PALMDALE — The home where Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is currently staying became secluded after Deadspin’s report was published last week. Tuiasosopo is alleged to be the mastermind behind “Lennay Kekua,” a fake identity he supposedly used to dupe Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who called the fabricated woman his girlfriend. Fascinated by the story, LBS decided to change things up and do some field reporting last week. Our findings were limited, but we can tell and show you what it’s like by the home.
I headed out to Palmdale, Calif., last Thursday evening to the address listed for the Oasis Christian Church of the Antelope Valley. Tuiasosopo’s father, Titus, is a pastor for the church. Ronaiah is said to be heavily involved in the church as well. I was hoping to encounter someone from the family at the church, or someone who knew Ronaiah so I could gather some information. The address listed for the church actually takes one to the home of Titus Tuiasosopo, which is where Ronaiah has been staying.
The two-story home is located at the end of a cul-de-sac in Palmdale, about an hour north of Los Angeles. The home has a nice-sized backyard, and even includes a swimming pool with a water slide (fun!). When I arrived, TV trucks from every major local news channel Los Angeles were already set up. Reporters were filming reports, though nobody had any luck getting shots or comments from anyone living in the house.
There were three cars in the driveway: a Chevy Astro van, Cadillac, and Ford Explorer. Curtains covered every window in the front of the home, and other linens/blankets were used to cover windows in the back of the home. Though the family tried blacking out all windows for privacy purposes, a sign saying “Mahalo for removing your” sandals remained on the front door:
Nobody responded to multiple rings of the doorbell.
People were definitely home, because you could see lights on from the back of the house and somebody was watching television. I even saw a large man emerge from the back door of the home, though he wouldn’t answer any of my questions. He stayed outside to smoke two cigarettes and play on his cell phone for about 15 minutes before returning inside. There were cigarettes on the ground all over the home.
In addition to closing off all windows for privacy purposes, the house was a mess. There was trash in the front, back, and side yards.
The van was packed with band gear, which makes sense considering Ronaiah plays in the church band. Hanging from the rear-view mirror in the Explorer were two passes for USC games — the kind someone would wear around their neck if they were a guest at a game. One of the passes had the late Fred Matua’s name and picture on it. Matua was an All-American lineman at USC before dying last August. The Explorer had a rear license plate frame from Sport Chalet that said, “I’d rather be playing softball.”
Neighbors seemed pretty stunned at how busy things had become in their ordinarily quiet neighborhood. One neighbor told me that they hardly ever have any issues with the Tuiasosopos. About all he could tell me about the Tuiasosopos is that they play a lot of volleyball, and the band practices music at the home.
Ronaiah still has not talked to the media about his alleged role in the hoax. His uncle, Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, says he may do so soon. Numerous media outlets — including Dr. Phil — left notes, letters, or business cards at the front door trying to convince the young man to speak with them when he does tell his side.
It’s unclear whether the church congregates at the home, but I did find a few signs of the religious organization. In addition to a chair in the yard that seemed to be designated for the church, I found a prayer sheet of Titus Tuiasosopo:
Titus Tuiasosopo IS THAT CHURCH. You better recognize, homes.Google+