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Crime News

Former Northwestern Professor Sentenced To 53 Years In Prison For Boyfriend's 'Cold-Blooded' Murder

Wyndham Lathem was convicted of brutally stabbing Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau to death in 2017.

By Constance Johnson
Wyndham Lathem Pd

A former Northwestern University professor was sentenced to 53 years in prison for the brutal stabbing of his boyfriend in 2017 at his apartment in Chicago.

Cook County Judge Charles Burns called the murder of Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau “cold-blooded,” “calculated” and an “execution” at the sentencing on Tuesday for Wyndham Lathem,47, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Cornell-Duranleau, 26, was stabbed more than 70 times on July 27.

A jury found Lathem guilty of first-degree murder in October.

Burns said the once renowned microbiologist – who studied the bubonic plague – “treated his lab animals better than he treated,” Cornell-Duranleau, the newspaper reported.

“To butcher an individual, Trenton Cornell, the way that he died, in order to fulfill a bizarre, antisocial, perverted fantasy, based on whatever sense of reality, is totally beyond my understanding,” Burns said.

Prosecutors said the murder was part of a twisted methamphetamine-fueled sexual fantasy. Lathem enlisted the help of Andrew Warren, a British national and then Oxford University financial officer. They met online and Warren came to the U.S. from England for the deadly encounter.

Warren testified that he and Lathem had initially planned to kill each other as part of a suicide pact but decided to kill Lathen after they were unable to purchase a gun in St. Louis, according to the Sun-Times.

He testified that he was supposed to film the murder, but never did. Instead, he watched Lathem stab Cornell several times before eventually stabbing him several times as well.

Lathem claimed that Warren stabbed Cornell-Duranleau as he hid in the bathroom.

Both men went on the run together after the murder but surrendered in California more than a week later.

Lathem sent his parents a video message after he fled Chicago.

“It wasn’t an accident, but it was a mistake,” Lathem said in the video. “I regret it with every fiber of my being.”

During Lathem’s trial, the defense depicted Warren as a “gold digger” jealous of the relationship that Cornell-Duranleau and Lathem shared.

Lathem said that he and Cornell occasionally engaged in consensual knife-play during sex, but was shocked when Warren stabbed Cornell-Duranleau.

Warren was sentenced to 45 years in prison as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. He also agreed to testify against Lathem during the trial.  

Lathem apologized to Cornell’s family at the sentencing.

“I want Trent’s family to know that I have been grief-stricken with remorse since the moment everything happened,” Lathem said, while sometimes crying, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “And the last four and a half years have not made it any easier. Every day I think of Trent.”

Cornell-Duranleau’s family said they were grateful that “justice was served.”

In her victim impact statement, Mischelle Duranleau said her son’s trusting nature and innocence made him “a perfect target for the murderer he fell in love with,” according to the Sun-Times.

Lathem’s attorney told NBC News that they are seeking a new trial.

“As for the sentence, we contend that it was unduly harsh given Dr. Lathem’s outstanding contributions to society and his lifetime battle against infectious disease,” Adam Sheppard said.

Northwestern fired Lathem shortly after he went on the run.