Oklahoma man gets 40 years in prison for raping Kenyan orphans during mission trip
OKLAHOMA CITY — A former missionary from Oklahoma convicted of sexually
abusing children at an orphanage in Kenya was sentenced Monday to 40
years in a federal prison.
U.S. District Judge David L. Russell handed down the sentence to
Matthew Lane Durham, 21, who had faced up to 30 years on each of four
counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. He also
ordered Durham, of Edmond, to pay restitution of $15,863.
OKLAHOMA TEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED ORPHANS IN KENYA
“These were heinous crimes committed on the most vulnerable victims. He was their worst nightmare come true,” Russell said.
Durham, wearing an orange prison-issued jumpsuit, read a statement
before sentencing in which he asked the court for mercy but did not
express remorse for the offenses he was convicted of. Durham showed no
emotion when the sentence was issued.
Prosecutors alleged Durham targeted orphans while volunteering at the
Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi between April and June 2014. Durham
had served as a volunteer since 2012 at the orphanage, which specializes
in caring for neglected children.
“All I wanted was to follow God’s plan for me,” Durham told the judge.
He said he will try to commit himself to serving others while he serves
his prison sentence.
Although Durham claims he is innocent of the charges, he said he was
sorry that the accusations against him had damaged the orphanage and
those it cares for.
“The Upendo kids do not deserve this,” Durham said.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Durham’s actions have had a
chilling effect on the lives of dozens of foreign volunteers in Kenya
and elsewhere “who must now live under the cloud of suspicion, distrust
and apprehension when they volunteer their time, talent and resources
for the betterment of children in East Africa and beyond.”
“There is a real perception among Upendo’s local Kenyan community that
more pedophiles lurk among the volunteers, especially the young male
volunteers,” prosecutors said.
A jury convicted Durham in June on seven counts of engaging in illicit
sexual conduct in foreign places, but Russell acquitted Durham on three
of the charges in January.
The same jury cleared Durham of accusations he planned to abuse the
children before leaving the United States. Defense attorney Stephen
Jones has said Durham plans to appeal his convictions.
The orphanage’s founder, Eunice Menja, read a statement in court Monday
in which she said the sexual abuse was “not only a betrayal of the
Upendo mission but of the trust Upendo placed in him.”
“Matthew Durham defiled the children,” Menja said as she fought back
tears. “Matthew has no remorse. After he got caught, he still denied.”
Menja told reporters after the hearing that she hopes Durham’s 40-year
sentence is long enough to prevent him from being a threat to anyone
“We’re hoping that when he comes out he will be a changed man,” she said.\
OKLAHOMA TEEN CLAIMS DEAMON MADE HIM MOLEST KENYAN ORPHANS
Federal prosecutors had asked in their sentencing memo that Russell to
sentence Durham to 120 years in prison — the maximum punishment he
faced. Jones had sought a sentence of just eight years, followed by
Evidence produced by prosecutors included handwritten, signed
confessions that Durham gave orphanage officials after he was accused of
Jones has argued that the statements were coerced by orphanage
officials who isolated Durham, took his passport and created the
allegations to obtain $17,000 from the U.S. government for security
Jones has described Durham, who was 19 when he was charged in 2014, as
“an emotionally vulnerable teenager” who was struggling with “sexual
identity and development” while also being a devout Christian.