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 sleep all weekend, and cried through most of it. Dawn’s mom suggested that the whole thing seemed biblical. Like Job. Like they were being tested. But that didn’t make it any easier for her.

“I felt like an idiot,” she says. “How can you not know your husband is looking in someone’s e-mail file? How can you not know the other things?”

The following Monday, she had to go to work at Fox 29, where they’d been covering this story like the big news it was. She went to the office of general manager Mike Renda.

“She told me, ‘Look. I’m here to do my job,’” Renda says. “And I told her, ‘That’s what we want you to do.’” Of course, she recused herself from covering the news about Larry. But she had to be on the air in front of tens of thousands of people who’d just found out that her husband had been accused by the feds of hacking into his co-anchor’s e-mails and leaking information from them to the newspapers.

That night, Larry’s sister, who lives in the area, sent Dawn an e-mail: “I tuned in to see if you were there and I saw that you were and it let me know that everything was going to be okay.” Dawn thought: As long as I’m on-air, maybe that’s my statement. That life goes on.

And so every night, she was on the air.

She was on the air the day she walked into Starbucks and broke into sobs when a patron recognized her and asked how she was doing. And the day she came home to find a parade of news vans outside her house, including one driven by her good friend from work, Mark LaValla, because the stations had received tips that Larry was going to be arrested that day. (He wasn’t.) And on the day Larry lost his job.

She was on the air the day Larry was officially charged with logging onto Alycia Lane’s accounts beginning in March 2006 — accessing those accounts more than 500 times from January 2008 to May 2008 alone. But, perhaps most difficult of all, she was on the air the night after Larry’s hearing on August 22, 2008, when he said, in a press conference, that his relationship with Alycia Lane had been “flirtatious, unprofessional and improper.”

Earlier that day, after Larry’s hearing, she’d made her first public comment to a reporter standing outside the courtroom: “I love my husband. He is a good man.”

And those weren’t just words. She believed them.

“If you love someone, and you believe in them, then you look at the total person. That’s how I look at Larry. I look at him as this wonderful, loving man who is so good and … just a great father and a great husband,” Dawn says. “I love him more now than I ever did. … I feel bad for people who don’t know this kind of love for someone.”

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  • Deni

    Larry Mendte should be ashamed of himself for allowing his wife to publicize her private thoughts. He has stooped to a new low. No decent, loving husband would let his wife demean herself in such a fashion.Prior to this article, I felt sorry for Dawn. Now I feel nothing but disgust.Grow a backbone Dawn.

  • p

    I don't believe it. I'm sorry Dawn but Larry sold you a bill of goods, they kissed? No freakin way. He lies and is sneaky and to keep making Alycia Lane a part of this like somehow its her fault Larry is nuts its so wrong.
    Show me the emails she was flirting with your husband…

  • M

    I just finished reading the article "Dawn's Dark Days". Unlike one of the previous comments, I didn't find the article demeaning to Ms. Stensland in any way. I just found it to be a well written narrative by the author of Ms. Stensland's feelings regarding her husband's affair and crime. I don't think it should be up to Larry to "allow" his wife to publicize anything. It's HER prerogative to do so if she wishes. I do agree with the previous reader that Larry "sold her a bill of goods" regarding the limits of his relationship with Alycia Lane. However, overall I find Ms. Stensland to be the only victim in this scenario between the relationships. The invasion of email is another matter. Larry Mendte is admittedly guilty and now paying the price. I find both he and Alycia Lane are both egomaniacs who want press when it's GOOD press and want "privacy" when it's BAD press. At least Mr. Mendte admitted guilt and is moving on. Ms. Lane should come out of her cocoon of pretending t

  • M

    to crave privacy (after showing up on Dr. Phil regarding her first divorce and discussing her wedding gown purchase for her short lived second marriage on the news) and get on with her life. I'll be anxious to see how much "privacy" she seeks in the future.

    Would be nice if the comment feature had a auto stop when 200 words are reached. :o)

  • muriel

    Dawn, Stop kicking yourself and kick him…OUT!! You and your children deserve better!

  • paline

    I Dawn showed real class on what she did. And to the people who have never been married or other wise, lay off and get a life! Larry and Dawn made a wedding vow( you know " for better or worse") does that ring anybodies bell?! Ask anyone who has been through it before and are still married.

    And not just famous people (real ordinary people as well). So don't judge a book by it's cover.

  • Jenn

    I too felt so sorry for Dawn when this story began to break but now, after reading this article, I can't help but feel disappointed in Dawn. I am always so shocked when I see women stand by their men after being publicly humiliated. (E.g. Dina Matos-McGreevey and the like.) How can you just stand back when you know full well that your husband is cheating and making a fool of you? I'm not saying she had to leave him but at least confront him. I just don't get it.

