01/18/2013 03:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, California Resident, Created Manti Te'o's Fake Girlfriend

The origin of the mysterious hoax involving Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and the fabrication of a dead girlfriend has deep ties to Southern California.

The online publication Deadspin identified a former star high school quarterback from Palmdale as the apparent originator of the hoax, and a 22-year-old woman from Torrance whose photo was used, without her knowledge, to create the girlfriend persona.

On Thursday, reporters from around the country descended on a quiet Palmdale cul-de-sac to try to find out more about Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who played at both Antelope Valley and Paraclete high schools.

He was identified as the person who created -- and later "killed" -- a fake online girlfriend persona that apparently fooled his friend Te'o, though some have speculated the linebacker was in on the hoax for publicity purposes.

Tuiasosopo's father, Titus, is a pastor who runs the Oasis Christian Church out of his home, as well as at a Methodist church in Palmdale, neighbors said. He also played football at the USC in the early 1990s. In fact, many other members of the family played college and pro ball, according to Deadspin.

But Ed Lalau, a cousin of Titus Tuiasosopo, said the scandal has been difficult, and surprising, for the family.

"This is all still new to me. I don't think Ronaiah would do that," Lalau said in a brief telephone interview with the Daily News. "He comes from a good family."

He added: "I just pray that we get over this. It's been a nightmare for everyone."

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo attended three high schools in three years, finishing his senior year at Paraclete, a Catholic high school in Lancaster, where he led his team to a 12-1 record.

As a sophomore at Antelope Valley High he was named all-Golden League honorable mention. A 2005 profile of him in the Daily News described him as having natural ability, a strong arm and leadership skills beyond his age.

After high school he became involved in leading the band at his father's church, and sings secular and religious songs which can be found on YouTube, according to Deadspin.

On Thursday, neighbors came out to gawk at the media circus in the neighborhood, though some expressed annoyance, including one who turned on his lawn sprinklers to chase reporters away.

Ayo Adeneye, who lives next door to the Tuiasosopo family, said he was surprised at the scandal, while his three young daughters felt overwhelmed by the media presence.

"I can say they're really good people," said Adeneye, 43. "One of them is a pastor. Sometimes they have services here. They also go to a Methodist church on 10th Street West and Avenue G."

A Torrance woman was also involved in the Te'o scandal, though unwittingly, according to Deadspin.

Photographs of the woman taken from her Facebook and Instagram accounts became the face of Lennay Kekua, Te'o's nonexistent girlfriend.

Deadspin reporters who broke the story found the woman and provided her with anonymity, calling her "Reba," yet another phony name.

Reba told Deadspin that she had no idea that her photograph had been used, but she had willingly taken her picture in December and sent it to Tuiasosopo, an acquaintance she had known from Antelope Valley High School.

Tuiasosopo contacted her on Facebook for the first time since they had graduated and asked her if she could take her photograph for his cousin. He said his cousin had been in a serious car accident, had seen her photographs and thought she was pretty.

Tuiasosopo asked Reba if she could hold up a sign scrawled with MSMK to put in a slide show created to aid his cousin's recovery. Reba made the sign and emailed the photo, Deadspin reported.

That photo became Lennay's Twitter profile picture. And then Reba began to piece things together. She Googled Lennay Kekua's name, and found the Twitter profile. She then called Tuiasosopo, who "immediately began acting weird" and told her not to worry.

The photo was removed from the @LoveMSMK Twitter account moments after the phone call.

Efforts by other reporters to find Reba -- and determine her true identity -- have been unsuccessful.

Correspondent Gerry Gittelson contributed to this report., 818-713-3730 ___



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