An American missionary, Gregory Hayes Dows, who sexually abused four girls for years at his orphanage in Kenya, has been sentenced to jail for 15 years in federal prison.
The United States District Judge, Edward Smith, described Dow’s crimes “as evil, as depraved, as any case that’s come before me” at the sentencing on Thursday.
He further said, “You went to Africa as a missionary. It seems you were a missionary from hell.”
He also ordered Dow to pay $16,000 in restitution to cover the victims’ mental health treatment.
Smith told Dow he was supposed to be a ‘father figure and beacon of hope for poor children, but instead, was evil disguised as hope. And the idea that it was done in the name of religion is unfathomable.’
In June 2020, Dow pleaded guilty to four counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.
He acknowledged assaulting the girls multiple times between 2013 and 2017 while running Dow Family Children’s Home in Boito, Kenya. When the abuse started, two girls were 11, one was 12 and one was 13.
According to prosecutors, Dow groomed children by giving them valuables, such as cellphones.
The Assistant US Attorney, Timothy Stengel, said Dow, a former East Hempfield Township man, established the home in 2008 with his wife, Mary Rose Dow, who allegedly took girls at the orphanage to get birth control implanted without their consent; which meant Dow could assault them without fear of impregnating them.
While Gregory Dow fled Kenya in 2017 to avoid prosecution, his wife was arrested there on child abuse charges about the birth control implants. She spent time in jail and was fined.
She was in court for her husband’s sentencing but didn’t testify.
Dow, had an earlier conviction in Iowa in 1996 for assault with intent to commit sexual abuse on a child.
He had said he was “very sorry for any pain and suffering that I have caused, not only for this episode but in my entire life” and that he’s spent the last 19 months “trying to figure out how this could have happened.”
Two victims testified by video from Kenya that Dow’s abuse caused them physical and mental health problems. They said their dreams had been shattered with one victim saying she wanted to be a chef, while the other a lawyer couldn’t concentrate in school.
Both victims also testified that life at the orphanage was good but changed. One said children went to bed hungry and that Dow would punish children by making them stand in a corner with soap in their mouths.
The ladies testified to having nightmares and said they have difficulties with relatives. One victim said her uncle threatened to kill her and bury her beside her mother’s grave. The other said she is ridiculed at school because of what happened to her.
Stengel said, “Gregory Dow was supposed to be a father figure to them. Instead, he manipulated them for his gratification and he robbed them of their future.”
The court also heard that Dow’s orphanage received financial support from Lancaster County churches and nonprofits.
In a sentencing memorandum filed with the court, the prosecution wrote that leaders at one of those churches, LifeGate, in Elizabethtown, supported Dow despite knowing of his previous conviction.
“That anyone, including the defendant, believed that he was suitable to operate an orphanage is unthinkable. Sadly, the abuse, in this case, could have — and should have — been prevented,” the prosecution wrote.
A tip-off from a Kenyan woman living in the US to the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office in 2018 led to federal investigators’ involvement.
Margaret Ruto had just returned to the orphanage area to care for her mother during a visit to Kenya.
According to the Washington Post, Ruto found her family’s village in an uproar” after two girls, aged 12 and 14, had escaped the orphanage and shared stories of sexual abuse.
She turned detective and took down the testimonies of the abused girls herself.
Acting on Ruto’s information, investigators travelled to Kenya and interviewed girls, leading to Dow being charged in July 2019.