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Trial Begins for Edmond Missionary Accused of Raping Children in a Kenyan Orphanage

12-Jun-2015

Matthew Lane Durham was just 19 years old when he went to his fourth mission trip to an orphanage in Kenya. Federal prosecutors say it was during that visit last summer that Durham sexually assaulted and raped eight children, aged 5 to 14, at the Upendo Children's Home in Nyeri, Kenya.

The Edmond man was charged with eight counts each of aggravated sexual abuse of children and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places and one count of travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. His trial began this week in United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

A key piece of evidence for the prosecution is a signed confession in which Durham wrote, "I would take her to the bathroom at night and would hold her down and rape her," in detailing the alleged sexual assaults. Prosecutors also say the defendant sent text messages to a friend in the United States saying he was possessed by a demon named Luke, and that despite his prayers, "every night luke gets what luke wants."

The defense argues that the prosecution's case hinges on a false confession that was coerced by orphanage officials after they isolated him and confiscated his passport. The defense lawyer says that Durham did not confess out of shame and guilt, but rather out of fear, calling his client "an emotionally vulnerable teenager" who was "scared to death."

Witnesses for the prosecution include the children whom Durham is alleged to have assaulted. They are testifying in a cleared courtroom. Also testifying for the United States government are Josphine Wambugu, the orphanage manager, and Eunice Menja, director of Upendo Kids International.

Wambugu testified that the allegations against Durham came to light when she walked in on Durham sleeping in the girls' dormitory. She says he "quickly left" after being discovered there. She told the court that she asked the girls what had happened, and several said he did "bad manners" with them.

She said that Durham privately confessed to her the next day. However, orphanage officials did not report the allegations to police for five days. When the defense team questioned the delay, Wambugu told the court that they were "busy" the next day, and that since no sexual activity was believed to have occurred the night she allegedly walked in on Durham in the girls' dormitory, it did not matter how quickly the alleged victims were taken to the hospital for evaluation.

Menja, whose testimony is not yet complete as of this writing, said that the delay in reporting the allegations to authorities came because "it was going to draw a lot of attention," and she was embarrassed by the allegations.

If Durham is convicted, he faces up to life in prison for aggravated sexual abuse of a child and up to 30 years in prison each for travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.



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