Edmonton neighbourhood erupts over release of accused sex offender

After three months in custody, accused child predator Wade Stene, 37, was granted bail by a Court of Queen's Bench justice. He's living with his mother in a house 200 metres away from the eight-year-old girl he allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted in March.

Wade Stene granted bail and now lives near 8-year-old victim

Wade Stene, 37, has been released on bail. (Edmonton Police Service)

An accused child predator has been released from custody and is back home living near the eight-year-old girl he allegedly sexually assaulted. 

Edmonton police say that in March, Wade Stene physically forced the girl, who was a stranger to him, into a car and then dropped her off about 40 minutes later in her McQueen neighbourhood. 

Stene, 37, was charged 10 days later with six offences, including kidnapping, sexual assault with a weapon and threats causing death or bodily harm. 

He had been in custody since March at the Edmonton Remand Centre. Stene applied for bail last month but a provincial court judge denied his release.

Last Friday, a Court of Queen's Bench justice held a bail review. Justice Douglas Mah granted his release.

Stene's lawyer, Mark Jordan, called it "a fair and dispassionate review." 

Stene was freed from custody on Tuesday. He must wear an electronic monitoring device and is on 24-hour house arrest in his mother's rented home in the McQueen neighbourhood.

Edmonton police on Wednesday issued a warning to the public about Stene's release that has since been removed from the Edmonton Police Service Facebook page because of what they describe as "extreme comments made on our original post."

A man, who did not want to be identified, sits in front of the house where Wade Stene lives with his mother. (David Bajer/CBC)

Stene's address has since been posted on social media and some area residents have made a point of going to the house. 

Neighbours are also considering staging a protest in front of Stene's house on Saturday.

Edmonton police were called out to the residence on Wednesday night after receiving several calls described by police spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard as "growing unrest regarding the accused's release."

Sheppard said there were some verbal exchanges between neighbours with Stene's mother but there were no physical confrontations or arrests.

"I was aware from Mr. Stene's mother that at least half a dozen people accosted her outside her home," Jordan said.

"At least one person made threatening comments to her."

Jordan said police returned on Thursday afternoon after a woman allegedly tried to enter the house to demand Stene's mother hand over her son. 

In a letter sent to Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee on Friday afternoon, Jordan wrote, "This type of vigilante justice would surely not have occurred but for the EPS 'public warning.'"

The letter stated the EPS Facebook post elicited hundreds of comments, including many threats to hurt or kill Stene. Referring to the protest planned for in front of Stene's mother's house, Jordan asked what steps are being taken to protect them.

"I ask too that the EPS issue an immediate 'public warning' that Mr. Stene's mother has banned anyone from entering her property and that your members will enforce the law to protect Mr. Stene and his mother," the letter stated.

On Friday, an EPS Facebook post explained Wednesday's warning about Stene was issued so citizens could "take suitable precautionary measures." The statement said EPS did not intend to encourage vigilante action.

"We want to remind everyone this type of behaviour will not be tolerated," the statement read.

Petition demands Stene's removal from neighbourhood 

Nathan DeVries lives seven doors down from Stene's house. His eight-year-old daughter is a close friend of the victim. 

He was devastated when he found out Stene had been released on bail.

"It was just like ripping the Band-Aid off a wound that had only just started to heal," DeVries said.

"It feels like a lot of our community is back under house arrest now, too." 

Nathan DeVries launched a petition that seeks to have Wade Stene removed from the McQueen neighbourhood. (NAIT)

DeVries said it was difficult to explain the situation to his children. 

"Having to explain to my daughter what happened in the first place was bad enough, and it shook her sense of safety and security and confidence," he said.

"Now, to have to readdress that has really undermined how she feels about being out in the world."

DeVries has told his children they must be with an adult if they leave the house. He's nervous about them playing in the backyard with Stene living so close by.

DeVries, who launched a petition to have Stene relocated from the community of McQueen, gathered more than 3,500 signatures in less than a day. 

Area resident Gretha Abma supports the idea of Stene's removal. 

"We of course don't want him to be sent to another neighbourhood either, but we just don't understand why he is no longer in jail," Abma told CBC News.

"Especially to be back in the neighbourhood where he supposedly committed the crime. How much suffering does this family and this girl have to go through before something is done about this?"

Gretha Abma has lived in the McQueen neighbourhood for more than 20 years. (David Bajer/CBC)

Stene's lawyer called the suggestion "completely unjustified."

'This will vilify him in his neighbourhood'

Another criminal defence lawyer used social media to criticize police for issuing the warning.

"The #EPS knows this will vilify him in his neighbourhood and make it difficult for him," Tom Engel wrote on Twitter. "This is shameful. Please retract, apologize and confirm what the court said."

Police Chief Dale McFee defended the decision to issue a warning. 

"The individual was put back in the area very close to the victim," McFee said. 

"We look at this from the perspective that we have an obligation to public safety."


Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.