- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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Tessi Tolutau, a former Miss South Pacific, grew up five doors from Te'o in Hawaii. She has Facebook messages from Te'o as far back as September 2010, checking on the legitimacy of the fictitious Polynesian beauty Lennay Kekua, who would become his "girlfriend." Te'o even wondered out loud if Kekua might be "a prank."
Tolutau responded that she only knew Kekua from online messaging, and wondered if she was causing trouble.
Te'o ignored his own instincts and eventually began an online and phone "relationship" with Kekua, the start of a three-year ruse that ended in national humiliation for him this week.
"Manti wasn't in on this," says Tolutau, 25. "He checked with a lot of us about her. I believed she was real. We all did."
To read the rest of Rick Reilly's story, click here.
13dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf