An Oklahoma man has been charged with sexually abusing boys and girls while volunteering at an organization in Kenya that assists neglected children.
Matthew Lane Durham, of Edmond, is accused of engaging in sex acts with as many as ten children aged from 4 to 10 years old while volunteering at Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi from April to June 2014.
The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Oklahoma last week says the 19-year-old Durham has volunteered with Upendo since June 2012.
Durham wrote and signed a confession that an Upendo official provided to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, according to an affidavit filed by FBI agent Scott Lobb.
In it, he admitted to sexually abusing boys and girls in a bathroom at the children’s home. At least one of the victims is HIV positive, according to the affidavit.
During previous visits, Durham lived with sponsor families in Nairobi, but for his most recent trip he requested to stay at the children’s home in an “overflow bunk,” Lobb wrote.
A live-in caretaker at the children’s home became suspicious of Durham’s behavior and inquired with the children, who told her about the abuse, the affidavit states. The caretaker then reported the allegations to Upendo officials, who obtained a confession from Durham, confiscated his passport and notified local police, Lobb wrote.
Durham’s attorney Stephen Jones, who once represented Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, told CBS affiliate KWTV that there is no substance to the charges against Jones.
“It’s chocked through with mistakes,” Jones said of the complaint against his client. “The FBI is relying on what third parties have told them. There’s more to this than meets the eye.”
Durham returned to the U.S. last month. He was arrested Thursday in Edmond and is currently being held without bond at the Logan County jail, according to the U.S. Marshal’s Office. A preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 1.
A statement from Upendo Kids International Director Eunice Menja said the Edmond-based company is cooperating with authorities, but declined further comment.
Durham faces four counts: traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct; engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places; attempt and conspiracy; and aggravated sexual abuse with children.
If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Matthew Durham: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know
1. Durham Volunteered For a Christian Charity
According to an FBI press release, Durham was a volunteer with the Upendo Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
The charity was founded by Eunice Menja, a woman from Durham’s hometown, Edmond, Oklahoma. The group, which describes itself as a Christian charity, lays out its mission as follows on its website:
To provide child-centered programs that prepare all children for a lifetime of learning, while families of those children are empowered to become self independent. The programs provide quality, comprehensive early and late child development programs and family services to meet the basic needs of low income population. One child at a time- while we envision a community with no more child poverty, no more child abuse but every child with each basic need met.
You can read the full criminal complaint here, on page seven, section 15, there are vivid descriptions of the sex acts in question. Warning Disturbing Content:
2. The Feds Say He Had Sexual Relations With HIV-Positive Orphans
Durham had been a volunteer with Upendo since June 2012. Since then, the feds say he made four trips to Kenya to help out in the orphanage.
On his last trip, between April 30 and June 17, 2014, the feds say, Durham insisted on staying in the children’s home rather than with a host family.
He was housed in an “overflow bunk.” During that period, the FBI says that Durham “engaged in multiple sexual acts with multiple children, male and female.” The feds say he had sex with as many as 10 children, ages 4 to 9, some of whom were were HIV-positive.
According to the FBI, in at least one case, Durham had full intercourse. Durham was arrested at his family’s home in Oklahoma and was held without bond after facing a judge on July 18. Durham faces another preliminary hearing on August 1. If convicted, he faces life in prison. He could also face charges in Kenya.
3. His Lawyer, Who Defended Timothy McVeigh, Says Durham Was the Victim of ‘Psychological Voodoo’
Speaking to The Oklahoman, Durham’s lawyer, Stephen Jones said his client was the victim of “some sort of pseudo-tribal psychological voodoo practiced on him.” The attorney went into to detail, saying that Durham was subject to “false imprisonment” and was delayed from leaving the country. He added “I don’t think Hollywood could make up what happened at this so-called orphanage.” Jones said that he is investigated the area around where Durham was staying, saying “It’s like some cult over there.”
4. The Charity’s Director Described Durham as ‘Wonderful Man of God’
On the now deleted Facebook page of Upendo Kids, Menja described Durham as a “wonderful man of God.” The same user adds:
Matthew your love for these kids is really amazing and every time you go an extra mile for Upendo kiddos, it brings joy into my heart.
According to a profile on the website for Crossings Christian School, Melissa Durham is a fourth grade teacher there, the profile adds:
Mrs. Durham and her youngest son (Matthew) enjoyed an amazing mission trip to Kenya the summer of 2014!
Matthew Durham’s father, Kyle, works for the Oklahoma City Fire Department. Matthew Durham is youngest of three brothers, Joshua is the oldest and Zachary is the middle child.
5. He Spoke Publicly About His Experiences in Kenya
In September 2013, Durham was invited to speak at his local rotary club about his aid work in Kenya. The article about the speech has been deleted from the Edmond Rotary Club website.
The rotary club said in the article that they contributed $500 to Upendo’s projects. The club also said that Durham was part of a group 30 adults and teens who went to Kenya. It also stresses how much the kids in Kenya loved to play soccer.