DIXON – The criminal investigation of a former Dixon priest ended in the spring, when officers realized it was a case of mistaken identity, police say.
Not until August, though, did the Diocese of Rockford announce that law enforcement cleared the Rev. John Gow of Dixon’s St. Patrick Parish in a computer usage investigation.
As a result, the church assigned Gow as an associate pastor at St. John Neumann Parish in suburban St. Charles. He started Sept. 1.
Last year, Gow, who was ordained in 2008, took his laptop computer for repairs to a business in Sterling. An employee there saw child pornography on a computer that the person thought was Gow’s, but the employee realized in a followup interview with authorities in March that the wrong person had been identified, Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss said.
“It was a very unfortunate mistake,” the chief said.
The police ended the investigation and immediately notified the Catholic Church, Langloss said. In late August, the church informed St. Patrick parishioners that law enforcement had cleared Gow.
Authorities haven’t identified the person who owned the computer with the child pornography. Langloss said the case was in his jurisdiction only because Gow was based in Dixon. Now, the case is in Sterling’s jurisdiction.
Sterling Police Sgt. Steve Hubbard said the matter remains an open investigation, but he said he hadn’t been informed about what Dixon did with it.
It was unclear why the church waited months to announce that Gow had been cleared. Penny Wiegert, a spokeswoman for the Rockford Diocese, said she thought the police’s inquiry ended in August, but she said she would check the timeline.
“When someone makes an accusation, it is reported and there’s a process we have to go through. It has to be investigated,” she said. “The church errs on the side of caution, always.”
In March, the church announced that it had removed Gow from the ministry because of a police investigation into his computer usage.
Langloss said he was surprised the church made the announcement.
“They are being open. They are being transparent. They’re taking a totally different approach to these types of allegations,” the chief said.
The Dixon police, he said, acted quickly.
“Our timeline was very aggressive in this investigation because of the position [Gow] holds,” Langloss said. “We talked to the investigations division in the church. We executed search warrants. Within a few days, we had the attorney general’s office on site.”
Langloss said the police were careful with Gow’s reputation.
“We weren’t out talking about it,” he said. “We’re really careful about releasing things about these types of investigations.”
As for the accusation, the police believed the employee at the business had no malicious intent, Langloss said.
Police declined to identify the business.