ESPN is reporting today that an unnamed woman, claiming to be a church friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged mastermind behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend death hoax, told reporters from their investigative show Outside the Lines that Tuiasosopo "called her in early December crying and admitted to duping the Heisman finalist."
Tuiasosopo's "church friend" also told ESPN that Tuiasosopo admitted to having his female cousin speak to Te'o over the phone pretending to be related to the fictitious girlfriend Lennay Kekua.
According to ESPN, the church friend is a woman in her mid-20s, who agreed to be interviewed under the condition that she not be identified, saying she was fearful for her family's safety because of the overwhelming publicity the story has generated. In the interview, she did allow for her voice to be recorded.
She reportedly told ESPN that "Tuiasosopo gave her the tearful confession and account of how he played what he said was at first a game on the unsuspecting Te'o. And, she says, he told her that it wasn't the first time he had done it."
"He (Ronaiah) told me that Manti was not involved at all, he was a victim. ... The girlfriend was a lie, the accident was a lie, the leukemia was a lie," said the woman. "He was crying, he was literally crying, he's like 'I know, I know what I have to do.'
"It's not only Manti, but he was telling me that it's a lot of other people they had done this to."
Notre Dame school officials, Te'o and his parents have become the center a mass media blitz since issuing a news release Wednesday after Deadspin.com reported it could find no record of Lennay Kekua, Te'o's supposed dead girlfriend, ever existing.
Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said in a news conference Wednesday night that Te'o had been the victim of what appeared to be a hoax. Someone using a fictitious name "apparently ingratiated herself" with Te'o, the school said, then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had died of leukemia.
Swarbrick said that the relationship took place online and over the phone. Te'o had described staying on the phone with whom he thought was Kekua for hours each night over many months.
Yesterday, Us Weekly also reported that Tuiasosopo auditioned for The Voice and shared "sob story" with the judges.
"He had this insane sob story before [he sang]," an insider reveals to Us. "It would make for great TV."
According to the source, Tuiasosopo told producers he and his cousins started a Christian band together and were on their way to perform at a youth conference in Nevada when they got into a "massive" car accident. He claimed a truck crashed into their vehicle, sending them flip-flopping all over the freeway. He also said doctors thought one of them might have been brain-dead, but miraculously, everyone was fine.
The woman's name is Diane O'Meara. Her lawyer reportedly told the program that her client is also a victim and that her photos were stolen and used to create the illusion of Te'o's girlfriend.
Deadspin is also reporting that Manti Te'o's uncle, Alema Te'o, went on The Zone Sports Network last night and spoke to radio hosts Scott Garrard and Jake Scott about the Manti Te'o-Lennay Kekua story.
According to Deadspin, Alema didn't have much to say about Manti, but he did not have anything nice to say about Tuiasosopo:
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing, he misrepresented whatever program that he was trying to get across to Manti, and shoot, he lied every step of the way. I don't feel it's beyond him to hire somebody or bring somebody in to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal.
Nevertheless, with all the new information coming out and shedding new light on the situation, sports fans have to be asking themselves how this hoax lasted so long and got so out of control? Was Manti Te'o a victim or did he know about it all along?