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Saturday, February 7, 1998 Published at 06:40 GMT

World: Americas

Woman jailed for returning to underage schoolboy lover
image: [ Mary Kay LeTourneau after hearing her sentence ]
Mary Kay LeTourneau after hearing her sentence

A 36-year-old former teacher from Seattle has been jailed for nearly seven and a half years after returning to the teenager whose child she bore.

A month ago, Mary Kay LeTourneau was paroled from jail where she had served six months of an eight-year term for child rape.

In defiance of a court order to stay away from the boy, who is now 14, she was found in a car outside her home with him at 3:00AM on Tuesday. The car also contained her passport, clothing for a man, woman and infant and $6,200 in cash.

She initially claimed the meeting was an isolated incident and was instigated by the boy.

Her parole officer, David Gilkey, said she told him the items were there because she was moving house and that she "simply enjoyed wearing oversized men's clothing".

[ image: Judge Linda Lau]
Judge Linda Lau
On Friday Judge Linda Lau sent her back to prison to serve the remainder of her sentence, calling her actions "profoundly disturbing".

Mrs LeTourneau showed no emotion and did not make a statement after the sentence, but the boy's mother, who had opposed a prison sentence for her last year, wept in court.

The defence lawyer, David Gehrke, had asked for a six-month jail sentence and additional treatment for her.

He noted that she had only been in a programme for sex offenders for a month when she was caught.

"Society does not need to be protected from Mary LeTourneau," Mr Gehrke said. "The person who really needs to be protected from Mary LeTourneau is Mary LeTourneau."

The three year treatment programme was one of the conditions of her parole, but the physician assigned to treat her, Dr Terry Copeland, said his meetings with her were "contentious and unproductive".

On February 3 he requested that she be removed from the programme.

Both Mrs LeTourneau and the boy have said in interviews that they are in love, and they have exchanged "engagement" rings. The boy has objected to being called a victim and has told reporters that the couple planned the baby as a way to continue the relationship.

Nonetheless, at her original sentencing, Mrs LeTourneau promised to stay away from him, saying, "I did something that I had no right to do morally or legally. ... I give you my word that it will not happen again."

From respected teacher to prisoner

Mary LeTourneau was a popular teacher - the spokesman for her school district, Nick Latham was quoted as saying "students could relate to her very well... she was very young at heart".

She first met the boy when he was a nine-year-old student in her classes at Shorewood Elementary School in Seattle.

The relationship became sexual in mid-1996 when the boy was 13, and continued until early 1997 when her husband found love letters she had written to him.

[ image: Mary Kay LeTourneau after the birth of her child by a pupil]
Mary Kay LeTourneau after the birth of her child by a pupil
She gave birth to a girl in May, which is being cared for by the mother of the child's father and in August she pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree child rape.

Her husband, Steve LeTourneau, has moved to Alaska with their four children and filed for divorce.

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