Dawn Sterling

Look, why do you hate us so much? Well, is it because we have the courage to worship the Lord? Because we believe in the sanctity of marriage? Because we renounce homosexuality?
~ Sterling defending her warped view of Christianity

Dawn Sterling (real name: Mary Ann White) is the main villainess from "Church", episode 17.14 of Law & Order.

She was portrayed by Julie Benz, who is best known for playing Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.



Dawn Sterling's backstory revealed that she was born Mary Ann White in Atlanta. In 1990, Mary Ann was arrested for cocaine possession, and in the following year, she was arrested for her work as a prostitute. It was in 1991 that Mary Ann changed her name to Dawn, and she later married James Sterling, the leader of the New Promise Church, which (among other things) preached against homosexuality.


The beginning of the episode showed Dawn and James encountering openly gay actor Jeff Cantwell, who had knowledge of James' homosexual affairs and planned to out him as a hypocrite and fraud. According to Scott Jepsen, Dawn snarled that she wasn't going to allow Cantwell to ruin her church, and after her vow, the villainess drove to Cantwell's apartment, where she shot and killed him--stating the murder to look like a suicide committed by a troubled man conflicted over his sexual orientation. James ended up arrested for the murder, after which he revealed that he spent an immense amount of time trying to "save" him (possibly suggesting that Cantwell was another lover), but after denying the claims of murder, James committed suicide in his cell, leaving a note which had him taking the fall for Dawn.

Dawn continued to paint her deceased husband as Cantwell's killer, but after her criminal past was uncovered by McCoy and Rubirosa, the former of the two offered Dawn a plea deal: second-degree murder for a 15 year sentence. Dawn originally turned it down, but after being reminded that she'll face immense scrutiny from the church regarding her past as a prostitute, Dawn took the deal, claiming that all she cared about was the church.


           Law & Order Logo.png Villains

Law & Order
Albert Lawrence Cheney | April Troost | Arthur Tunney | Dawn Sterling | Dena Carter | Diana Hawthorne | Dr. Diane Meade | Eileen Willick | Emma Kim | Frances Houston | Gayle Janaway | Jacob Lowenstein | Joyce Pollock | Julia Veloso | Katherine Waxman | Leon Vorgitch | Liann Crosby | Mark Bruner | Molly Preston | Samantha Weaver | Simon Brooks | Stephanie Harker

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
Alana Gonzalez | Alexa Pearson | Alexander Strizhov | Anya Ragova | April Troost | Amelia Chase | Andrew Croft | Arthur Pruitt | Ash Gordon | Billy Tripley | Carlo Parisi | Christine Hartwell | Church of Wisdom and Sight | Craig Prince | Dale Stuckey | Dana Lewis | Kevin O'Donnell| Mark Foster| Darryl Kern | Deacon Brinn | Deborah Latrell | Dennis Caufield | Dr. Carl Rudnick | Bridget "Birdie" Sulloway | Dr. Nicole Keller | Earl Gilmore | Edgar Noone | Elaine Frye Cavanaugh | Emily McCooper | Emma Spevak | Eric Plummer | Erik Weber | Eugene Hoff | Frank Martin | Frederick Tucker | Gina Silver | Gloria Montero | Gordon Rickett | Harry Waters | Harvey Denis | Heather Parcell | Heather Riggs | Henry Mesner | Holden March | Ingrid Block | Jaina Jansen | Jake O'Hara | Jaleel Amir | Jamie Huntington | Jimmy G. | Jimmy Walp | Jiya Alexander | John Fenwick | Johnny D. | Joseph Serumaga | Judge Hilda Marsden | K.O.B.S | Katie Cavanaugh | Kenneth Cleary | Larry Moore | Laurel Linwood | Lauren Cooper | Lawrence Holt | Liam Connors | Lloyd Andrews | Lowell Harris | Lucas Biggs | Luke Mitchell | Maggie Peterson | Mark Krieger | Mark Ocurro | Marta Stevens | Martin Schultz | Matthew Brodus | Merritt Rook | Mike D. | Miriam Penner | Missy Kurtz | Neil Alexander | Nikki Hallander | Pam Adler | Paula Foster | Perry Moncaldo | Peter Harrison | Peter Ridley | Phoebe Bernap | Professor Rousseau | Ray Gunther | Richard White | Ricky Blaine | Riley Couger | Rob Miller | Robert Morten | Robert Sidarsky | Ryan Quinn | Sadie Parker | Sal Avelino | Saleh Amir | Scott Dayton | Sheila Porter | Sheldon Kerrick | Stefan Tanzic | Terri Banes | Victor Paul Gitano | William Lewis | William Lexner

Law & Order: Criminal Intent
Christine Mayfield | Christine Wilkes | Danielle McCaskin | Dr. Katrina Pynchon | Mark Ford Brady | Elise Garrett | Ella Miyazaki | Jo Gage | John Tagman | Kathy Jarrow | Nicole Wallace | Bernard Fremont | Tammy Mills

Law & Order: LA
Monica Jarrow | Valerie Roberts

Law & Order: Organized Crime
Richard Wheatley | Izak Bekher

Dr. Greg Yates |

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