Should Jailed Plague Expert Be Released To Help In Fight Against Coronavirus?

Wyndham Lathem is accused of planning boyfriend’s murder with online accomplice.

Wyndham Lathem [Cook County Sheriff's Office]

Wyndham Lathem [Cook County Sheriff's Office]

Wyndham Lathem [Cook County Sheriff's Office]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A world-renowned microbiologist who is currently being held without bail on murder charges petitioned a judge to set him free from a Chicago jail so he could help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Wyndham Lathem, 45, requested he be released on $1 million bail. The former professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine argued an underlying health condition he has would put his life at risk if he contracted COVID-19 while behind bars. He also noted he could help fight the illness because of his background and experience, which has included research on the bubonic plague, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

In an email included as part of the accused murderer’s motion, Dr. William Goldman, chair of Microbiology and Immunology at University of North Carolina, wrote: “It would make sense to take advantage of as many experts as possible during this worldwide crisis that is rapidly expanding in scope.”

Court records show Cook County Judge Charles Burns disagreed. He denied Lathem bail at an Apr. 10 emergency hearing.

“We are deeply concerned about his health,” Lathem’s attorney, Adam Sheppard, said following the ruling. “He had been hopeful that he might get out [on bond], but he was not overly optimistic.”

In 2017, the then-professor allegedly conspired to kill his 26-year-old hairdresser boyfriend, Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau, with British national Andrew Warren.

Prosecutors claimed Lathem and Warren, a former financial officer at Oxford College, met in an online chat room, where they shared with each other their sexual fantasies about murdering someone. The two allegedly went on to plot Cornell-Duranleau’s death in a series of emails before Warren flew to Chicago to enact the plan.

Warren, 59, accepted a deal last summer that would allow him to serve 45 years in prison if he pleaded guilty to murdering Cornell-Duranleau and testified against Lathem, the Sun-Times reported.

The plea deal requires Warren provide details of the grisly crime inside his co-defendant’s River North apartment, including how he hit Cornell-Duranleau with a lamp, covered his mouth, plunged a knife into his chest and filmed Lathem allegedly stabbing the victim dozens of times.

After the murder, Lathem and Warren rented a car and fled to California. Police claimed Lathem admitted to his boyfriend’s brutal murder in video messages sent to family and friends while on the run.

The ordeal reportedly ended when Lathem dropped off Warren at a San Francisco police station near Golden Gate Park and then surrendered to law enforcement in Oakland.

Lathem, who is currently incarcerated at the Cook County Jail awaiting trial, maintains he is innocent.

“He is not the nutty professor,” Sheppard insisted of his client in August. “He is a brilliant microbiologist, who is now being treated for depression. Both his parents died during his incarceration. He continues to persist in his not guilty plea and that his co-defendant is literally to blame.”

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