Collaboration by: Keegan Goudie, Peter Hahn, and Nick Christie
In no attempt to make a bizarre sports story even stranger – some connections may have been overlooked in the sports story of the year. There are plenty of questions surrounding the truth behind Lennay Kekua, the supposed deceased girlfriend of former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.
In Deadspin’s monstrously groundbreaking article posted late Wednesday afternoon, we learned that Manti Te’o’s dead girlfriend was a fake. That she never existed. And that is was perpetuated by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
This revelation washed away the tragically inspiring tale of Kekua and Te’o, and of her dying of Luekemia the same week as his grandmother.
We also learned that Tuiasosopo and Te’o are friends, or at least they shared friendly exchanges via Twitter. Deadspin went on to suggest much more than this, pointing to evidence that could indict Te’o as a co-conspirator with Ronaiah. The motive for this collusion? Publicity.
In trying to wrap our heads around this unbelievable story, the crew at Major Onions decided to dig a lot deeper. What we did in fact come across was some interesting connections surrounding the family of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
We offer these connections in an effort to shed some more light. Not to drag out an already overwhelming topic, but to share some shaky details we noticed surrounding the artist of the Manti Te’o hoax.
On Wednesday night, Notre Dame’s Vice President / Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick made his initial statement to the media, just to reiterate:
“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia.”
But isn’t it interesting that nobody at Notre Dame called law enforcement although they found out on the 26th? We found out on January 16th, but not by their choice. They hired a private investigative firm according to Swarbrick, but it’s almost shocking that the university couldn’t be ahead of the media on a story with such drastic implications. Especially when they had a 21-day head start. And why wouldn’t Swarbrick release the information that the private investigators found? When asked in the press conference on the 16th, “Will you be releasing the findings of the investigative firm?”, Swarbrick swiftly answered, “No.”
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a part of the Tuiasosopo football family, as his name suggests. The family includes former Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo and former NFL player Manu Tuiasosopo. His father Titus played for USC in the late ’80s and early ’90s. More significantly, one of his cousins, Fred Matua, earned All-America honors at guard for USC and played on several NFL teams, before dying this past August of a heart-related issue at the young age of 28.
So here’s our first name, Fred Matua.
On August 5th, USC reported via Twitter that Matua died of a heart-related issue at White Memorial Medical Center. In high school, he was a two-way player at Banning in Wilmington, CA. Granted Google was our prime source for this, but not too much light seemed to be shed on Matua’s death. We found this little blurb from legacy.com, and copies of similar information spread around the Internet.
“A memorial service for Fred Matua will be held Sunday, August 19, at 1 pm at South Bay Congregational Church (1717 East Carson Street, Carson, CA 90745, 310-549-0030). A final service will take place the next day at 11 a.m. at the same spot. Fred will be laid to rest at Green Hills Cemetery immediately following the service.”
The day of his death, Manti Te’o gave the recently deceased Matua an immediate shout out on Twitter.
RIP to the uso Fred Matua. Keep his family in prayer.—
Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) August 05, 2012
This isn’t odd however, considering he called him uso – a Hawaiian term used to infer ‘brother’. Possibly weird, considering the two were far apart in age, and attended rival schools. Maybe we’re being overzealous, but it’s been either unnoticed or an oddly ignored Tweet in the past day and a half. And whether or not it proves relevance, still seems like a sparky connection.
So here’s the next, and maybe most guilty name to look at – Donna Tei.
@FreDonna51zHUN is Donna Tei’s Twitter account. Facebook says Matua lived in Wilmington, California, four miles from Carson, the city that has without question surrounded this entire hoax, and where Donna went to high school.
Furthermore, Tei is the name of the girl whose pictures were used as U’ilani Rae Kekua, the fake sister of Lennay Kekua supposedly also created by Tuiasosopo. Her Twitter history seemed a bit bizarre also, tweeting pictures in the present tense of her with the deceased Fred Matua – her apparant fiance at the time.
FreDonna LIFESTYLE (@FreDonna51zHUN) September 29, 2012
This could very well be just a suffering widow, but the mental suggestions of it prove certain instabilities.
On Friday, TMZ posted a video in which one of their reporters had caught up with Donna and her father. Donna seems clearly distressed about the situation at the beginning of the video. Her Dad continues to speak to the reporter stating first, that Donna and him do not know Manti Te’o. After a bit of prodding, Donna’s father finally admits that while he does not know Ronaiah, his daughter is friends with him. He says that the picture of Donna used as U’ilani came from her Facebook. This opens up even further questions.
