Te'o girlfriend hoax: A timelime of events

Notre Dame Fighting IrishCollege FootballDiane O'MearaFootballSportsDiseases and IllnessesLeukemia

2012
-- Sept. 11: Te'o's grandmother, Annette Santiago, dies in Hawaii.

-- Sept. 13: Te'o tweets at 2:14 a.m.: "I may not hear your voice anymore but I do feel your presence!" Followers reply with tweets of condolences about his "girlfriend's" apparent death.

Tribune sports writer Eric Hansen receives news tips reporting that Teo's grandmother and girlfriend both had died. Hansen contacts Brian Te'o, who provides details about both deaths. Notre Dame's sports information department also confirms deaths and provides more details.

Hansen asks Coach Brian Kelly about the situation at a press conference and later posts a story online, perhaps the first news report to mention the supposed death.

-- Sept. 14: Hansen's story appears in print, the first time Lennay Kekua, the claimed girlfriend, is mentioned in the South Bend Tribune. Story reports Kekua died of leukemia Sept. 12.

"Long before Lennay Kekua's valiant run at beating leukemia took a sudden and tragic twist Wednesday, she posted her creed in the bio section of her Twitter account:

'Don't be afraid to do right; love faithfully, give cheerfully & forgive freely.'

"And those are the words her boyfriend, Manti Te'o, will carry with him, along with a heavy heart, Saturday to East Lansing, Mich."

Irish head coach Brian Kelly confirmed that the All-America senior linebacker from Laie, Hawaii, would suit up for the Michigan State game, despite having to deal with a double-shot of tragedy.

"He lost some people very close to him. and it's obviously taken a toll on him," Kelly said. "Our players have been there for him. There has been great support.

"He wants to be with his teammates. He wants to be with his people that care about him. He's a strong man, and he's going through a tough time, but he'll rise to the occasion."

-- Sept. 15: Te'o speaks about his girlfriend in a postgame interview with ESPN's Heather Cox following the Irish win over Michigan State. "They were with me. So, I couldn't do without them," he said, speaking of his girlfriend and his grandmother. "I couldn't do without the support of my family and my girlfriend's family. I'm so grateful for all the love and support that all the fans, both Michigan State and Notre Dame, and fans around the world for supporting me and my family and my girlfriend's family. I miss them. I miss them. But I know that I'll see them again one day."

-- Sept. 16: Te'o tweets, "I know you're there" with a photo of him pointing to the sky at Spartan Stadium.

South Bend Tribune story reports:

Senior linebacker Manti Te'o transcended a tragic week with an inspired performance.

He finished with 12 tackles and two pass breakups in a game dedicated to his grandmother, who died Tuesday, and girlfriend who died less than 24 hours later. Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, had been battling leukemia and having some success in treatment when her recovery took a sudden and cruel twist.

-- Sept. 17: The Notre Dame student section salutes Te'o with chants of: "MAN-TIE TAY-OH; MAN-TIE TAY-OH" during a 20-3 victory over MSU.

Tribune sports columnist Al Lesar reports:

"That's for them," Te'o said. "That's for my girl. That's for my grandma. That's for all my loved ones who had passed on, who have helped me get to this point. I know they're all watching. It was ... It was a happy moment."

"It was hard, you know. I mean, I lost two women that I truly loved," Te'o said. "I had my family around me. I had my football family around me. I had my girlfriend's family around me."

-- Sept. 21: South Bend Tribune reports that fans will wear leis to support Te'o for the ND-Michigan game.

This is the first story to reverse the order of the deaths: "Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, had been valiantly and successfully battling leukemia but died Sept. 11. His grandmother, Annette Santiago, died after a long illness the next day."

-- Sept. 22: ND-Michigan game, also claimed to be the day of girlfriend's funeral.

She was buried at noon Eastern time on Sept. 22, Te'o later said. He says Kekua did not want him to attend, but she asked that white roses be sent to her funeral. ND beats Michigan 13-6. Coach Brian Kelly awards Kekua the game ball and tells Te'o to take it back to Hawaii, Te'o says at the Oct. 4 news conference.

-- Sept. 23: Te'o tweets a photo of beams of light shining on him during the ND-Michigan game and writes: "This brought tears to my eyes! The two beams of light! My guardian angels!!! I miss you!!"

-- Sept. 29: South Bend Tribune repeats the information from its Sept. 21 story, reporting: "Te'o lost his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, Sept. 11 to leukemia and his grandmother, Annette Santiago, the next day after a long illness. He then went out and played the two most inspired games of his career, against Michigan State and Michigan, before heading to Hawaii earlier this week to honor the loved ones who passed."

