ESPN's Shelley Smith is reporting that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the apparent creator of the Lennay Kekua hoax, confessed to duping Manti Te'o, according to an interview with a friend of Tuiasosopo. "He told me Manti was not involved at all, he was the victim," the woman told Smith, in an audio recording broadcast on ESPN.
That woman isn't named, but we believe we know who she is. Another one of Smith's sources, a man named J.R. Vaosa, spoke to us for our original story, saying Tuiasosopo had confessed to his best friend. He tried to put us in touch with her, to no avail. Vaosa was one of our two unnamed sources who believed that Tuiasosopo had been in league with Te'o in the deception.
Te'o's role in the hoax remains the biggest unanswered question. Notre Dame's investigators said they were certain that Te'o had no knowledge of the hoax before he received a phone call from the number he'd known as Lennay's on Dec. 6. (Regarding the confession's timing: Tweets accusing Ronaiah of masterminding the whole thing surfaced on Dec. 4.) But Vaoso, whose cousin had been duped by Lennay/Tuiasosopo in for a month in 2008, said he was "80 percent" certain that Te'o had known of the hoax at some point before Lennay's "death."
In either case, Te'o, per Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick, knew by Dec. 6 that Lennay Kakua had not existed. And two days later, as the AP noted first, he was still talking about her publicly as if she were real. "I don't like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer," Te'o said on Dec. 8, while talking to reporters in advance of the Heisman Trophy ceremony.