PALMDALE (CBSLA.com) — Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o, the alleged victim of a hoax involving his dead girlfriend, is expected to address the media Thursday.
For months, college football fans followed the story of Te’o’s inspirational season after his grandmother and alleged girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, of Carson, died on the same day in September.
Kekua, 22, allegedly suffered from leukemia and died after a three-year battle.
“Every letter she sent me said, ‘Be humble, be gracious and remember I love you,’” Te’o said in an interview about her.
But on Wednesday, Deadspin.com broke a story unveiling that there was no record that Kekua ever existed.
The editor of Deadspin spoke to CNN’s Anderson Cooper and said the story started to unravel after they tried to find out more about the girlfriend.
“We called all the mortuaries in Carson and they had no information,” Timothy Burke told Cooper. “This sort of really told us there’s something really weird going on here.”
The sports blog reports that Palmdale resident Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, 22, a longtime friend of Te’o’s and possibly a distant relative, concocted the hoax. Deadspin says the hoaxster had duped other people on line with the same girl’s pictures since 2008, KNX 1070′s John Brooks reports.
Fans and the media alike are now trying to determine if the star linebacker was in on the hoax as well.
Te’o claims he never met the woman and only communicated with her over the internet and phone and never video chatted.
“Over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” he said in a statement issued after the scandal broke.
However, according to a Deadspin timeline an article in the South Bend Tribune, Te’o and Kekua met on Nov. 29, 2009.
Te’o and Kekua meet after Stanford’s 45-38 victory over Notre Dame in Palo Alto, according to the South Bend Tribune: “Their stars got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.” Kekua, a Stanford student, swaps phone numbers with Te’o,” Deadspin reported.
According to CBS News, Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, also told the South Bend Tribune that Kekua had visited Hawaii and the met with his son.
The Tribune issued a statement Wednesday stating: “the story of this fake girlfriend and her death as details were given to us by Te’o, members of his family and his coaches at Notre Dame,” CBS News reported.
Te’o and his parents informed the university of the alleged hoax on Dec. 26. Notre Dame had planned to address it publicly, but was scooped by Deadspin.
The University of Notre Dame Athletic Director, Jack Swarbrick, stands behind the star linebacker.
“There’s a lot of tragedy here. There’s a lot of sorrow,” he said at a news conference Wednesday. “”This was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can’t fully understand.”
Deadspin is reporting that the online pictures of Kekua are actually images of a Torrance woman who has no connection to the football star.
“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating,” Te’o said Wednesday.
Te’o is expected to formally address the media sometime Thursday.