An Oklahoma missionary was sentenced to 40 years in prison this week after he was found guilty of raping Kenyan orphans while volunteering at a children’s home, CNN reports.
Judge David L. Russell sent Matthew Lane Durham to prison on four counts of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places” Monday afternoon. Durham embarked on his third mission trip to Kenya’s Upendo Children’s Centre in 2014, according to the criminal complaint. The organization, founded by an American citizen, usually recruits from an Oklahoma church community to help assist abandoned children in Nairobi.
Court documents revealed the 21-year-old raped three girls — ages 5, 9, and 15 — at least eight times, and molested a 12-year-old boy twice. Durham requested to stay at an “overflow bunk” in the school instead of sleeping in facilities with the others to be in a “better position to assist the children,” the complaint says. A caretaker noticed odd behavior from Durham such as “lingering embraces” and “lying beside some of the children on their beds” at night.
The Huffington Post reports Durham originally confessed to the crimes on video after school leaders allegedly withheld his passport. He then changed his tune in June when he pleaded not guilty. Durham attempted to gain pity from prosecutors with claims of conflicting feelings about his sexuality. He also said he was possessed by a demon.
“In the end, it is the judgment of God that is central, not the judgment of man,” he said. “I do not fear God’s judgment of me.”
The prosecution 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 … there is a real perception among Upendo’s local Kenyan community that more pedophiles lurk among the volunteers, especially the male volunteers.”
Durham’s attorney told CNN he plans to appeal the prison sentence.