New Jersey Teen Who Killed Neighbor Wanted To Be ‘TikTok Famous,’ Lawyers Claim
Zachary Latham is accused of manslaughter after feud allegedly caught on camera turned deadly.
A New Jersey teenager is claiming self-defense after a confrontation with his neighbors that was allegedly caught on camera took a fatal turn — but lawyers for the victim’s family say the accused killer instigated the incident because he hoped to become “TikTok famous.”
According to a press release from the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, witnesses said the situation exploded in May when 18-year-old Zachary Latham and his wife, Sarah, got into a heated argument with off-duty corrections officer William “Timmy” Durham Sr., 51, his spouse, Catherine, and the couple’s two sons, 22-year-old William Jr. and a 17-year old unidentified juvenile.
According to lawyers for the Durhams, the family’s feud with Latham first started in April when the New Jersey Army National Guard private allegedly sped through their Vineland neighborhood in his sports car and Catherine Durham told him to slow down, NJ.com reported.
Latham, who was living nearby with his grandparents, recorded video of the argument and posted it on TikTok. In the clip, which has racked up over three million views, Latham is heard taunting Catherine, calling her a “Karen” — a slang term sometimes generically used to describe someone perceived to be demanding action or consequences beyond what’s appropriate — and claiming she confronted him “all because my car is loud.”
About a week later, the teen posted another video to the social media site that shows Durham Jr. rushing at his vehicle. “Karen’s son found out the video went viral and tried taking me out of the car,” Latham captioned the clip in which he can be heard warning Durham Jr. he had a knife.
On May 4, the long-simmering animosity between the neighbors came to a violent head.
As Latham made his way home that evening with his wife and two of their friends, Durham Sr. pulled his vehicle out of the driveway and used it to block the teen’s truck. The Durhams accused Latham of intentionally swerving his vehicle toward their younger son as he rode his bike earlier in the day.
NJ.com reported Catherine Durham and Sarah Latham both were filming on cell phones as the situation grew tense. After denying he did anything wrong, Latham swatted away Catherine Durham’s phone and drove the 500 feet to his home.
Moments later, the Durhams’ two sons rode their bikes to their neighbors’ house, where Latham had gone inside and “armed himself with a knife and Taser,” prosecutors said.
In video Sarah Latham shot from her driveway, she allegedly can be heard telling the Durhams, “I promise you, you better back up, ‘cause you’re not gonna like what’s coming out.”
Durham Sr. then pulled up in his truck and, while walking across the Latham’s yard, allegedly told one of his sons to “get the gun.” After the Lathams repeatedly demanded the Durhams leave their property, Durham Jr. allegedly approached Zachary Latham and appeared to be about to punch him, so Latham, still holding the knife and stun gun, took a swing at him.
Video allegedly shows the three Durham men, Latham and Latham’s two friends next got into a brawl that spilled from the driveway into the garage, according to NJ.com.
During the fight, Latham allegedly stabbed Durham Sr. multiple times with the 4-inch-blade knife. The father, whose injuries included a punctured lung, was rushed to an area hospital, where he died.
In the recording of a 911 call obtained by New Jersey Advance Media, Zachary Latham told the emergency dispatcher, “There’s blood all over the place. I just got assaulted and jumped. … I got beat up really bad and I have blood all over me. … They came with trucks, came on my property with guns and then when I … I fought them off they drove away.”
Latham’s attorneys claimed the teenager only grabbed the stun gun and knife because he feared a mob attack by the family, who were unarmed at the time, according to NJ.com.
The Durhams’ lawyers, however, countered in a letter to prosecutors that Latham tricked the family onto their property so his wife could record the encounter “because it was her and Latham’s intent to post these videos to TikTok and become ‘TikTok famous.’”
“If Latham was in fear for his or Sarah’s safety, they both would have retreated inside, called police and stayed there,” the lawyers reportedly wrote, alleging, “They did not because their intent was to lure the Durhams there, attack them and record it for TikTok.”
According to the New York Post, Latham currently faces aggravated manslaughter and assault charges. Catherine Durham is accused of criminal trespass and simple assault. Her sons were each charged with criminal trespass and aggravated assault.
Latham is free pending his pre-indictment hearing, currently scheduled for Aug. 20.
In a statement, the union that represented slain corrections officer Durham Sr. condemned the judge’s decision to allow Latham to be released before trial.
“It is well known that Zach Latham consistently demonstrated a pattern of harassment against William Durham Sr. and his family over a period of several weeks prior to killing William Durham Sr.,” PBA Local 105 said, according to NJ.com. “Latham’s social media posts illustrate the sociopathic pleasure that he took in harassing the Durham family … It takes a particularly perverse and depraved person to stun-gun and stab an unarmed man.”
Public defender Nathan Perry recently told the court the Durhams had a problem with his client because they viewed the teen as “the James Dean of the neighborhood.”
“This was a horrific tragedy. It never had to happen, but to a very, very fair extent, the Durhams visited this great sadness upon themselves,” the lawyer said.