CARSON (CBSLA.com) — The story captivated the nation.
A grieving football player at a well-known school, publicly mourns his girlfriend and inspires his team to go on to glory and reach the national championship game.
He’s a star and everyone’s heart went out to Manti Te’o.
But Notre Dame is now saying Te’o was the victim of a cruel hoax.
Four months after her “death,” the school is now saying the young woman who Te’o was in love with, 22-year-old Lennay Kekua, never even existed.
The “girlfriend,” who said she lived in Carson, reportedly battled leukemia for three years. Te’o said he never met the woman, but they had an Internet relationship.
KCAL9′s Juan Fernandez says the editor of Deadspin.com spoke to 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 woman signed every letter, “I love you,” according to Te’o. He reportedly said he only had pictures of her and they never Skyped.
Deadspin.com is reporting the “girlfriend” is actually a Torrance woman and she’s has no connection to the football star at all.
According to Deadspin, a longtime friend of Te’o's, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, set him up. Fernandez says Tuiasosopo has ties to Carson and Palmdale.
Now, the debate revolves around how much Te’o knew and when he knew it.
Notre Dame’s Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick is standing by Te’o. “There is a lot of tragedy here,” Swarbrick said. “There is a lot of sorrow here, but the thing I am most sad of, sad about is…” His voice trails off and he says, “Sorry,” and is unable to continue.
Te’o insists he is a victim of the hoax and issued a statement: “To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”