On March 7, a 21-year-old former missionary was sentenced to 40 years in prison for sexually abusing children at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.
Matthew Durham was convicted on seven counts of elicit sexual activity in June 2015, but a judge dismissed three of the counts in January, Daily Mail reports. Six of the victims were female and one was male.
“The defendant's offenses were undoubtedly serious," the prosecution wrote in the sentencing memorandum. "He raped or sexually molested by force or threat four children ranging in ages from 5 years to 14 years — some multiple times — in a span of just 33 days."
Durham committed the offenses in 2014 at the Upendo orphanage, which provides care to neglected children.
He admitted to the abuse in a taped confession and in a series of handwritten notes given to orphanage officials, KFOR notes.
Five of Durham’s victims traveled from Kenya to testify in court through an interpreter. The judge cleared the gallery and removed all media from the courtroom before their testimony began.
During sentencing on March 7, the judge said Durham’s actions deserved a strong sentence, adding that he was the children’s “worst nightmare come true,” according to KFOR.
“All I wanted was to follow God's plan for me,” Durham told the court.
“Judgment of God is central, not the judgment of man," he added. "I do not fear God’s judgment."
The defense intends to appeal the conviction. They said Durham, who was 19 at the time the crimes were committed, was forced to confess to the crimes after orphanage officials isolated him and took his passport away, Daily Mail reports.
Durham’s defense added that he was “an emotionally vulnerable teenager” struggling to deal with “sexual identity and development."
The prosecution noted that Durham’s actions had consequences far beyond his immediate victims.
According to the prosecution, the news of Durham’s crimes had caused problems for other volunteers “who must now live under the cloud of suspicion, distrust and apprehension when they volunteer their time, talent and resources for the betterment of children in East Africa and beyond.”
“There is a real perception among Upendo's local Kenyan community that more pedophiles lurk among the volunteers, especially the young male volunteers,” the prosecution added.
The prosecution called for Durham to be sentenced to 120 years behind bars. They also urged that he be placed under lifelong supervision if he was ever released.
Durham was also ordered to pay over $15,000 in restitution.