Gregory Dow says he went to Kenya wanting to help children. He returned wanted on charges of harming them.
Together with his wife, Mary Rose, and their six children, Gregory Dow uprooted from life in Lancaster County in 2008 to open a home for needy and orphaned children in Boito, Kenya.
They sold their East Hempfield Township farm, packed their bags and waved farewell to friends, family and fellow church members.
Over the years, the home grew from a handful of children to more than 80 ranging from newborns to teens. Many of the children had diseases and were orphaned and uneducated.
But eventually, Gregory Dow — who has a prior sex-crime conviction in the U.S. — fled the Kenya as authorities issued an arrest warrant, charging him with sexually assaulting children in his care.
His wife, captured as she tried to leave Kenya, was found guilty of cruelty to children for having girls implanted with birth-control devices. She paid a fine and left the country and the orphanage behind.
The Dows, back in Lancaster County, maintain their innocence. So does the pastor of an Elizabethtown church that had supported them, together claiming that the Dows’ Kenyan neighbors turned against them.
The orphanage they built as part of what they described as “God’s will” in 2008 is no more, the children they once promised to raise now scattered to other facilities and families.
And Kenyan authorities are looking to extradite 59-year-old Gregory Dow, who is a fugitive from justice.
A call to go
Gregory Dow moved to Lancaster County in 2000. He met Doug Lamb, owner of West Donegal Township-based Lamb Construction Co., whom he would work for until leaving for Kenya.
Gregory Dow married Mary Rose in January 2002, and they bought a Graystone Road farm in East Hempfield Township at the end of the year, according to county records.
They went to a missionary conference in 2006. Mary Rose Dow felt God was calling them to go to Africa, Gregory previously told LNP. He said he was hesitant at first but agreed.
They garnered support from their church, Life Gate Church in Elizabethtown. Lamb was also a pastor there.
In a 2016 interview, Lamb said he felt the Dows “jumped into the deep end of the pool” when they decided to open the orphanage. They had not run a large home or previously done missionary work, he said.
But they went. The Dows ran their orphanage from a yellow-walled building on a 1½-acre plot of land in rural Bomet County, west of Nairobi.
Newsletter updates from the orphanage tell stories of young children, orphaned or living in inadequate homes, rescued and brought to the Dows’ home. Local villagers were hired to teach the children and take care of the property. Friends from the U.S. paid occasional visits.
‘Life began to be so hard’
Conditions at the orphanage began to deteriorate in 2013, according to testimony at Mary Rose Dow’s trial and investigative files from Kenyan police. That’s when Gregory Dow started assaulting older girls at the home and began to beat the pupils, a 12-year-old girl said in victim testimony recorded by police in 2017.
The girl, who joined the home in 2011, testified that Gregory Dow was “a wonderful man who treated us with fatherly love. He catered for every basic thing we needed such as food and clothing also.”
“Everything changed in 2013,” she said in her testimony. “Now life began to be so hard.”
The 12-year-old along with several other girls, ages 12, 15 and 18, also told police that Mary Rose Dow took them to a medical center to have birth control implants placed in their arms, according to police documents.
One girl said Mary Rose Dow covered her ears to keep her from hearing what the doctors were saying before the procedure, according to police documents.
Months later in court, Mary Rose Dow would testify that she took the girls for their protection from promiscuity.
Wanted and fleeing
Kenyan police got involved after a few girls left the home in September 2017. At that time, there were more than 80 children living there.
The 12-year-old and a 15-year-old went to police Sept. 11, 2017, to file reports of sexual harassment by Gregory Dow, according to police reports. They told police he would summon girls and become upset if they refused his advances.
The next day investigators went to the orphanage, but the Dows were missing, according to a police report.
Investigators learned that Gregory Dow had fled Kenya and was spotted entering New York, according to investigation notes.
Kenyan police applied for an arrest warrant Sept. 14, 2017, and began extradition procedures to bring him back to Kenya to face criminal sexual-related charges, according to police records.
About 12 years before going to Kenya, Gregory Dow was convicted of a sex crime in Iowa.
He was charged with lascivious acts with a child in August 1996. The allegation stemmed from an incident several years earlier where he was accused of touching a 14-year-old girl. He pled guilty to a lesser assault charge and was sentenced to prison for a maximum of two years, court records show.
Gregory Dow did not spend time in prison but was on probation until November 1998, according to Iowa’s Department of Corrections and court records.
Based on Iowa’s sex-offender registry laws, Gregory Dow would have been required to register as an offender for the next 10 years, or until 2006.
Police would be able to ascertain if Gregory Dow registered as an offender or not when he moved to Pennsylvania, but that information is not public.
Dows maintain innocence
Gregory Dow, now living in Manheim, said in a phone interview that a former employee and the man the Dows purchased the land from for their orphanage came up with a scheme to get the property back.
They got a few “rebellious” teenage girls to lie, he said, adding that Kenyans are “volatile people.”
“It’s sad to say we live in a society where people are guilty until proven innocent,” he said.
The Dows’ pastor defended the couple, claiming they are victims of an unexplainable uprising concocted by neighbors of the home.
“It was a well-planned scheme to take the Dow home down,” Lamb said in a phone interview.
He said he encouraged them early on in the process to find a missions agency to work with, but the Dows felt strongly about their conviction to go on their own.
When the home started, the children were young, and villagers appreciated the Dows’ care, Lamb said. But as the children got older, they became dissatisfied within the walls of the compound, he said.
“The children were probably closeted a little too much,” Lamb said. “Greg and Mary Rose were concerned for their children’s safety.”
