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

“Was that your way of telling me you knew something?” he asked her now.

“Yes,” she said.

And that, she thought, was the end of it.

IN A WAY, it was. Larry started coming home much earlier. Dawn stopped hearing the gossip, other than the Daily News reporting in late 2005 that Larry and Alycia’s relationship at work had gotten a bit testy. Larry and Dawn decided to have another baby. After trying in vitro two more times, which ended in two more miscarriages, Dawn suddenly got pregnant naturally. The Mendtes welcomed Lawrence David II in September 2006. Dawn felt things were back to the way they used to be.

Then, on the morning of Thursday, May 29, 2008, there was a knock on their front door. Dawn’s father answered it. Her parents had flown in to spend a long weekend with the family at their condo at the Shore. The minivan was already packed, but Dawn was still in her pink PJs, drinking coffee in the kitchen, waiting for Michael to wake up so they could get on the road.

The next thing she knew, a dozen FBI agents were standing in her foyer, which was decorated, on every wall, with portraits of Dawn and Larry and their kids. Outside, in the driveway, was a paddy wagon.

“You have the wrong house,” Dawn said. “What number are you looking for?”

When the agents said they were from the cyber crime unit, Dawn looked at Larry and assumed he was thinking what she was: “Jonathan went on that Napster!” Either that, or she and Larry were being “punked.” But when several agents escorted Larry into the family room, she realized this was real. And serious.

“What’s this all about?” she asked an agent, when they were standing alone in her dining room.

“Do you know anything about your husband going into Alycia Lane’s e-mail account?” the agent asked.

“Absolutely not!” Dawn said. “Larry can’t even hook up the VCR. You think he’s going into someone’s account? That’s insane.”

But she knew it wasn’t when, minutes later, she saw Larry in the hallway. He grabbed her hand.

“I’ll explain everything,” he said. “I’m so sorry.” Uh-oh, Dawn thought. While agents spent hours copying files from the computer in Larry’s office, Larry pulled Dawn outside onto the back porch and came clean.

“This is all my fault. They are here because of me,” he said. Then he admitted to her that he’d looked into Alycia’s account. He had been worried about losing his job, he explained, and he told Dawn he’d heard rumors Alycia might write a tell-all book.

Dawn decided that weekend needed to be a “Come to Jesus” weekend. She’d insist Larry tell her everything, even though she wasn’t entirely sure she wanted him to. She didn’t want to be able to picture it in her mind.

“Do you love her?” she asked.

“No, Dawn, I love you.”

“Did you kiss?”

“Yes, we kissed, but never had sex,” he said. “I love you.”