A former Northwestern University professor accused of fatally stabbing his boyfriend was “catfished” by his onetime co-defendant, who killed the young hairstylist in a jealous rage, his attorney claims.
Defense attorney Kenneth Wine said Wyndham Lathem, a renowned microbiologist charged in the July 2017 slaying of Trenton Cornell-Duranleau, was framed by former Oxford University employee Andrew Warren, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Wine alleged Warren tricked Lathem, 47, into an online romance, the outlet said.
“[For] Andrew Warren, this was nothing more than a crime of opportunity that had two victims,” Wine said on the first day of Lathem's trial on first-degree murder charges.
“Andrew Warren took the life of Trenton Cornell and ruined the life of Dr. Lathem.”
Warren had killed Lathem's boyfriend because the professor known for his work on the bubonic plague had cut off his relationship with him a day earlier, Wine told jurors.
Lathem then fled with Warren from his Chicago apartment in a rented car because he was horrified by the attack and wanted the British man to confess, Wine said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Prosecutors, however, painted a different picture, saying evidence in the gruesome slaying was “clear” that both Lathem and Warren were responsible for stabbing Cornell-Duranleau more than 70 times and nearly decapitating him in the professor's bed.
After going on the run from authorities, Lathem then sent a video to his family confessing to the grisly killing, prosecutors said Monday.
“I killed him, I did do it, it wasn't an accident, it was a mistake, the biggest mistake of my life, and I regret it with every fiber of my being,” Lathem said on the clip, Assistant State's Attorney Matthew Thrun told jurors.
Prosecutors previously said Lathem and Warren concocted a plan to kill Cornell-Duranleau in Lathem's Gold Cost condo as part of a violent sexual fetish, but those details were not mentioned Monday — indicating that a judge barred them from introducing evidence about the alleged motive, the Tribune reported.
Wine, meanwhile, insisted Lathem made the video confession because he felt “morally responsible” for his boyfriend's death, but said Warren masterminded the slaying.
After meeting online, Warren professed his love for Lathem, who paid to fly the Oxford University employee from Britain to Chicago, Wine said. But once Warren was in Chicago, Lathem determined he wasn't as successful or attractive as he thought, Wine told jurors.
Lathem then ended his fling with Warren a day or two later before calling Cornell-Duranleau to stay at his condo, Wine said. The three later started having sex while using meth and knives, with Warren even learning the couple's safeword of “mosquito,” the defense attorney said.
But things took a violent turn as soon as Warren joined the couple in bed, Wine told jurors.
“Almost immediately, Trenton began to scream and thrash about,” Wine said. “Dr. Lathem dropped the drywall knife and he began to be punched and hit.”
Lathem got out of bed and dashed to a bathroom, where he heard a fight in the bedroom and returned when things got quiet, Wine said.
“He saw Trenton Cornell's body twitch and yelled for Andrew Warren to call 911,” Wine said.
“Andrew Warren refused. He replied to Dr. Lathem, ‘dead bodies do that.' Meanwhile, Andrew Warren, who had just brutally murdered Trenton Cornell … told Dr. Lathem he loved him.”
Wine said Warren — who pleaded guilty to murdering Cornell-Duranleau in 2019 and got a 45-year prison sentence while agreeing to testify against Lathem — killed him out of jealousy.
“It was the jealous rage of a dangerous psychopath,” Wine said.
Lathem is also expected to testify during the trial, which is expected to last two weeks, the Tribune reported.
Source: Miller, Joshua Rhett. Originally published in the New York Post on Sep 28, 2021.