OKLAHOMA CITY — A federal jury on Friday found former Edmond church missionary Matthew Lane Durham guilty of aggravated sexual abuse with children.
Durham, 20, had served as a volunteer at the Upendo Children's Home in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi since 2012. During his fourth trip, he was accused of sexually assaulting seven boys and girls under the age of 18 between April and June of 2014.
Jurors found him guilty on seven counts. It took the jury nine hours of deliberation over two days to reach a verdict. Durham, who claimed his innocence on the stand, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. His parents wept openly as did members of the orphanage staff who testified at the trial.
“The jury has determined that while in Kenya, Mr. Durham committed sexual acts with children,” U.S. Attorney Sanford C. Coats said. “This is a sad situation for all involved. The bottom line is Mr. Durham is a threat to children and it will be our position that he be extracted from society at sentencing for a significant period of time.”
According to Coats, Durham can receive up to 30 years for each count, a maximum of 210 years. After the verdict was read, Durham was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. Judge David Russell ordered a pre-sentence investigation.
“This is not a verdict to celebrate,” Coats said. “The only winner here was justice. Justice was sought and obtained for the victims of this abdominal crime. However, even a guilty verdict can not bring back the innocence of the children that was taken by Mr. Durham. Their lives will never be the same.”
U.S. District Judge David Russell allowed the child victims to testify about the sexual abuse out of the sight of the public and press.
“That's standard procedure,” Coats said. “There are Federal laws that provide the court with closing court when children testify. That's commonplace. That would have been true whether they were from Duncan, Oklahoma or Kenya.”
The trial began with jury selection on June 9. Jurors were told the case would take about two weeks.
Durham was acquitted on 10 of the 17 charges against him. They included traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and eight counts of aggravated sexual abuse with children.
Coats doesn't know why the jury chose to acquit Durham on those specifics charges.
“Counts 1-9 had an intent element that required proof that Mr. Durham intended to commit the acts before he left,” Coats said. “The jury found him not guilty on those. We can speculate as to why. But it is an added element that we had to prove.”
During the trial, Durham claimed he would never hurt the kids he was accused of raping. However, prosecutors offered signed confessions that Durham gave orphanage officials. Durham described raping a 12-year-old girl in a bathroom, and forcing another child to perform oral sex on him.
Durham's attorney, Stephen Jones, of Enid, did not comment as he left U.S. District Court.
“I don't remember a case we've had involving this degree of international witnesses,” Coats said. “We've had lots of cases involving children. They present unique challenges. This is no different than many of the others in that sense. Yes, the fact that the majority of our fact witnesses were from where the crime occurred in a foreign country, it does add a layer of complications.”
Coats was asked how can something like this be prevented in the future.
“I can tell you this, we'll do what we can to make sure that Mr. Durham doesn't do it again,” Coats said. “As far as others, those in charge of children, the message always is, be vigilant. Be very careful about who is around those children.”
Follow me at Eyeamtruth