"The situation he went into was a very tragic situation, which all of us prayed for him," Irish defensive end Stephon Tuitt said in the interview. "He was going through a hard time, but we all gave him confidence to keep going."

-- Oct. 1: Article by Sports Illustrated senior writer Pete Thamel reports:

"On Sept. 12, three days before Notre Dame played Michigan State, the parents of Fighting Irish linebacker Manti Te'o woke him up with a 7 a.m. phone call from Hawaii: His grandmother, 72-year-old Annette Santiago, had died, of natural causes. Six hours later, while standing at his locker, Te'o got a call from his girlfriend's older brother, Koa, who sobbed, 'She's gone.'

"Te'o had dated Lennay Kekua, 22, for nearly a year. She'd been hospitalized in California since an April 28 car accident left her on the brink of death. Two months after the accident, as she began to recover from her injuries, doctors discovered that she had leukemia and sent her to a new hospital with another daunting health issue.

"As Lennay struggled to survive, Te'o developed a nightly ritual in which he would go to sleep while on the phone with her. When he woke up in the morning his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line. Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice."

-- Oct. 10: In a taped telephone interview by Eric Hansen with Te'o's parents, Te'o's father said the initial meeting between Manti and Kekua came in person in November 2009, when Notre Dame played Stanford in Palo, Alto, Calif.

The detail included the touching of hands and the fact Manti thought she was cute.

"They started out as just friends," Brian Te'o added. "Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there. But within the last year, they became a couple.

"And we came to the realization that she could be our daughter-in-law. Sadly, it won't happen now."

-- Oct. 12: South Bend Tribune publishes story reporting:

-- Manti met her on Nov. 2009 weekend in Palo Alto after ND's loss to Stanford.

-- Lennay Kekua was a Stanford student and Cardinal football fan when the two exchanged glances, handshakes and phone numbers three seasons ago.

-- She was gifted in music and multi-lingual.

-- Kekua was to spend extensive time with the whole Te'o family when upwards of 40 of them came to South Bend in mid-November for ND's Senior Day date with Wake Forest.

-- About the time Kekua and Manti became a couple, she was hurt in a car crash. There were complications during her recovery. And it was also during her recovery that it was discovered Kekua had leukemia.

"That was just in June," Brian Te'o said. "I remember Manti telling me later she was going to have a bone marrow transplant and, sure enough, that's exactly what happened. From all I knew, she was doing really, really well."

-- Kekua, who eventually graduated from Stanford, was doing so well she was released from the hospital on Sept. 10. And Brian Te'o was among those congratulating her via telephone.

-- Less than 48 hours later, at 4 a.m. Hawaii time, Kekua sent a text to Manti's parents, expressing condolences on the passing of Ottilia's mom just hours before.

-- Brian awakened three hours later, saw the text, and sent one back. There was no response. A couple of hours later, Manti called his parents to say Lennay Kekua had died.

-- Oct. 14: A New York Times article reports: "This has been a trying season for Te'o, whose grandmother and girlfriend died within hours of each other last month. His girlfriend, who lost a long fight with leukemia, was a Stanford alumnus."

"For how dominantly Te'o has played, (Notre Dame athletic director Jack) Swarbrick made a case Sunday for Te'o's winning the Heisman Trophy after he recorded 11 tackles and spearheaded a game-winning, goal-line stand to beat Stanford," the Times reported.

-- Nov. 17: In a South Bend Tribune article, head coach Brian Kelly is interviewed about the Te'o legacy:

"Well, it's a great story, first of all," Kelly said, "but I don't think it's finished. I think there is more out there for him. He believes that to be the case.

"When those books are written, they're written about championships. They're written about the great days at Notre Dame. Certainly this has been a great year, but there is more to accomplish. I think he would be the first one to tell you that this story is not over with and there are some more chapters to be written."

-- Nov. 25: A New York Times story about ND's victory over USC reports: "The Irish's defense has been as resilient as its leader, Te'o, who was dealt a full deck of adversity on a single dark day in September when his grandmother and his girlfriend died within hours of each other. Te'o didn't miss a practice, much less a game, and with his second tackle in Saturday's first half, he became only the second Notre Dame player, after Bob Crable, to record 100 tackles in three
seasons."

To have his grandmother and girlfriend around to share in the celebration, "would have been a better script," Te'o said, "but other than that, I don't think you can write a better one."

