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LDS temple video director, Sundance co-founder charged with sexual abuse of a child

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LDS temple video director, Sundance co-founder charged with sexual abuse of a child. (Photo: KUTV)

Updating a story we first reported in February, Sterling Van Wagenen, a co-founder of Sundance and director of LDS temple videos, is now charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a child.

The abuse happened at least two times to a girl who was between 7 and 9-years-old during the abuse. News of the charges came from a report published by Ryan McKnight on Truth and Transparency's website.

Van Wagenen was in the news in February 2019 after a man, now in his 30s, recorded Van Wagenen admitting to abusing him when he was a child in the early 1990s.

The charges, filed April 2 in the Third District Court in West Jordan, detail abuse allegations from a girl who was between 7 and 9-years-old during the abuse which happened between January 2013 and December 2015.

The girl told her parents she was touched inappropriately by Van Wagenen on at least two occasions.

Van Wagenen was a position of trust, the documents say, and he used that trust to sexually abuse the girl.

Court documents say:

The presumptive sentence for a conviction of this offense is 15 years to life. Imprisonment is mandatory.

We've posted the charging documents at the bottom of this story.

Not related to the current charges, in February 2019, a man claiming he was molested by Van Wagenen recorded Van Wagenen apparently admitting to the abuse, which happened in the early 90s.

That man spoke to 2News about the abuse. You can see his story here.

That nearly 55-minute audio recording was released on truthandtransparency.org in February. You can listen to it in the YouTube video below.

That victim, now in his 30s, spoke with 2News about his ordeal and his hopes that the Chuch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will change how it reports sexual child abuse.

Asking to be called David, and for 2News to hide his identity, he spoke about the alleged abuse by Van Wagenen, and the reaction from the LDS Church.

“Why was I never offered any emotional support? Counseling? Therapy? Nothing," David said.

Van Wagenen was employed by the Church for some time after the reported abuse. David says he has questions about that as well.

Van Wagenen can be heard apologizeing about the abuse in the audio.

"Why was he never given any ongoing counseling, support, accountability, to ensure that nothing like this would ever happen again?” he asked.

David said he wants to see change in the way the Church handles allegations of abuse against its members going forward.

“I think there's a real issue there, it needs to be corrected, it needs to be addressed," David said. "It's a lot bigger; it's bigger than me.”

A Sundance Institute spokesperson said: "Sundance Institute always stands in solidarity with those whose brave truth-telling shines light on abusive behavior. Recent reports in the press have made us aware of an admission of sexual abuse by Sterling Van Wagenen, who played a role in founding both the Festival and the Institute. He has no current connection to either entity, and hasn't since he left our Utah Advisory Board in 1993. We categorically denounce his behavior as described in recent reports."

The LDS Church declined to comment.

WARNING: the documents below contain details of child sex abuse many may find disturbing.

Sterling Van Wagenen Charing Documents:

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