LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Manti Te’o, a linebacker for Notre Dame, told the media his story of grief upon losing his girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, to leukemia.
The story went beyond the sports pages and gripped the nation, but now Te’o is facing tough questions.
He insists he is the victim of an elaborate hoax. Notre Dame confirms there was never any girlfriend, dead or alive.
Did Te’o fall in love with a woman on the Internet without ever meeting her? Or was he part of the hoax all along?
Inquiring minds, and a large part of the country, want to know.
A timeline of events, however, is casting doubt on Te’o’s account:
• December 6th: Te’o says he first learned of the hoax.
• December 8th and 11th: According to the Associated Press, Te’o spoke about his girlfriend in two separate interviews.
• December 26th: Notre Dame says it was first notified the girlfriend story was bogus.
• January 7th: Notre Dame plays in the BCS championship game, a game in which the memory of his dead girlfriend was invoked.
• January 16th: Notre Dame goes public and says Te’o was victim of elaborate, cruel, vicious hoax.
In several interviews, Te’o reportedly claimed to have met the woman. Later, he said they never met and it was an online relationship.
KCAL9’s Juan Fernandez reported from Palmdale, where the alleged mastermind of the hoax lives.
Various media reports say Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, Te’o’s longtime pal, made up the “girlfriend,” as well as “her” Twitter account. He reportedly used the photo of an acquaintance he met in high school.
Fernandez says no one would come to the door of the Tuiasosopo’s family home Thursday evening. Earlier in the day, an unidentified man opened the door to say, “No comment.”
However, Tuiasosopo’s uncle spoke out Thursday evening and said he has trouble believing his nephew created a hoax.
“It’s hard for me. I know the kid all his life. This is the first time I’ve heard something like that.” he said.
Deadspin.com, a sports site, broke the story of the hoax after receiving an anonymous email. Editor Timothy Burke went on “Anderson Cooper 360” to say the entire story was “really weird.”
Fernandez reports Te’o, who was expected to speak with the media on Thursday, was spotted in Bradenton, Fla., where he is training with other NFL hopefuls at the IMG Academy.