau has been described by therapists as someone who enjoys media attention, and Rogers could be the same, Bremner said.
There are some differences: Letourneau had been married for 12 years and had children when she began the sexual relationship with Fualaau; Rogers was a newlywed with no children.
Letourneau communicated with her teen victim through schoolgirlish love notes. But, eight years later, Rogers could make contact with her victim through a cell phone she used to send nude photos and videos that showed her engaging in sexual activity.
Soulmates and support.
Many of the traits common to both Letourneau and Rogers are typical for female sex offenders — and even male offenders, for that matter, said Dr. Donna Moore, a Nashville psychologist who treats sex offenders.
Letourneau and Rogers offer good case studies of female offenders who abuse young victims using their position of power.
For instance, Letourneau and Rogers struck up a closeness with their victims with shared interests.
Letourneau, who recognized Fualaau’s artistic talent, nurtured that by going to museums and taking art classes with him.
Rogers, meanwhile, had basketball as a common interest with her young victim.
He was a star player on the school team. Her father is a basketball coach, as was her then husband. In fact, one of Rogers’ sexual trysts with the boy took place when she drove him to a basketball game that her then husband was coaching for Warren County High School.
“That’s called grooming,” Moore said, referring to a practice by sexual predators who earn their victims’ trust.
Offenders also groom the families of victims, she said. And because the offender and victim have shared interests, the time they spend together does not look suspicious, Moore said.
Both women were in troubled marriages.
Rogers and her husband of one year, Chris Turner, separated in late 2004. She began sleeping with her young victim in November 2004, according to authorities. Turner filed for divorce in January 2005, the month before she was arrested.
Letourneau’s marriage was also on shaky ground, plagued by her first husband’s infidelities, according to news reports.
“Her marriage was not going well,” Bremner said. “Her dad was diagnosed with cancer, and she did not get sympathy. She was just devastated. Vili was the guy that gave her the empathy and support.”
Both Rogers and Letourneau seemed to find a “soulmate” in their young lovers, Bremner said.
“Offenders like this are in some ways narcissistic,” Bremner said. “They are in marriages where they are not getting the attention they want. They see themselves in grandiose terms. The only person who thinks she’s perfect is a 13-year-old with raging hormones.”
A Virginia-based psychologist who researches female sex offenders said such relationships serve the emotional needs of the adults. She spoke generally about female sex offenders and not directly about Letourneau or Rogers.
“A lot of women (offenders) have anxiety or depression. Many of them have a sexual abuse history. Not uncommonly they have personal problems in their lives or in their family of origin. And very often the child meets an emotional need,” said Julia Hislop, author of the book “Female Sex Offenders: What Therapists, Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services Need to Know.”
“Sometimes the needs are just for attention of a non-threatening relationship,” Hislop said.
Women show immaturity.
Both Letourneau and Rogers talked the language of their adolescent lovers and exhibited traits of arrested development in communication with their victims, according to Bremner.
Letourneau would talk about her bangs and her cheerleader days in a squeaky, girlish voice, Bremner said. Rogers, in text messages to her lover, used adolescent shorthand, like “I wish I could tlk 2u.”
“It’s not uncommon to see adult offenders age themselves down and age their victims up so that it’s a close fit, although that’s not true,” Moore said. Letourneau spoke of her victim as being mature “beyond his years,” Moore said.
The two women had some things in common that may have little to do with their crime.
Both of their fathers played large roles in their lives. Rogers’ father, Lamar Rogers, is a championship girls basketball coach in Fentress County, a celebrity figure of sorts in small-town Tennessee. She called him a “hero” in a blog. (She also said her heroes are Jesus and the boy she abused.)
Letourneau’s father, John Schmitz, served in the U.S. Congress and even ran for president in 1972 as an independent. “She was daddy’s little girl,” Bremner said.
Both women also suggested they would wait for the youngsters.
On her page on the Web site MySpace.com, Rogers said she would wait three years for love, prosecutors said, which would be the time at which the boy she abused would reach the legal age of sexual consent.
Letourneau and Fualaau exchanged wedding bands before she went to prison, according to Bremner. The rings were inscribed: “Oh happy day” and “I’ll be there.”
Mary Kay Letourneau holds her daughter in Normandy Park, Wash., on July 20, 1997. The baby was fathered by a 14-year-old boy who was as an elementary school student of hers.
Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau outside their home in the Puget Sound area of Seattle. (ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT)
Pamela Rogers, with her attorney Peter Sprianse, pleaded no contest in 2005 to four counts of sexual battery by an authority figure for having a sexual affair with a 13-year-old male student.