  • JUDY

    I REALLY DONT THINK THAT THERE IS A WOMAN OUT HERE NOW A DAYS WHO HAVE NOT BEEN THROUGH SO FORM OF A CHEATING BOYFRIEND HUSBAND ETC AND HAVE TAKEN THEM BACK NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCES ARE..JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE IN THE LIMELIGHT OTHERS SAY SHE SHOULD LEAVE HIM WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE NOT BUT TO BE HUMILIATED WHEN FRIENDS AND FAMILY KNOW LEAVE DAWN ALONE SHE KNOWS WHAT SHE IS DOING WITH HER HUSBAND AND THE CRAP HE TOOK HER THROUGH…

  • laura

    typical "christian" hypocrisy. so she thinks that a man who was already cheating (doesn't matter whether sex was or was not involved) when they met would not turn around and do the same to her at some point? women are so naive. newsflash: every man when given the opportunity will take the bait. if you don't think so, you are truly in denial.

  • harry

    I just read the article and first of all, Dawn tells the public, way too much information. Dawn you can't be that dumb! Just like the Andy Reed (coach of the Eagles) story, keep your family matters private. There was no need to hang your "dirty laundry" out in public. I think Dawn is a fool for not realizing what was going on. Not to mention when Larry bought the expensive gift for Alycia. Dawn get with it, Larry is a dog and always will be. You can do better and you should cut your losses now!

  • Patrick

    Dawn you married your stalker and know he is stalking someone else.

  • Levi

    I totally support Ms. Stensland and will hold my tongue about Mr. Mendte because Ms. Stensland loves him. I love you, Ms. Stensland (giggling.)

  • Blake

    Dawn Stensland is not the strong woman she portrays herself as. She has no respect for herself. You dont make a life commitment with someone in having a child when that other person can’t commit to you. I feel bad for weak people like this. And she justifies herself because of the love she has for him… Funny, where was his love for her during those late nights?

  • Kathleen

    Just heard your contract has not been renewed. Sorry to hear another piece of bad news. You ae a strong woman and I’m sure things will work out for you. My husband left me after 24 years fo marriage and three children. He found someone younger. After 18 years with the second wife…he found someone even younger. Sometimes an old dog is just that…an old dog. God bless you.

  • Lisa

    I met you several years ago at a day spa and I thought you were as nice as you appear on TV. I enjoyed watching you on FOX (you and Huddleston were my favorite news team). I can’t believe they didn’t renew your contract and I hope you can find another home here in Philly. And your personal life is your personal life but I guess when you’re on TV, nothing is personal anymore. Best wishes for whatever life brings your way. You’re fantastic!

  • tierell

    Hi Dawn they say GOD don’t get u thing u can’t bear I think u will be fine. U will be in my prays.

  • NANCY

    I NEVER REALIZED THAT DAWN WAS SUCH A GOOD CHRISTIAN AND THAT THAT WAS THE BASIS OF HER
    FORGIVENESS OF LARRY. BOY, IT MUST BE VERY HARD
    TO FIND OUT THAT YOUR HUSBAND OF LESS THAN THREE
    YEARS, AND YOU’RE PREGNANT, THAT HE IS FOOLING
    AROUND WITH HIS ANCHOR. SOOOOOOOOOO PUBLIC AND
    ALL. I REALLY ADMIRE HER FOR HER DECISION TO
    FORGIVE LARRY AND TO KEEP HER FAMILY IN TACT. H IS
    GROWN CHILDREN SHOULD BE VERY PROUD OF DAWN AND THE
    PERSON THAT SHE REALLY IS. IS LARRY FINISHED OR
    IS THERE A FUTURE FOR HIM IN THE NEWS BUSINESS?
    ANY FUTURE EMPLOYER WILL HAVE A HARD TIME TRUSTING
    HIM, I’M SURE, BUT THE BEST TO THE MENDTE FAMILY
    FOR PERSERVERING. YOU’D BETTER APPRECIATE HER,
    LARRY.

  • Falcone
  • Joanne

    As a Chicagoan who remembers both of these reporters, I am actually shocked that the beautiful, talented Dawn Stensland, who had a lovely presence on camera, ever got hooked up with that strange Larry Mendte.

  • Anne

    You are too good for your HUSBAND.Leave him nobody else would want or take him. Not even on a BET

  • Tara

    The women’s movement has struggled for more than a century against such emotional abuse by men. I would have expected more from an educated woman in this day and age. Ms. Stensland’s refusal to deal with her situation shows weakness and dependence, not strength and dignity. Like many abused women, she is unable (emotionally) to leave her abuser and, indeed, apparently does not even recognize that she is being abused. And, it is unbelievable that her arrogant husband is back on the air giving, of all things, relationship advice related to the Tiger Woods scandal!! Really, Larry??

  • Dan

    I read this article and came away embarrassed for Dawn. This woman sounds like a complete pushover. I can almost guarantee with a weak-willed woman like this, he’ll cheat again. Wake up Dawn!

  • Lord,R.C.Q.K.T.N.W. TAINAAN, III

    MRS. STENSLAND IS A LADY OF GRACE, AND CLASS, AND I SUPORT HER