WARNING: Details contained in this article are graphic and disturbing.
The day before he’s set to learn how long he will be imprisoned for, 39-year-old Wade Stene addressed the court.
Stene pleaded guilty in February to kidnapping, confining and sexually assaulting an eight-year-old Edmonton girl, as well as unlawfully inviting a person under 16 to touch his body in March 2020.
The child was so frightened court heard she thought the stranger was going to eat her and kill her.
Stene spoke to the girl’s family on Tuesday. In his speech, he apologized a number of times.
“I honestly never intended any of this to happen and I am truly sorry for what happened — deeply and honestly sorry.”
He went on to speak about remorse — a contentious point the Crown and defense disagree on, specifically whether it should be considered a mitigating factor in sentencing.
“The court people have tried to state that I only felt remorse after the fact, but the truth is I felt remorse during the act. It’s what caused me to stop whatever evil possessed me to do what I did.
“It caused me to take her near your home so she would return safely to you,” Stene said.
But the Crown questioned that immediate remorse, noting that Stene kept the child’s underwear, stored them in an urn, and took a lewd photo with them the following day.
He also denied any involvement with the crime when later interrogated by police.
The Crown is seeking a 20-year sentence while the defense says 10 would be more appropriate.
The two parties differ on a few key points, including whether or not the crime was pre-meditated.
Crown prosecutor Keith Nicholls says the fact that Stene was wearing a respirator mask when he grabbed the child, and already had the back seats in his vehicle down, a white blanket draped over it, and duct tape at the ready to bound the child is like having a rape kit at the ready.
The defense lawyer, Mark Jordan, originally said the mask was used because it was a pandemic and his client was health conscious. But when the judge pointed out nobody was wearing masks in March 2020, he then said it was a mask Stene used at work around chemicals.
Nicholls pointed out Stene removed his mask during the actual assault.
Jordan also explained the white blanket, duct tape and seat positioning, saying his client had moved a number of boxes recently, using the tape to close them up.
Another point of contention is whether Stene’s sentence should be reduced — and if so, to what extent — because of vigilante protests that took place outside his home after he was released on bail into the victim’s neighbourhood.
Stene said he and his mother were threatened, things were thrown at the windows, a coffin was placed the edge of the property and he so feared for his safety he asked to be put back in jail.
In his final words to the victim’s family Tuesday, Stene asked for forgiveness.
“I hope one day, not now, but one day down the road maybe you can forgive what I’ve done to you, your family and your daughter. I’m sorry,” he said.
In response to his speech, the victim’s family sent a statement to Global News.
“It was incredibly difficult to hear (him) speak, to see him look us in the eye and state that he had remorse during ‘the act’…
“True remorse accepts appropriate consequences.”
The statement continues: “If Wade Stene gets the sentence he is asking for, his victim will be 16 years old upon his release.
“The court has a responsibility to make the sexual assault of a child a very serious crime with very serious consequences. Anything less would be an insult to all we have gone through.
“As for forgiveness, we believe it is possible, but it does not feel possible right now.”
The judge is slated to give her decision Wednesday afternoon.