June 18, 2015 / 8:00 PM / 2 years ago

Jurors weigh case of Oklahoma man charged with molesting Kenyan orphans

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - A jury at a federal court in Oklahoma City began deliberations on Thursday in the case of an Oklahoma man charged with molesting eight orphans in Kenya when he was in the country for Christian missionary work.

Matthew Durham, 20, of Edmond, faces life in prison if convicted of raping and sexually abusing children as young as 6 at the Upendo Children’s Home from April to June 2014.

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.

He is shown asking for patience while he tried to remember, but then admits to taking children into a bathroom at the orphanage and engaging in acts with them.

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

“They told me that an eyewitness saw me,” Durham told jurors on Wednesday.

“I thought that meant (Luke) came at night. I have no recollection of molesting those children, but they told me I did, so it must have been an evil spirit. I wasn’t in a good place.”

Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Peter Cooney

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