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

Though Dawn was willing to forgive Larry, not everyone in her life was. Lots of her friends were furious for her.

“I was thinking, ‘This can’t be real,’” her friend, singer Lauren Hart, says of Dawn’s unwavering stand-by-him stance. “I find that incredibly strong. And unusual. But it’s just her way.”

“It’s a testimony of her faith,” says Dawn’s mother, Rosemary. “I just think she’s a woman that has God’s love dwelling in her, and that helps her to be strong and forgiving.”

Plus, by the time Larry made his statement to the public, he and Dawn were feeling things might not be as bad as they seemed. They’d just received some good news. Dawn was pregnant again.

WHEN THE CRAMPING started on October 17th, Dawn knew exactly what was happening inside her. Though she thought she was far enough along to be out of the woods, she couldn’t ignore these signs.

Larry rushed her to the hospital, where the doctor confirmed it — Dawn had had a miscarriage.

“It was a boy,” she says.

Dawn was crushed. She had to struggle even harder to stay positive. Larry’s sentencing on November 24th was approaching, and she didn’t know if he’d be carted away to jail for five years, which was the maximum punishment possible. She didn’t know if her job was secure, since over the spring and summer, just about the entire team that worked with her — co-anchor Dave Huddleston and sportscaster Don Tollefson — hadn’t had its contracts renewed. She didn’t know what would come of the civil suit Alycia’s attorney, Paul Rosen, had filed, accusing Larry of ruining her career. And she didn’t know if her family would be able to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner together, which was why, on Sunday, November 23rd, the day before the sentencing, she invited the whole Mendte clan over and cooked a big turkey.

Suddenly, they heard what sounded like an earthquake. Dawn ran to the window. She couldn’t believe what she saw. Her beloved 250-year-old scarlet oak tree had toppled to the ground.

“It’s an omen!” Dawn yelled.

“Don’t say that,” Larry said. “It didn’t crash into the house, so maybe it’s a good omen.”

The next afternoon, the federal courtroom was standing-room-only. There was a huge contingent in support of Alycia Lane, who sat in the front row. Larry sat at the defendant’s table with his attorney, bolstered by his supporters arrayed behind him — Jonathan and Stacia, his siblings, his minister, his in-laws. And, of course, Dawn, dressed in a black pantsuit, looking exactly the way she looks every night on TV. Dawn had come into the courtroom last, and as she walked in front of the first row of seats, she looked down at Alycia, smiled kindly, then whispered, “Hi, Alycia.”