If Donna knows Ronaiah, he could have had access to her Facebook account. But after an extensive search for Donna Tei on Facebook and Google, we have not found her to even have a Facebook account. Maybe she has since deleted her account, but there is something to be said about that.
So now there is a link between Donna Tei and the creator of the hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. Other than of course, their unfilled plans to become cousins by marriage – which we’ll show a little bit further on.
It’s most interesting that Donna Tei would have reached out to Nev Schulman, the creator of the Catfish movie and subsequent MTV series. Especially since this supposedly happened back into December when Manti “found out” about the false identity of his dead girlfriend.
Does this suggest that Tuiasosopo, Tei, and Te’o were conspiring together about how to release certain information of this story to certain people?
Now on to another interesting character:
Luafalemana is an aspiring and semi-successful music artist. Her Twitter account, @TENELLEMUSIC has around 1,300 followers. Interestingly enough, we noticed that number go up and down quite a bit throughout Thursday. When we first discovered it at 3pm she had well over 1,400 followers. As we were at the browsing stages of it – her account had a lot of activity with Donna Tei.
We also observed that in between Thursday and Friday, her Twitter account shifted between public and private. During the period that we couldn’t access her account on Twitter, we got access via twitiq.com and there are some revealing tweets. None more significant than her most recent tweet last night during the hype of the Te’o unfoldings:
Eh leave him alone—
Tenelle (@TENELLEMUSIC) January 17, 2013
Te'o is doing what y'all only imagine doing! Leave him alone .. #CastTheFirstStone—
Tenelle (@TENELLEMUSIC) January 18, 2013
It seemed odd to us. Why would an aspiring musician set her evidently promotional account as private?
Does her response last night around the release of the story mean anything? Was this Tenelle Luafalemana somehow also involved in the hoax? Her connection to both Matua and Te’o certainly suggests she could be a significant character. Just suggests.
She also had interaction with another interesting character we discovered, somebody by the twitter name @gR1zZ_LBC.
@tenellemusic’s response: “@gR1zZ_LBC wait what happen?”
As Griz mentioned Ronaiah Tuiasosopo gave everyone up for Manti – was he saying that the jig was up? Last night, we were able to view and explore all of his tweets. Friday morning? The account was protected.
Was Tenelle Luafalemana reacting to somebody possibly telling that a bigger scenario had been leaked? On January 14th, this very same Tenelle Luafalemana tweeted at the deceased Fred Matua, wishing him a happy birthday. Evidently – she also had a connection with the Tuiasosopo family.
Happy 29th Birthday #FredMatua !!! Love you bro!—
Tenelle (@TENELLEMUSIC) January 14, 2013
@ViCiOUS_kaaayy, on the other hand, was another locked Twitter account. From her bio, she specifically indicates that she is the sister-in law of Fred Matua:
May we remind you, the record shows Fred Matua was not married. With this in mind, we scratched through Twitter a bit more. Donna Tei and Fred Matua seemingly had plans to get engaged, which obviously were cut short by his sudden death in early August. Thus Tei would’ve been the sister in law of ViCious_Kay had she been married to him.
Are these just geographically coincidental people being outlandish over Twitter, or is this family involvement thing starting to add up in someway?
@tam51hunnit is the Twitter account of Fred Matua’s blood sister. 51STRONG is a theme that has shown up across multiple Twitter bios – as it was Matua’s number at USC. FiftyOne Inc, is mentioned in her bio and in various tweets. Regarding FiftyOne Inc, we can’t find any information. Google search for FiftyOne Inc. yields no results for any type of foundation/company based in Southern California, nor does it suggest anything regarding Fred Matua.
No dots drastically connected – but another mysterious factor of the Fred Matua backdrop.
So were back to square one – Fred Matua.
According to a TMZ article yesterday -
Jan is an ND fan who reached out to Lennay on Twitter when she was “alive” and became online “friends” with Lennay and her “sister”.
“Jan said she wanted to send flowers — so Lennay’s “sister” gave her an address. TMZ has learned the address belongs to a member of the Tuiasosopo family. Jan also gave us the phone number Lennay’s sister would use to contact her — and we found out the number is registered to a man named Titus Tuiasosopo — Ronaiah’s father.”
