ND: Manti Te’o victim of dead girlfriend hoax - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

ND: Manti Te’o victim of dead girlfriend hoax

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Deadspin.com story posted Wednesday afternoon Deadspin.com story posted Wednesday afternoon

It was one of the most emotional stories of the college football season: a star player loses his girlfriend to leukemia.

Now, the University of Notre Dame says the story of Manti Te'o's girlfriend, Lennay Kay, was a hoax and Te'o was the victim.

The website Deadspin.com posted a story Wednesday afternoon, claiming the story was a hoax. The story says they could find no Social Security record of the death of Lennay Marie Kekua, nor could they find any mention of her obituary or funeral.

Just an hour after the story was published on Deadspin, Notre Dame released the following statement:

"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. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. 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."

Notre Dame Vice President and Director of Athletics Jack Swarbrick went into some details about what Notre Dame says they knew.

"While we still don't know all of the dimensions of this ‑‑ and other than the perpetrators, I can assure you that no one knows all of the dimensions of this ‑‑ there are certain things that I feel confident we do know," said Swarbrick. "The first is that this was a very elaborate, very sophisticated hoax perpetrated for reasons we can't fully understand but had a certain cruelty at its core, based on the exchanges that we were able to see between some of the people who perpetrated it."

Swarbrick compared the situation to "Catfish," a documentary and MTV show. The show looks relationship that start online, relationships that some times turn out to be hoaxes.

"It is a scam ‑‑ I'm probably revealing my television watching habits, but it was covered by Dr. Phil extensively recently ‑‑ that follows the exact arc of this, and it's perpetrated with shocking frequency for me ‑‑ shocking as an older guy who's not as versed in the online world ‑‑ and it is just as this one," said Swarbrick. "An initial casual engagement, a developing relationship online, a subsequent trauma ‑‑ traffic accident, illness ‑‑ and then a death."

Swarbrick said in many ways, Te'o was the perfect mark for such a hoax.

"He is a guy who is so willing to believe in others and so ready to help that as his hopes played out that called upon those tendencies in Manti and roped him more and more into the trap he was not a person who would have a second thought about offering his assistance and help and engaging fully," said Swarbrick.

Swarbrick got choked up while talking about how he says this has impacted Te'o.

"There's a lot of tragedy here, there's a lot of sorrow here.  But the thing I am most sad of, sad about is... (long pause) that the single most trusting human being I've ever met will never be able to trust in the same way again in his life.  That's an incredible tragedy," said Swarbrick.

Swarbrick said he expects Te'o will address the media on Thursday.

ESPN reports Manti Te'o released the following statement to the network Wednesday evening:

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."

Te'o was a runner-up for the 2012 Heisman Trophy and is projected to be among the top picks in the 2013 NFL Draft.

FOX28 News is following this story and will have the latest on-air and on fox28.com as it becomes available.

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