Former missionary tells jurors he confessed out of fear
A former Edmond missionary accused of sexually abusing Kenyan children testified Wednesday in his own defense, repeatedly telling jurors, “It didn’t happen.”
“They made me doubt my own memories,” Matthew Lane Durham testified about his accusers. “They made me feel contaminated.”
In a calm, clear voice, Durham looked directly at the jurors each time he spoke.
Durham, 20, is accused in Oklahoma City federal court of 17 counts of rape and molestation of eight children while on a mission in 2014 at an African orphanage. The trial could conclude Thursday.
Under questioning from his attorney Stephen Jones, Durham testified about a confrontational meeting on June 13 of last year where volunteers and orphanage founders accused him of sexually abusing some of the children. Durham told jurors that he didn’t know what he was being accused of at first, and he denied all allegations at that time.
He said Eunice Menja, a co-founder of Upendo Children’s Home, told him at the meeting that she believed an evil spirit or a multiple-personality was present in him.
After being accused, the prosecution contends, Durham sent text messages to friends blaming the alleged crimes on an inner-demon named Luke.
The defense alleges that Menja created such an idea and that Durham, 19 at the time, was unfamiliar with such disorders.
After Menja mentioned the idea of multiple personalities, Durham went from denying the allegations at the time of the meeting to saying, “I don’t remember … I couldn’t do this,” he testified.
During the days after the allegations, Durham did believe in an evil spirit, even naming it Luke as “a way to differentiate” himself from it, he testified.
He said he was confused and was trying to understand what his accusers were telling him.
He told jurors he believed in the demon at the time because Menja told him there was evidence and witnesses to the alleged crimes and to the evil spirit’s actions.
When Durham couldn’t find his passport, he testified he assumed the demon had taken it.
He also testified that he asked for evidence from Menja, but she told him, “You don’t need to see the evidence. You know what you did.”
After realizing Menja had taken his passport and hadn’t scheduled a flight for his return home, Durham started to realize the allegations and the inner-demon were false, he testified.
Durham, again dressed in a suit and tie, testified for about five hours Wednesday in a full courtroom. Spectators squeezed in to find sitting room.
Lead prosecutor Robert D. Gifford II started his cross-examination by showing the jury the defendant’s handwritten statements again. Durham acknowledged it was his handwriting.