WARNING: This article contains details about the sexual abuse of a minor.
Convicted sex offender Wade Stene has been sentenced to 15 ½ years in prison for the March 2020 kidnapping and sexual assault of an eight-year-old Edmonton girl.
Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench Justice Susan Richardson handed down her sentence on Wednesday afternoon, calling Stene's crime "planned, predatory and brazen."
The child's identity is protected by a court-ordered publication ban. On March 10, 2020, she was playing at a neighbour's house until it was time to go home for dinner.
She was walking through the back alley that connected the two houses in Edmonton's west-central McQueen neighbourhood when Stene spotted her from his vehicle.
He'd been driving around the neighbourhood for 15 minutes. When he saw the girl, he drove around the block, then returned to the alley and blocked the child.
"His plan was now given life," the judge said.
The victim tried to get around the vehicle, but Stene put on a mask, got out of his vehicle and grabbed her.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the little girl began to scream. He covered her mouth and threw her in the back seat of the car.
"The offender used red duct tape to tie her hands and legs together and he put tape over her mouth to stop her screams for help," the judge said.
"One can expect she'll be frozen in time anytime she sees a roll of red tape."
The little girl managed to get the tape off her mouth and began crying. Stene told her to be quiet as he drove to a nearby location, climbed into the back seat and sexually assaulted her.
Later Stene confessed to police, "she was super terrified I was going to murder her and I told her if she did everything I told her, she would make it home safely."
He also warned her not to tell anyone.
Justice Richardson found that Stene's crime was premeditated and that his only motivation for committing what she called "heinous acts of sexual violence" was his own sexual gratification.
Lack of true remorse
Stene pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexual assault and sexual interference in February 2022, one month before his jury trial was due to begin. The judge gave him credit for his guilty plea, because it spared the girl and her parents from having to testify.
But Richardson rejected Stene's apology made in court Tuesday as any true expression of remorse.
"His comment to the court and to the family that he felt remorse during the act itself is contradicted by his actions in saving the child's underwear," the judge said. "They compound the harm because they indicate a complete lack of self-awareness."
In a telephone interview with CBC News, the victim's aunt said she was grateful for the judge's comments. She also felt Stene's apology was disingenuous.
"The fact that he was able to look us in the eye without any emotion was extremely painful yesterday," the aunt said.
She was also grateful that the family's victim impact statements were reflected in the judge's sentencing decision.
"It was very moving to hear all of the ways that our words entered into her decision," the aunt said. "We were able to have a little bit of power in this. We have so little power."
'No sentence would have satisfied us'
During sentencing arguments, the Crown sought a 20-year sentence, while Stene's lawyer asked for 10 years.
The judge gave Stene credit for time already served, which should subtract an estimated three years and seven months from the 15 ½-year prison term.
"No sentence would have satisfied us, no amount of time will fully heal the harm that has been inflicted," the victim's father said in a written statement. "No judgment will fully protect the community that we all live in."
Justice Richardson said one of the reasons for the length of the sentence imposed is to protect the public from Stene.
"Mr. Stene poses a grave risk to the public," the judge said.
"His actions were planned, deliberate, predatory and calculated."
Once Stene has finished serving his sentence, he will not be allowed to be around anyone under the age of 16 unsupervised. He'll also be placed on the sex offender registry for life.