A former professor at Northwestern University was sentenced to 53 years in prison for the brutal 2017 murder of his boyfriend.
Wyndham Lathem, 47, a renowned microbiologist in his own right, was convicted of murder in the first degree in October 2021 over the stabbing death of 26-year-old Trenton Cornell-Duranleau.
Lathem’s partner in crime was British national Andrew Warren, 61, on Oxford University employee who pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against him in 2019 in exchange for a 45-year prison sentence.
During trial, there was some debate about who stabbed the victim first–or at all. Lathem claimed to have hidden in the bathroom “like a coward” as Warren did most of the work. Warren, however, said that he only began stabbing the victim after Lathem went first.
In the end, jurors apparently believed the state’s witness.
Prosecutors described the murder as particularly savage. The deceased man was stabbed some 70 times and with such repetitive ferocity in the throat area that he was almost decapitated.
Cornell-Duranleau’s body was discovered on July 27, 2017 in an apartment he shared with Lathem. That gruesome discovery set off a nationwide manhunt that lasted for over a week before the pair of killers were found out by police in Oakland, California. Along the way, they stopped at a public library in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where they made a $1,000 cash donation in the deceased man’s name.
“I’ve never seen where suspects in a homicide would make a donation in the victim’s name,” Lake Geneva Police Lieutenant Edward Gritzner told the Associated Press at the time of their arrest.
But several aspects of the story were tragic and strange.
Cornell-Duranleau had moved to Chicago from the Grand Rapids, Michigan area after receiving his cosmetology license. He eventually came to date and live with one of the men who would kill him.
Lathem, meanwhile, met Warren in an online chat room where, primed by snuff fantasies, they came up with the idea to kill Cornell-Duranleau and them kill themselves. But after the murder, the steel seemed to leave the two, who fled for eight days before their capture.
Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. reportedly appeared to shake his head in disgust during a pre-trial hearing as both men were denied bail in August 2021.
During the sentencing hearing, Judge Charles Burns reportedly said the victim was killed in a manner that amounted to an “execution.”
“Obviously, he had a dark secret,” Burns said, according to a court report by the Chicago Tribune‘s Shanzeh Ahmad. “The Dr. Lathem that we saw walk through the doors to this courtroom obviously had a Mr. Hyde to him, and I’m not sure when or why that occurred.”
Out of a possible sentencing range of 20 to 60 years, the sentencing judge said he felt 53 years was “most appropriate” punishment for Lathem due to for the grisly, premeditated nature of the slaying.
The victim’s family hopes there’s a silver lining here.
“I think that (Trenton’s) end was very tragic, and he was a naive country kid, and he was a gay man,” Mischelle Duranleau told the Chicago Tribune, speaking of her son in October 2021 after Latham’s conviction. “We tend to look over some of the LGBT community when they’re coming of age. And I’m hopeful that maybe his story can…Help other parents and kids to the dangers that could be out there.”
[photo released by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office]
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