A 21-year-old Christian missionary from Oklahoma was sentenced to 40 years Monday (March 7) for sexually assaulting numerous children during his time volunteering at a Kenyan orphanage. Matthew Lane Durham was admonished for what the judge presiding over his case called, “heinous crimes committed against the most vulnerable victims.”
Durham was busted in 2014 for sexually assaulting children at the Upendo Children’s Home in Kenya’s capitol city of Nairobi. He had been volunteering at the orphanage since 2012, and admitted to the crimes once confronted by orphanage officials. At the time of Durham was an “emotionally vulnerable teenager” struggling with his “sexual identity and development,” his lawyer said.
U.S. District Court Judge David L. Russell told Durham that he was the children’s “worst nightmare come true,” sentencing Durham to decades behind bars in addition to over $15,000 in restitution. He faced a maximum of 120 years, which breaks down to up to 30 years for each count. His lawyer requested an 8-year prison sentence plus probation, and will appeal the verdict.
In spite of denying the allegations and claiming that he must’ve been possessed by “evil spirits,” Durham was subsequently convicted last June on seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place. At least one of the children abused by Durham had HIV, another was only 4 years old.
Eunice Menja, founder of the orphanage said in a statement that Durham’s actions were “not only a betrayal of the Upendo mission but of the trust Upendo placed in him.”
She added, “Matthew Durham defiled the children. Matthew has no remorse. After he got caught, he still denied.” The victims of Durham’s deplorable acts have been greatly affected, but Menja said she hopes he will return from prison a changed man.
However, Durham’s lawyer noted that “Mathew cannot show remorse because he is innocent.”
At his sentencing, Durham reportedly feigned contrition, vowing to help others while he’s behind bars. “All I wanted was to follow God’s plan for me,” he said.