LDS filmmaker charged with aggravated sexual abuse of a child

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, April 10, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — A Utah filmmaker who co-founded the Sundance Film Festival and whose most recent film credit is for the Latter-day Saint story “Jane and Emma” is facing one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, a first-degree felony.

Sterling Gray Van Wagenen, 71, was charged on April 4 in connection with two incidents that allegedly happened in 2013 and 2015 when the girl involved was between the ages of 7 and 9, court documents say.

A detective with the Sandy City Police Department filed the probable cause statement, which says the alleged victim had told her parents about abuse, and it was then reported to the Division of Child and Family Services, which alerted police.

The alleged victim said that Van Wagenen rubbed her body under her clothing on both occasions, one in her Salt Lake County home and one in Utah County.

“Later when they went to lunch, Van Wagenen asked her if the touching had bothered her,” the statement says.

“Van Wagenen said that he did the same to (an adult female the child knew), and if it made her uncomfortable, he wouldn’t do it anymore. (The girl) told him it did make her uncomfortable, and Van Wagenen said he wouldn’t do it again.”

Sterling Van Wagenen. Photo: University of Utah

Van Wagenen, a Woodland Hills resident, was released on $75,000 bail, court documents say.

Besides serving as executive producer for 2018’s “Jane and Emma,” Van Wagenen is best known for producing “A Trip to Bountiful” (1985).

His other faith-related projects include “The Work and The Glory,” 2 and 3, in 2005 and 2006; “That Promised Day: The Coming Forth of the LDS Scriptures” (video, 2010); “Messiah: Behold the Lamb of God”  (2010 documentary series); and a 2014 episode of BYUtv’s “Granite Flats.”

Van Wagenen formerly taught at Brigham Young University, where he served as content director for BYUtv between 2007 and 2010.

In addition, Van Wagenen taught at the University of Utah, quitting earlier this year after reports surfaced that he had touched a 13-year-old boy inappropriately in 1993.

No charges were filed in that case, and Van Wagenen recently apologized, saying he was sorry for touching the victim over his clothes. The victim has said Van Wagenen touched him under his clothing.

Van Wagenen’s next court date is for a May 2 scheduling hearing.


  1. Pedophile attraction to younger children is often the only intimacy they have ever desired. It is the only attraction they have really ever known. They were born that way. They weren’t taught it. They came by it naturally. It is natural and therefore it cannot be wrong. It is just different. LGBTQ-P? Let’s be broadminded, liberal, loving and accepting.

  2. Ida you are insane! How dare you justify the behavior of a pervert and ignore the innocence of children. You are just as sick as him.


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