Oklahoma man convicted of illegal sexual contact at Kenyan orphanage

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 19, 2015 3:27 PM

By Heide Brandes

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A jury at a federal court in Oklahoma City on Friday found an Oklahoma man charged with molesting orphans in Kenya during his Christian missionary work guilty of seven counts of illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.

The jury also found Matthew Durham, 20, of Edmond, not guilty on 10 more serious charges of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. A judge will determine his sentence later, court officials said.

Durham had been accused of raping and sexually abusing children as young as 6 from April to June 2014 at the Upendo Children's Centre, an orphanage in the city of Nyeri, some 63 miles (100 km) northeast of Nairobi.

The management of the Kenyan nursing home notified U.S. authorities of the suspected crimes after Durham had returned to the United States and U.S. prosecutors brought charges against him.

On Wednesday, Durham testified in his own defense and told the jury he was innocent but believed he was possessed by an evil spirit that made him do things he does not remember.

Prosecutors called suspected victims to the stand who testified in a cleared courtroom about their sexual abuse at the hands of Durham, court officials said.

Several videos taken by an Upendo manager and presented as evidence show Durham being questioned by Upendo founder Eunice Menja, in which he states repeatedly that he does not remember committing the crimes.

Durham blamed an evil spirit named Luke for the crimes. He also said he was coerced into confessing by Upendo management.

(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)