Story of Te'o girlfriend death apparently a hoax
TribLIVE Sports Videos
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A story that Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o's girlfriend had died of leukemia — a loss he said inspired him to help lead the Fighting Irish to the BCS title game — was dismissed by the university Wednesday as a hoax perpetrated against the linebacker.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said Te'o told coaches Dec. 26 he had received a call while at an awards ceremony from the phone number of his late girlfriend, Lennay Kekua.
By Te'o's own account, she was an “online” girlfriend. Swarbrick said they also talked by telephone.
Swarbrick said, based on a report from an investigative firm hired by the school, he believes Te'o was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose death was then faked by the perpetrators of the hoax.
“Nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota,” Swarbrick said at a news conference Wednesday night after Deadspin.com reported in a lengthy story that it could find no record that Kekua existed.
Te'o said in 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,” he said.
“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.”
Swarbrick said investigators' report indicated those behind the hoax were in contact with each other, discussing what they were doing.
Deadspin reported that there was no record of Lennay Marie Kekua dying with the Social Security Administration, that a record search produced no obituary or funeral announcement. She supposedly attended Stanford, but there is no mention of her death in the Stanford student newspaper.
The website reported Stanford registrar's office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. There is no record of her birth in the news.
There are a few Twitter and Instagram accounts registered to Lennay Kekua, but the website reported photographs identified as Kekua online and in TV news reports are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who isn't named Lennay Kekua.
The week before Notre Dame played Michigan State on Sept. 15, coach Brian Kelly told reporters that Te'o's grandmother and a friend had died. Te'o didn't miss the game. He said Kekua had told him not to miss a game if she died. Te'o turned in one of his best performances of the season in the 20-3 victory in East Lansing, and his playing through heartache became a prominent theme during the Irish's undefeated regular season.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Former Pirates pitcher Happ agrees to $36 million, 3-year deal with Blue Jays
- Clairton among greatest WPIAL dynasties; Aliquippa, South Fayette close
- Gilbert, son of ex-Pitt football standout, commits to Panthers
- WPIAL Class AAAA final preview: Penn-Trafford looking to reverse trend of playoff losses to Central Catholic
- Holiday cards evoke Pittsburgh cheer, benefit charities
- WPIAL history full of football dynasties
- Take deal breakers off your list of deal breakers
- Gorman: Dynasties began with devastating defeats
- WPIAL Class AAA final preview: Big-play passing attack paying off for defending WPIAL champion Central Valley
- Fashion FYI: Cheeks lingerie store opens in Squirrel Hill
- Unsung backups provide boost for Steelers defensive line