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Controversy over Te’o’s story explodes

Andrew Owens | Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lennay Kekua, the girl believed to have been former Irish linebacker Manti Te’o’s girlfriend and who was reported to have died of leukemia in September, never existed, according to a report published by Deadspin.com. University spokesman Dennis Brown released a statement this afternoon after the report.

“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators,” Brown’s statement said.

Te’o also issued a statement.

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was. Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

Lisa Lapin, Stanford University spokesperson, issued the following statement to The Observer:

“We’ve had no student attending Stanford by that name or any other similar name.”

The South Bend Tribune reported in October that Te’o met Kekua at Stanford in 2009 following a game against the Cardinal.

Dan Anderson, an employee at the Los Angeles County Department of Coroner, told The Observer there is no record of Lennay Kekua or anyone with a similar name dying in the county from Sept. 11-13.

Reports of Kekua’s alleged death surfaced in September, leading up to Notre Dame’s road contest at Michigan State. Te’o’s grandmother died within hours of when Kekua was reported to have passed away.

Te’o’s athletic achievements, combined with a personal story involving the two deaths reported to be close to him, led to a second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy balloting in December.