Notre Dame linebacker says he is victim of hoax involving dead girlfriend

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CNN – Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o said Wednesday he was the victim of a “sick joke” that resulted in the creation of an inspirational story that had him overcoming the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend as the team marched toward the BCS National Championship Game.

Te’o released a statement and Notre Dame held a news conference Wednesday night after the sports website Deadspin published an article that called the girlfriend story a “hoax” and raised questions about whether she ever existed.

Last September and October, Te’o told interviewers the losses of the women, who reportedly died within hours of each other, inspired him to honor them with sterling play on the field.

“I miss ’em, but I know that I’ll see them again one day,” he told ESPN.

That and other media reports led to a gripping human interest story of determination.

Jack Swarbrick, director of athletics at Notre Dame, told reporters that Te’o was the victim of an elaborate hoax. “And he will carry that with him for a while,” Swarbrick said.

Notre Dame said the relationship was exclusively online.

According to Swarbrick, on December 26, Te’o called his coaches and said he received a phone call and heard a voice he thought was his girlfriend’s, telling him she was not dead.

Te’o’s grandmother did die in September, according to Deadspin, but there is no Social Security Administration record of the death of the athlete’s supposed girlfriend, described as a Stanford University student named Lennay Kekua. Stanford University told CNN that it has never had a student registered by that name.

“Outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed,” Deadspin contends.

After Notre Dame upset No. 10 Michigan State on September 15, Te’o told ABC about his grandmother and girlfriend.

“They were with me. I couldn’t do it without them,” Te’o said. “I couldn’t do it without the support of my family and my girlfriend’s family.”

“I’m so happy that I had a chance to honor my grandma and my family and my girlfriend,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about, family.”

Timothy Burke, co-author of the Deadspin article, told Miami sports radio host Dan Le Batard, “We got an e-mail last week saying something isn’t right” with the girlfriend story.

Te’o, the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy, said Wednesday he “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.”

In his statement reported by ESPN, the star said, “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.”

Notre Dame said it has hired an independent investigative firm to look into the situation.


CNN’s Steve Almasy contributed to this report.

™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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  • Sarah

    My friend made a good point earlier: What is this guy doing dating a girl he can't actually see or touch when he could date pretty much any girl? Girls that would go out with him?

  • Mark Pointer

    Oh I wonder if Manti was conned by the same woman I was!! She lived in the Santa Rosa area of California. She told a group of my friends in a chat group how she was pregnant while her husband was in Afghanistan then she had the baby alone. Soon he came home all messed up, was sleeping in a closet etc etc and then he committed suicide. The "baby" pics weren't right, too old. I searched all around the Santa Rosa area for news of an returned Iraqi Soldier committing suicide and there was none. I called her on it and she went off about her being crazy and a liar and that was the last conversation we ever had. She had a very distinctive voice. It happens, the internet has opened a whole new arena for people with Muchausens by Proxy. I am so sorry Manti had to go through this.

  • ccaston88

    Hey I believe him….. because everyone wants love…. and people are so cruel….. i feel sorry for him…… and i hope he finds love…………………..heck if i didnt have a husband i would be his girlfriend……he's kinda crystal caston

  • EP1

    He said he met her, his father said they met.

    They knew the gig was up on 12/26 but he talked about this in an interview on 1/7? The day of the national title game.

    Dude is gay and was trying to hide it or it was all for Heisman publicity, your choice, but please don't be naive enough to think he was scammed here.

  • Mary

    Don't know the details…however maybe grandma was his "best gal" and the things he expressed were memories of his time with her. the girlfriend story would create less flack from his friends – ..Who knows..

  • Rick Macaluso

    Should be real easy to find out if he is involved. He said he talked every night for 4 months….pull his phone records and find the number….duh



  • ClanSmokeJaguar

    lol…this guy cooked up this human interest story, it spun out of control, now everyone including N.D. is in cover-up mode!

  • lynn

    Anything is possible. Burke’s statement was why would anyone go out of there way to hoax. Well because people are cruel!

  • spokenword100

    There's nothing wrong with being a good homosexual football player. There is however something wrong with trying to cover it up with a fake girlfriend and then publicly pronouncing her dead…for your publicity gain! C'mon MAN!

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