In their investigative report, Deadspin.com reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey assert that there is no Social Security Administration record for the death of Lennay Marie Kekua and that her passing, recounted many times in the national media, produces no obituary or funeral announcement in Nexis, and no mention in the Stanford student newspaper.
The reporters also outlined that background checks on Lennay Kekua turn up nothing and that the Stanford registrar’s office has no record that a Lennay Kekua ever enrolled. Furthermore, Burke and Dickey report, there is no record of her birth in the news and that outside of a few Twitter and Instagram accounts, there’s no online evidence that Lennay Kekua ever existed.
“The photographs identified as Kekua — in online tributes and on TV news reports — are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua,” the report continued. “She is not a Stanford graduate; she has not been in a severe car accident; and she does not have leukemia. And she has never met Manti Te’o.”
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The report raised questions as to how much Te’o and his family used the story of Kekua’s story to help advocate his Heisman credibility. Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown and Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick were quick to stand behind Te’o, who is expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick in a couple months.
In a statement Wednesday Brown indicated Te’o and his parents approached Notre Dame coaches about the possible hoax on Dec. 26.
“The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax,” Brown said. “While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.” Swarbrick expanded on the statement during a press conference Wednesday night, calling the situation a “cruel, cruel hoax.” He even had to hesitate to keep from crying while talking about Te’o’s character.
Swarbrick said a private investigative firm was retained by the university to look into the matter. University officials do not plan to make that report public, Swarbrick added.
Swarbrick said Te’o first became suspicious during an ESPN awards show in Orlando, Fla. in early December 2012 when he received a call from what he recognized as Kekua’s phone number, and a voice he associated with Kekua. The contact continued for a time before dissipating, Swarbrick said.
Swarbrick said Te’o talked with his family and consulted with them before notifying university officials.
Most of the Notre Dame football team was not aware of the situation, Swarbrick said. Head coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco were the two coaches Te’o approached first, he said.
Swarbrick added that Te’o plans to make his own public statement, possibly as soon as today.