Missionary Accused of Sex Crimes Faces More Charges


Last summer, an Oklahoma man was accused of unthinkable acts against children. Matthew Lane Durham, then 19, was alleged to have raped and sexually abused children at an orphanage in Kenya while serving as a missionary.

In July, a federal grand jury unsealed an indictment against Durham, charging him with traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors. Initially, Durham was charged with three criminal counts involving the alleged sex crimes. Now, however, the defendant is charged with additional counts related to the alleged sexual abuse of multiple children.

Durham is now charged with 24 criminal counts involving 8 children:

  • 8 counts of aggravated sexual abuse with children
  • 8 counts of traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct
  • 8 counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places

Durham was on his fourth mission trip as a volunteer with the Upendo Children's Home in Nairobi, Kenya, when allegations of sexual abuse of children surfaced. Durham was questioned by administrators at the orphanage. He allegedly confessed to raping and sexually abusing children of both sexes, ranging in age from 5 to 15 years old. Investigators say Durham said he was plagued by a demon that caused him to abuse the children. 

Prosecutors have evidence purported to be text messages between Durham and a friend in which the defendant says he is "powerless" against the "demon" he calls Luke:

“How can I not hate this thing inside of me? It takes me at night, and I am powerless over what Luke wants . . . Yes I named him, I know how crazy that is. He whispers in my ear all day, and he’s so hard to resist. . . . Literally he takes me at night and there is nothing I can do to stop him. I’m asleep, what can I do? You honestly have no idea… I’ve prayed so much, but every night Luke gets what Luke wants."

Despite his alleged confession, Durham has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges against him. His defense team argues that his "confession" was coerced through unethical tactics by the orphanage administrators in Kenya. They say that in questioning Durham about the allegations, they kept him in isolation and confiscated his passport.

Traveling with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places are often referred to as "sex tourism." They are prohibited under federal law by 18 U.S. Code § 2423, and each offense is punishable by a maximum of 30 years in prison.

Aggravated sexual abuse with children is a federal sex crime under 18 U.S. Code § 2241(C):

"Whoever crosses a State line with intent to engage in a sexual act with a person who has not attained the age of 12 years, or in the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States or in a Federal prison, or in any prison, institution, or facility in which persons are held in custody by direction of or pursuant to a contract or agreement with the head of any Federal department or agency, knowingly engages in a sexual act with another person who has not attained the age of 12 years, or knowingly engages in a sexual act under the circumstances described in subsections (a) and (b) with another person who has attained the age of 12 years but has not attained the age of 16 years (and is at least 4 years younger than the person so engaging), or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not less than 30 years or for life. "

If convicted of the charges against him, Durham faces the possibility of life in prison.

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