LANCASTER, PENNSYLVANIA – Federal prosecutors say a Pennsylvania man sexually molested four teenage girls at a Kenyan orphanage he founded with a church’s help.
U.S. Attorney William McSwain announced charges Friday against 60-year-old Gregory Dow of Lancaster, hours after Dow was taken into custody.
McSwain says Dow fled Kenya in September 2017 after being accused in that country of sexual abuse of girls at the Dow Family Children’s Home in Boito, Kenya.
When Kenyan authorities issued an arrest warrant in September 2017 for Gregory Dow, charging him with sexually assaulting children at his missionary home, he fled.
He returned to Lancaster County, claiming his innocence.
But on Friday, Dow was arrested. This time he faced a federal indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly sexually assaulting four young teenagers at the Kenyan home.
Authorities took Dow, 60, into custody in East Hempfield Township early Friday, said William M. McSwain, United States attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, at a news conference Friday.
Dow faces four counts of engaging in an explicit sex act with a minor in a foreign country. Federal law allows the U.S. to have “extraterritorial jurisdiction” over certain sex offenses against children. If convicted on all counts, Dow could serve up to 120 years in prison, McSwain said at the news conference in the Lancaster County Courthouse.
“(Gregory Dow) purported to be a Christian missionary who would care for these orphans. They called him ‘Dad.’ But instead of being a father figure for them, he preyed on their youth and their vulnerability,” according to court documents filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Dow left his East Hempfield Township farm in 2008 with his wife Mary Rose Dow and their six children to open the home in Boito, Kenya.
The Dows started the Kenyan home independent of a mission organization but with the financial backing of donors from Lancaster County. The home grew to include more than 80 children ranging from newborns to teens. The alleged assaults happened between 2013 and 2017. Gregory Dow fled after Kenyan police charged him with sexually assaulting minors.
The U.S. investigation began last fall.
“It is one of the most heinous crimes, actually going out and sexually abusing young children,” said Joe Bushner, assistant special agent in charge at the FBI’s Philadelphia office.
Bushner emphasized that Gregory Dow allegedly assaulted “a minimum of four victims. There are likely other victims. It is difficult to track the full extent of that.”
Investigators noted in court filings that Gregory Dow pleaded guilty in 1996 to sexually assaulting a young girl in Iowa and was a registered sex offender for 10 years.
Gregory Dow is in federal custody. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy M. Stengel, who is prosecuting the case, filed a motion to detain Dow until his trial because authorities consider him to be a flight risk.
Gregory Dow “traveled to a foreign country and took vulnerable children there into his care. He then parlayed his relationships with these children into something sinister, sexually abusing multiple girls,” Stengel wrote in court documents.
Gregory Dow in December. At that time he was living in Manheim. He said he was innocent, and that the villagers invented an elaborate scheme to kick out his family.
The Dow Family Children’s Home was funded by donations from churches and organizations in Lancaster County.
A pastor at the church that first supported them, Doug Lamb of Life Gate Church in Elizabethtown, previously said he believed Dow was innocent. In 2013, the Dows started getting support from Brittany’s Hope in Elizabethtown. The organization cut its funding when the home closed and has since helped place the children in new homes.
McSwain said at the news conference that investigators do not believe any of the churches or organizations that gave money to the Dows were “complicit.”
Accusations against the Dows was first reported in January. The story prompted an investigative documentary by KTV, a Kenyan TV station, that included interviews with girls who claimed to have been assaulted by Gregory Dow.
Comments during the news conference — and court documents against Gregory Dow was based on Kenyan police documents and interviews.
Reporters at Friday’s news conference asked questions about the Dows and the background of the home. McSwain said he wanted to cut off questions, and Stengel added, “Much about this orphanage has previously been reported on by LNP.”
Lindsey Blest and Staff Writer Tim Mekeel contributed to this story.