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Bubonic plague researcher sobs as he watches video of dead boyfriend during trial

A former Northwestern University microbiology professor on trial for murder in Chicago sobbed in court on Tuesday when prosecutors showed a grisly crime scene video depicting the partially-decapitated body of his boyfriend.

Wyndham Lathem, a once-renowned bubonic plague researcher, is accused of killing Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau, a 26-year-old hair stylist from Michigan, as part of what prosecutors said was a sexual fantasy the professor shared with a British man who was also charged in this twisted case.  

In July 2017, Cornell-Duranleau was found in Lathem’s Chicago high-rise condominium, suffering from 78 stab wounds and a deep cut to his neck that nearly severed his head.

When prosecutors on Tuesday showed the jury footage from the scene where the victim was found, Lathem wept quietly and covered his eyes, as Chicago Sun-Times reported. 

But when the video focused on the mutilated body of his boyfriend, the former academic let out a sob.   

Lathem is accused of enlisting Andrew Warren, an Oxford University financial officer, to fly from England to Chicago to help him kill Cornell-Duranleau. 

The pair of suspects were arrested in Northern California after an eight-day manhunt.  

Trenton Cornell-Duranleau (pictured), a 26-year-old hairdresser from Michigan, was stabbed 78 times while he slept in Lathem's Chicago high-rise condominium on July 27, 2017

Wyndham Lathem (left), a former Northwestern University microbiology professor, broke down in sobs during his Chicago murder trial Tuesday after being shown video depicting the mutilated body of his boyfriend, Trenton Cornell-Durnaleau, 26 (right)

The victi

The victim was found stabbed 78 times all over his body in Lathem’s bedroom at the Grand Plaza Apartments in Chicago (pictured) in July 2017

On Day 2 of the trial on Tuesday, jurors heard testimony from the victim’s roommate, a doorman at Lathem’s condominium, a police officer and a hotel receptionist. 

Carl Mash, who shared an apartment with Cornell-Duranleau, admitted on the witness stand that he had once given drugs to the victim, but denied being a meth dealer.

Mash, 44, also recounted that he gave his roommate his bus pass a day before his death. He then kept sending Cornell-Duranleau text messages, reminding him to bring the bus pass back, but there was no reply. 

A doorman at the Grand Plaza Apartments told the court that on July 27, 2017, a resident reported hearing screams, but a maintenance worker who was sent to look into the disturbance did not hear anything suspicious. 

Later, police were contacted with a request to perform a welfare check after the front desk at the condominium got a call from someone who said that a crime may have been committed inside Lathem’s apartment. 

Andrew Warren, an Oxford University financial officer, was said to have flown from England to Chicago to help Lathem kill his boyfriend as part of a sexual fantasy

Andrew Warren, an Oxford University financial officer, was said to have flown from England to Chicago to help Lathem kill his boyfriend as part of a sexual fantasy 

Officer Mark Beam, with the Chicago Police Department, found Cornell-Duranleau lying in a pool of blood with stab wounds all over his body. 

He said that the copious amount of blood on the floor led him to believe that the victim was already dead. 

A search of Lathem’s condo yielded a bag of ‘crystal-like’ substance and suspected drug paraphernalia, along with a drywall knife and two bloody kitchen knives, one of which was broken in half, according to a police evidence technician. 

The jury also heard from a front desk clerk at City Suites Hotel in Chicago, where Lathem and Warren booked a room using the Englishman’s identification card after Cornell-Duranleau’s killing. 

Video from the hotel showed Lathem at the front desk and Warren sitting in the lobby, prompting defense attorney Barry Sheppard to suggest that Lathem was doing Warren’s bidding.  

Lathem’s defense team have sought to place the blame for the murder on Warren, arguing that the British national killed Cornell-Duranleau out of jealousy after being jilted by the professor.

In 2019, Warren pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 45 years in prison as part of a plea agreement that calls for him to testify against Lathem during his trial. 

The prosecution, during opening statements Monday, argued that Lathem took advantage of a ‘young man just trying to make his way in Chicago’ to fulfill an apparent sexual fantasy.

However, Lathem’s attorney painted a different picture, saying that Warren committed a crime against both the defendant and the deceased.

‘This was nothing more than a crime of opportunity that had two victims,’ defense attorney Kenneth Wine.

‘Andrew Warren took the life of Trenton Cornell and ruined the life of Dr. Lathem.’ 

