Dawn’s Dark Days

As her husband, Larry Mendte, was pleading guilty to federal cyber crimes and telling the world he’d had an “improper” relationship with Alycia Lane, Fox 29 anchor Dawn Stensland had to hold it together so she could report the news every night on TV. Now, in an exclusive interview, Stensland speaks out about the e-mails she discovered, her recent miscarriage, why she’s been able to forgive her husband, and why she can’t yet forgive herself

“You wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that something was going on,” says Dawn’s mother, Rosemary Stensland. But Rosemary was torn, struggling with what was her business and what wasn’t. She started off gently, asking Dawn, “Where’s Larry?” Dawn answered: “His post-show meeting probably went late.” Rosemary wasn’t convinced. She began to show her unease in little ways, like serving plates of dinner to everyone except Larry. But eventually, she addressed it head-on.

“Dawn,” she said, “Larry is coming home too late. These business meetings he’s saying are happening can’t be going on until three o’clock in the morning.”

“You know Larry’s a workaholic,” Dawn explained, though she knew herself there had to be more to it, especially after she saw Larry’s American Express bill from May. There was a charge from Tiffany for more than $1,000. Wow, she thought to herself. I didn’t get any Tiffany jewelry. Her very first Mother’s Day had just come, and gone, with no robin’s-egg-blue box. Larry had given her flowers.

“What’s this?” she asked Larry, pointing at the credit-card statement.

“Dawn, that was for Stacia,” he said, though Dawn knew Larry’s daughter hadn’t received any big gifts from her dad. Still, Dawn says she was “too chicken to really confront him about it.” Later, after she went back to work in August, she brought it up again, and this time he admitted it was for Alycia.

“We had this bet, and I lost and had to buy her something,” he said.

“For a thousand dollars?

But again, Dawn forced herself to refocus. She had a sick baby to care for.

“I put it in God’s hands,” she says. “I just hoped and prayed that whatever this was, if nothing at all, it would just go away.”

But it didn’t go away. And she knew that for certain on New Year’s Day 2005, sitting in Larry’s office at CBS 3, seeing it in black and white, with her own eyes. Now she had real choices to make.

“I just think sometimes the best thing to do to save your marriage is to walk away and pretend it’s not happening and to be the great wife you are and the great mother you are,” she says. “To just have faith that everything’s going to be okay.”

Still, Dawn knew there was a good chance it wasn’t going to just disappear. She’d sent those e-mails between Larry and Alycia to her AOL account, an account she shared with Larry. That day when they got home, Larry saw them first. Later that evening, when Dawn checked her e-mail, there was a message waiting from him: “I don’t know what you think you found, but I love you. This is nothing.”

“Whatever it is or it isn’t, end it,” she said to him, finally, this time to his face. Larry told her how sorry he was. Dawn didn’t want details, and Larry promised her he would end it. He remembered an e-mail Dawn had sent him that fall, about a quiz she’d taken in a women’s magazine. One of the questions asked, “What would you do if you came home unexpectedly and heard your husband with another woman? Would you: A. Go in and confront him? B. Call a girlfriend? C. Leave the house and never say a word?” “I’m C,” she wrote in the e-mail.