May we remind you that Donna Tei is the woman posed as the image of U’ilani Rae Kekua, the fake sister of Lennay Kekua, Teo’s fake girlfriend. U’ilani’s Twitter account has been used to continue on the “character” of Lennay.
Step back. Is this the same Donna Tei that’s related to Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. The same one helping TMZ to solve the hoax? Is this another odd coincidence? It doesn’t seem to be after the TMZ video was released in which Donna’s father admitted that she is friends with Tuiasosopo.
So did Manti Te’o also know Fred Matua before his passing?
Did Fred Matua’s passing lead to Ronaiah’s decision to supposedly ‘kill off’ the character?
Call us conspiracy hounds, but is there a possible recruiting scandal behind all of this? There are yet to be any indications as to how Te’o and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo knew each other. Is their family covering their relationship with Te’o because it could reveal foul play in USC’s recruiting of Te’o?
It’s almost undoubted that Te’o and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo knew each other. In May 2012, Te’o was retweeting Tuiasosopo, who had mentioned going to Hawaii. Wrote Te’o, “sole”—”bro,” in Samoan—”u gotta come down.” In June, Te’o wished Tuiasosopo a happy birthday.
How they know each other still isn’t clear. But could this random array of social links suggest they’ve known each other since Te’o was still in high school?
It’s not unrealistic to think the POLY community would be key tools in recruiting each other. This could even point the finger at Matua and Titus Tuiasosopo.
Did their assisting in the recruiting of Manti Te’o lead to his meeting of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo?
From Deadspin’s article: ‘We spoke to a woman we’ll call Frieda, who had suggested on Twitter back in December that there was something fishy about Lennay Kekua. She was Facebook friends with Titus Tuiasosopo, so we asked her if she knew anything about Ronaiah’.
“Manti and Ronaiah are family,” she said, “or at least family friends.” She told us that the Tuiasosopos had been on-field guests (of Te’o or someone else, she didn’t know) for the Nov. 24 Notre Dame-USC game in Los Angeles.
USC was unable to confirm this, but a tweet from Tuiasosopo’s since-deleted account suggests he and Te’o did see each other on that West Coast trip. “Great night with my bro @MTeo_5! #Heisman #574L,” Ronaiah tweeted on Nov. 23, the night before the game.
Now could the rumors/suggestions of Te’o being gay leak back into this? And to drag that further, could Brian Te’o have attempted to cover up that his son is gay? Or that he had a relationship with Ronaiah Tuiasosopo?
Titus, Ronaiah’s dad, posted some telling thoughts about Te’o via Facebook around 6:30 on Wednesday.
“There are not enough words in the dictionary to describe the overwhelming love & support me & my Aiga have received today. Feels like I’ve been drinking from a fire hydrant.lol. Your texts, calls, emails, prayers & messages are received with a sincerely humble heart. I know so much has been splattered all over the media about my son & my family. I also know that many who were born in a manger in Bethlehem & continue to walk on water will undoubtedly express their opinions. Those of you who know us the best still love us the most. It my hope & prayer that we allow the truth to take its course, wherever that may lead. My heart goes out to Manti & the Te’o Aiga. Please allow this young man to pursue his dream without judgement. He’s an amazing role model for our youth and Samoan community. I love U all from the bottom of my heart.
Your friend, Titus”
If this suggests what we think…how does Titus Tuiasosopo have knowledge of Manti Te’o’s sexual orientation?
Even Brian Te’o’s Twitter account has suspicious activity.
@LennayKay awesome..we'll get it from her.—
Brian Te'o (@Laiepoint) August 31, 2012
@MTeo_5 skype in an hour?—
Brian Te'o (@Laiepoint) August 31, 2012
Brian Te’o also did not tweet between the dates of Aug 4 and August 13th, which of course were the days surrounding Fred Matua’s death on the 5th of August. The South Bend Tribune said that Brian Te’o was one who gave them information on Te’o and Kekua meeting on field after the game at Stanford in 2009.
Was he talking about Ronaiah Tuiasosopo?
Does any of this cover up coming from the west coast indicate that Manti was involved and in fact played a major role in the fake identities?
And who the heck is Donna Tei?
There are plenty of unanswered questions. That’s about the only thing everyone can agree on.
As for us, we think there’s more to this story than has already been released.
This column was modified on 01/18/2013.