Lathem and Warren, pictured in this earlier courtroom sketch, were arrested in California after an eight-day manhunt

Lathem and Warren, pictured in this earlier courtroom sketch, were arrested in California after an eight-day manhunt 

Cornell-Duranleau was stabbed 78 times while he slept in Lathem’s Chicago high-rise condominium on July 27, 2017. 

After the killing, Warren and Lathem led police on an eight-day manhunt before they were arrested in Northern California.

Wine, declining to comment on pending litigation, provided a copy of his opening statement to DailyMail.com. In the statement, he explained that Lathem and Cornell-Duranleau had a sexual relationship that often involved ‘three way sex with people they met online,’ as well as ‘bondage and submission and other sex toys, including knife play’.

The attorney claims the men ‘had sexual fantasies involving fetish, restraints, leather bondage, and a variety of sex toys,’ noting that they would use meth or knife play during sex ‘to heighten the pleasure’.

Wine claims that Warren joined the couple in their bedroom the night of the murder and attacked them. Lathem allegedly went to the bathroom after having been stabbed by Warren and ‘heard fighting going on’ in the bedroom.

‘Andrew Warren will get on the stand and admit he smashed Trent Cornell over the head with metal bedroom lamp. The evidence will show that Andrew Warren viciously stabbed Trent Cornell to death with two knives,’ Wine said.

‘Dr. Lathem was shocked to discovery his lover’s dead body. He was at a loss as to what to do. He felt responsible for putting Trent Cornell in harm’s way. He believed – and still believes to this day – he bears responsibility for Trent’s death. It was Dr. Lathem, after all, who brought Andrew Warren into their lives.’

Wine continued, saying that Warren killed Cornell-Duranleau because he was jealous of the couple’s relationship. 

‘The evidence will show that Andrew Warren told Dr. Lathem that he – Andrew Warren – killed Trent Cornell so they could be together,’ he said.

Wine argues the 'evidence will show that Andrew Warren viciously stabbed Trent Cornell (pictured) to death with two knives' because he was jealous of the 26-year-old's relationship with Lathem

Wine argues the ‘evidence will show that Andrew Warren viciously stabbed Trent Cornell (pictured) to death with two knives’ because he was jealous of the 26-year-old’s relationship with Lathem

However, the prosecution argues that the evidence that Lathem (pictured) orchestrated and took the lead in the murder is 'clear and overwhelming'

However, the prosecution argues that the evidence that Lathem (pictured) orchestrated and took the lead in the murder is ‘clear and overwhelming’

‘Andrew Warren, who had just been told by Dr. Lathem the night before that Dr. Lathem had no romantic interest in him, killed Trent Cornell out of the most common of human emotions – jealousy, but it was more than mere jealousy, it was a jealous rage of a murderous psychopath. Andrew Warren had a motive and a perfect alibi. Dr. Lathem had no motive.’

However, Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Thrun argued that Lathem and Warren devised the murder plan together as part of a fantasy that was supposed to end with them killing each other.

‘This defendant may have shown one face to the world — respectable, prestigious doctor, but Trenton saw another face,’ Thrun said in court on Monday, according to WTTW.

The prosecutor continued, arguing that the evidence that Lathem orchestrated and took the lead in the murder is ‘clear and overwhelming’.

Lathem's trial is expected to last two weeks, with Warren (pictured) serving as a key witness. Warren pleaded guilty to murder in 2019 and was sentenced to 45 years in prison as part of a plea agreement that calls for him to testify against Lathem

Lathem’s trial is expected to last two weeks, with Warren (pictured) serving as a key witness. Warren pleaded guilty to murder in 2019 and was sentenced to 45 years in prison as part of a plea agreement that calls for him to testify against Lathem

‘He provided the crime location. And when he was on the run, he was behind the wheel… he decided where to go,’ he said. 

Thrun also argued that Lathem’s blood was found in the condo and on two knives. He also allegedly confessed to the crime on video.

‘He’s going to tell you, “I killed him, I did do it, it wasn’t an accident, it was a mistake … and I will regret it with every fiber of my being,”‘ Thrun said, quoting the footage. 

Lathem’s trial resumes Wednesday and is expected to last two weeks. 

Warren will likely be a key witness in the case.

Lathem has been in Cook County Jail since he was extradited from California.

Last year, he tried unsuccessfully to persuade a judge to release him on $1 million bail so that his research skills as a microbiologist could be used to battle COVID-19. 

He is the highest profile defendant to stand trial in a Chicago courtroom since in-person jury trials resumed in March following a break because of the pandemic. 


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