IT WAS THE STEAMED-UP WINDOWS that drew their attention, police say. They were looking for a stolen vehicle on Seattle's quiet, residential south side when they noticed a suspicious-looking car parked with its lights on at 3 a.m. on Feb. 3. Peering inside, they spotted a familiar-looking woman and a teenage boy. Sitting frozen in the flashlight's beam were Mary Katherine Letourneau, 36, a suburban grade-school teacher convicted last year of rape of a child, and the 14-year-old boy who was legally her victim and biologically the father of her infant child. And so, just a month after her release from prison on Jan. 2, after serving 2½ months of a maximum 7½-year sentence, Letourneau was arrested for violating court orders to have no contact with minors. She is barred not only from seeing the boy, now an eighth grader, but also from any unsupervised contact with her four other children, who are between the ages of 3 and 13 and live with her estranged husband. "She was fixated on this boy," says her attorney David Gehrke. "It underscores how deep-rooted this compulsion is."
The consequences of their reunion may be severe. "We're going to go ahead and ask that she be imprisoned for 89 months," says Dan Donohoe of the King County DA's office. Initially, Letourneau had been sent to the Regional Justice Center in Kent, Wash., on Nov. 14 but was given a conditional release after completing a sex-offender program and had been living with a former teaching colleague. One of the stipulations of her release was that she take medication for bipolar disorder, which causes dramatic mood swings and erratic behavior.
Her arrest was greeted with dismay and sadness. "We're very disappointed," says Nick Latham, spokesman for the school district where Letourneau was once a beloved teacher. "She had been given the benefit of doubt and the opportunity to start her life over."
Now it appears that that opportunity has been lost—along with the chance to be reunited with her children and to gain custody of her 8-month-old, being cared for by the 14-year-old's mother. "It's pretty sad," says Gloria Allred, the high-profile women's-rights lawyer who is a longtime acquaintance of Letourneau's. "I can't understand why she would want to have contact with the boy. Perhaps she's still sexually attracted to him, still in love with him, because he's the father of her child."
Letourneau's relationship with the boy began innocently enough, when he was in her second-grade class in 1991 and she bought him art supplies and introduced him to the piano. But according to him, they began having sex in 1996, after hatching a plan to have a child to keep them together. Their affair was discovered when her husband, Steve, 35, a cargo-loading specialist, found love letters she had written. "He's very upset" about his wife's arrest, says a friend. "They were working at putting their lives back together."
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