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

Dawn didn’t look as nervous as she was. Just 20 minutes earlier, Larry’s attorney had asked her to take the stand on Larry’s behalf. She walked up to the witness box, her hands and knees shaking as she asked the judge for mercy for her husband, whom, she said, she knew better than anybody: “He’s just a man, a good man, a very good man, who did a bad thing.”

But it wasn’t until she addressed Alycia directly, craning her neck so she could see her, that she started to cry. “I want you to know, Alycia, how sorry he is,” she said. “And I hope that you can look into my eyes and know that in our home, there is nothing but sadness and sorrow over this.”

After Larry made his case and the prosecutors made theirs, the judge announced her decision. Larry was sentenced to six months of house arrest, and three years of probation. Dawn breathed an audible sigh of relief.

TEN DAYS AFTER the sentencing, in the office in Center City, it seems like things, for the first time in a long time, are okay for Dawn Stensland. Her job appears to be secure. Her dog is scheduled for chemo, which is expected to work. Christmas is right around the corner. She’s lost some weight, which she’s very happy about. And, of course, Larry’s home, still feeling humiliated by it all, but glad to have so much time to spend with his little boys.

“The only people who love house arrest are the kids,” Dawn says.

Clearly, the past couple months have been devastating for her. But that, really, wasn’t the worst of it — the public part, with the federal accusations and courtroom speeches, and her private life in newspaper stories, it seemed, every day.

“Going through the pregnancy [with Michael] and living through the whispers — that was the hardest part,” she explains. “It’s just you. You, the dog and the tree. Who do you tell when you’re in the public eye? You have to be so careful. … And when the tree fell and the dog got cancer, I thought, ‘What? Is this a sign from God?’”

Maybe it was.

Because there is one thing that still plagues Dawn — not that she doesn’t worry every time she sees Larry sitting in front of the computer, or doesn’t remind him whenever he hesitates to spend money on something, “You spent more than $1,000 on that jewelry.” But she can’t help but blame herself.

She wonders how things might have been different if she hadn’t confided in just the dog and the tree. Would it have changed the path? Would it have stopped one thing from leading to another? What if, at the parade, she’d chosen to say something? What if when she first heard the rumors, she hadn’t ignored them?

She thinks about this all the time.

“I wish I had gone into his newsroom and fully confronted him,” Dawn says. “Loudly."