-- Dec. 6: Te'o learns the online relationship was a hoax, according to reports in January.

Swarbrick said Wednesday that Manti Te'o had no hint that the love, the leukemia, the death was anything but authentic until Dec. 6, when he received a text in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., while attending the Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

Te'o received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua, Swarbrick said. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead.

-- Dec. 8: Te'o is in New York City with his parents to attend the Heisman Trophy ceremony. Te'o, a finalist for the award, finishes runner-up to Johnny Manziel.

In an interview in New York with news media, including WSBT-TV, before the ceremony, Te'o was asked about his charity work, including Relay for Life, a cancer organization.

"I worked with the Relay for Life stuff since I really got hit with cancer," he said. "I don't like cancer at all since I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer."

-- Dec. 10: Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Dwyre reports Teo's account of why he played a few days after he found out his girlfriend had died, and on the day she supposedly was buried:

"He said girlfriend Lennay Kekau 'made me promise, when it happened, that I would stay and play,' Te'o said Sunday night (Dec. 9)." The interview occurred while Te'o was in Newport, Beach, Calif., as a nominee at the Lott Impact Awards dinner.

-- Dec. 26: Manti calls his coaches to inform them of the Dec. 6 phone call purporting to be from Kekua.

Swarbrick says at Jan. news conference that Te'o had waited to inform Notre Dame officials because he wanted to discuss the matter with his parents in person over Christmas break.

-- Dec. 27: Te'o returns to campus and Swarbrick meets with him.

"I met with Manti for about an hour and 45 minutes and asked him to review every detail of the relationship as he knew it with this woman. Manti did so, was forthright, answered every question, and was eager to share the information with me," Swarbrick said.

-- Dec. 28: According to Swarbrick: "I met with him again the next day, as I had put the notes together from the previous day's meeting, to just review again what we had gone over to make sure I had all the details correct. And, again, he was a full and excellent partner in making sure that the information I collected was accurate.

"I then took that information and shared it with other leaders in the university for a deliberation as to next steps, what we should do. Some additional questions of Manti were then developed, which he again promptly responded, and a decision was made to engage in an independent investigative firm to see if they could determine what was at the nature of what increasingly appeared to us to be a sophisticated hoax."

2013

-- Jan. 2: Notre Dame football team flies to Miami, Fla., to prepare for the BCS national championship game.

-- Jan. 3: Manti is asked one question about his girlfriend during a press conference:

Q. Manti, how have the football-related commotion and excitement of the past year helped you get through the turmoil you've faced with your grandmother and girlfriend? And how have the quiet periods been for you, given you more time to reflect? Is that a good thing or double edged?

TE'O: I think whenever you're in football, it takes your mind off a lot of things. You know, this team is very special to me, and the guys on it have always been there for me, through the good times and the bad times. I rarely have a quiet time to myself because I always have somebody calling me, asking, do you want to go to the movies? Coach is always calling me asking me, "Are you okay? Do you need anything?" I have three roommates, Zeke, Carlo and Robby Toma, who are always yelling at each other, who's going to play Call of Duty. I'm rarely by
myself, and that's how I like it. I'm always around my guys, always around my family."

-- Jan. 4: ND receives final report from independent investigative firm.

-- Jan. 5: Swarbrick: "I met with Brian and Ottilia Te'o in Miami on the 5th to share with them the essence of those findings. We left that meeting with an understanding that they would think about what they had heard, engaged Manti's future representation, which would be determined later in the week, in consultation as to how to best respond, and keep the university fully informed of their intentions and work in concert with us when they were ready to communicate the story."

-- Jan. 7: "CBS This Morning" broadcasts inspirational story by reporter Chip Reid about Te'o and his girlfriend's death early in the season. Reid reports that Teo's grandmother and his girlfriend died on the same day in September.

-- Alabama beats Notre Dame, 42-14.

-- Jan. 16: Deadspin.com breaks story that Lennay Kekua never existed.

-- Te'o, who is in Florida preparing for the NFL draft, issues a written statement, saying in part: "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."

-- Swarbrick holds a news conference at Notre Dame. He states Manti has told him the relationship was entirely online and via phone -- that he never met Kekua in person, but believed she was real.

Swarbrick says Te'o told him the hoax included several meetings that were set up but Lennay never showed.

-- Jan. 17: A Te'o interview scheduled for today with ESPN's Jeremy Schaap is canceled.

Compiled by South Bend Tribune staff writer Margaret Fosmoe

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