By the time police got involved last year, it was too late, he said.
Adult Kenyans in the area thought there was cultlike inappropriate behavior at the compound, and people rioted outside the gates, Lamb said.
“The Dows didn’t handle it quickly enough, and it mushroomed,” he said. “When someone is accused, we assume the worst.”
Lamb acknowledged the sexual assault conviction levied against Gregory Dow in Iowa.
“I’m aware of it. Can’t comment on it,” he said, but added that the previous case doesn’t prove the allegations in Kenya.
Gregory Dow said it was “a long time ago” and a “special circumstance.”
He said he stood before Life Gate Church and told his story.
“Everyone who knew me knew about that before I went to Kenya,” he said.
After both Dows were back in Lancaster County, they stayed at Life Gate Church for a few months but switched to a different church. Lamb said Life Gate no longer supports them financially.
“I am in the 95th percentile that nothing happened,” Lamb said.
“It looks bad, leaving the country without facing that music,” Lamb said. “I believe (Greg Dow) is innocent, based on the facts.”
Mary Rose on trial
Afraid for their lives, the Dows arranged to get out of Kenya as quickly as possible.
They split up for their flights. Gregory Dow’s flight was earlier than his wife’s, and he escaped, Lamb said.
“My life was in danger, and I knew it,” Gregory Dow said. Four of the couple’s six children were with him. The other two had returned to the U.S. previously on their own.
Mary Rose Dow was captured in Nairobi and spent the next few months in jail waiting for trial.
Court records show Mary Rose Dow pled not guilty to two counts of cruelty to a child and two counts of failing to protect a child from sexual exploitation.
In her trial defense, she said they took good care of the children, rescuing them from bad living situations and alcoholic families.
On the birth control implants, she said, “Some girls were promiscuous.”
She also said her husband never molested the girls.
A judge convicted Mary Rose Dow on the two counts of cruelty based on the fact that the implants come with negative health side effects and were inserted without the girls’ consent. She was acquitted of the failure to protect charges because the judge said there was not enough evidence.
On Jan. 31, 2018, she was sentenced to one year in prison or to pay a fine of about $500 U.S. She paid the fine and returned to the U.S.
Lamb, who spent weeks in Kenya during Mary Rose Dow’s trial, said she was fined for getting “immunizations” for the girls. Asked specifically if they were birth control implants, Lamb said Mary Rose Dow wanted to protect the girls entering womanhood. He called it a “difficult moral issue.”
Gregory Dow said the implants were given to protect the girl’s from pregnancy at a young age.
“She was well within her rights. She was the guardian,” he said.
Support cut off
The Dows collected funds from Lancaster County churches, residents and organizations.
Elizabethtown-based Brittany’s Hope was one of their biggest supporters before it learned of the allegations made against them, Mai-Lynn Sahd, the nonprofit’s executive director, said.
Brittany’s Hope severed ties with the orphanage in September 2017 after learning about the allegations through an anonymous source, Sahd said.
She said the orphanage was registered and audited through the Kenyan government. Brittany’s Hope is a granting organization, she said, and didn’t have a role in the orphanage’s day-to-day operations.
“To be frank, we as an organization do not care to know or want to discuss about Mary Rose and Greg,” Sahd said. “The children who were previously cared for by the home are, and always have been, Brittany’s Hope’s priority.”
The Dows started accepting donations through Brittany’s Hope at the end of 2013, according to a newsletter from the orphanage. The support was done at the suggestion of community members as well as Lamb, who was on the nonprofit’s board of directors, according to Sahd.
The Dows were asked to write quarterly reports on how the funds were being used, Sahd said. They used the funds for the children’s basic needs, health and education.
The Dows told LNP in 2016 that their annual budget was around $120,000. Sahd declined to say how much money her organization gave to the Dow’s over the years.
Lamb was not invited to return to the board when members’ terms were renewed last fall, Sahd said.
“We did our due diligence. A bad seed can get into good work. How can you control that?” Sahd said. “There’s a darkness inside we can’t predict.”
Brittany’s Hope wasn’t the only Lancaster County group connected with the children’s home.
Salunga-based Eastern Mennonite Missions sent three short-term missionaries to Kenya in 2013. A spokeswoman from the organization told LNP it didn’t support the Dows financially.
Lititz Moravian Church was mentioned in newsletters. It did not respond to requests for comment.
A GoFundMe donation page is still active for the Dows’ home, with the last donation made at the end of 2017.
Warrant for arrest
The Directorate of Criminal Investigations in Kenya confirmed an arrest warrant for Gregory Dow is still active.
The prosecutor handling the case plans to ask Kenya’s attorney general for an international arrest warrant, according to the directorate.
The international warrant will be sent to the U.S. “via diplomatic channels,” the directorate told LNP.
Kenya and the U.S. have an open extradition agreement. However, there are many steps in the system: a request must be made by the Kenyan embassy to the Department of State and reviewed by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, according to the Department of State’s website. The Secretary of State must ultimately review extraditions.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said it does not comment on the existence or nonexistence of investigations.
Gregory Dow said he was aware a warrant was issued for his arrest after he left Kenya.
If Kenyan officials made an extradition request, he said he would get an attorney.
“There’s not much I can do. I know the truth,” he said. “They made the accusations falsely, and they got out of hand.”
Kenyan government officials placed children from the Dow’s orphanage in other homes or sent them to other family members, according to Brittany’s Hope.
The organization has made trips back to the country to check on their welfare and has set up a new support fund for the children.