Former Oklahoma missionary, Matthew Lane Durham, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting children at a Kenyan orphanage by a U.S. federal court yesterday (7 March).
Last June, a jury found Durham guilty on seven counts including engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, but in January U.S. District Judge David Russell acquitted him on three of the counts because the judge felt the prosecutors had failed to establish Durham engaged in a sexual act with the alleged victim.
Durham was also fined $15,863 (Ksh 1606,922), after prosecutors successfully argued that Durham had used his position as a missionary at the centre to prey upon young victims.
However, Durham’s attorney claimed their client’s handwritten and taped confessions had been coerced.
Records released by the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma, state Durham was a volunteer at the orphanage, which helps care for neglected and disabled children. According to the affidavit, the prosecution alleged that from April to June of 2014, Durham engaged in sexual acts with multiple children, male and female, aged between 4 and 10 years.
In his defence, Durham claimed he did not molest the children, but during a preliminary hearing prosecutors said Durham told orphanage staff that he believed he had been possessed by an “evil spirit” called Luke, because he had no memory of committing the crimes.
The court heard how a live-in caretaker at the orphanage said that the children told him that Durham either touched them sexually or told them to touch themselves while he watched.
When confronted with these allegations by the founder of Upendo and several church members, Durham is alleged to have confessed to several instances of rape and sexual abuse of children, according to a criminal affidavit.
Officials with the orphanage reported Durham to authorities after they sent him home, according to court records.
“Judgment from God is central, not the judgment of man. I do not fear God’s judgment.”
– Matthew Lane Durham speaking in the Oklahoma City court on Monday.
The District Judge described Durham a serial rapist and “kids’ worst nightmare.”