Ex-NU prof gets 53 years for ‘cold-blooded’ killing of boyfriend in River North condo
Wyndham Lathem and Andrew Warren, of Britain, stabbed Trenton Cornell more than 70 times in 2017, prosecutors said.
Former Northwestern University professor Wyndham Lathem received what is effectively a life sentence Tuesday for the brutal slaying of his boyfriend at his River North condo.
Cook County Judge Charles Burns called the killing of Trenton Cornell “cold-blooded,” “calculated” and an “execution” as he sentenced Lathem to 53 years in prison.
Lathem, 47, would be 100 when he’s released.
Lathem faced a sentence of 20-60 years, and the judge said he believed a sentence on the “extreme” end was merited.
A renowned microbiologist who studied bubonic plague, Lathem had “treated his lab animals better than he treated” Cornell, Burns said.
“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,” the judge added.
Lathem planned and orchestrated the attack with Andrew Warren, a British national who Lathem met online and paid to come to Chicago so they could commit the murder together as part of a sexual fantasy, prosecutors said.
Cornell, 26, was found stabbed more than 70 times on July 27, 2017 inside a bedroom at Lathem’s luxury apartment.
After the murder, Lathem drove to the Howard Brown Health Center and a library in Lake Geneva to donate money in Cornell’s name before he and Warren went on the run, eventually ending up in California, where both surrendered to authorities.
Warren pleaded guilty to the murder in 2019 and testified against Lathem at his trial in October.
Warren said the initial plan had been for the two men to kill each other as part of a suicide pact.
Lathem “was going to cut me open ... and fatally wound me,” Warren said at trial, adding he was then supposed to shoot Lathem.
They drove to St. Louis to purchase a gun, but were unable to obtain one, and returned to Chicago the following day.
On the ride back, Warren said Lathem first suggested killing Cornell.
Warren testified he went over to Lathem’s apartment that night and was supposed to film the murder, but did not. He said he watched Lathem repeatedly stab Cornell as he slept in Lathem’s bed and also stabbed Cornell several times himself.
Lathem’s defense painted Warren, a former Oxford University financial officer, as a “gold digger,” who was jealous of Cornell’s relationship with Lathem.
Lathem admitted he and Cornell would sometimes engage in consensual knife-play as part of their sexual relationship, but claimed he didn’t expect Warren to begin stabbing Cornell as the younger man laid in Lathem’s bed.
While on the run with Warren, Lathem sent his parents a video message.
“It wasn’t an accident, but it was a mistake,” Lathem said on the video. “I regret it with every fiber of my being.”
It took a jury less than two hours to find Lathem guilty.
At sentencing, Lathem didn’t admit his role in Cornell’s murder, but said he wanted to tell Cornell’s parents he was sorry for what happened to their son.
“I want Trent’s family to know that I have been grief stricken with remorse since the moment everything happened.” Lathem said in a quiet voice, at times sobbing, when he spoke during the hearing Tuesday.
“And the last four and a half years have not made it any easier,” he added. “Every day I think of Trent.”
Cornell’s mothers, Charlotte Cornell and Mischelle Duranleau, said they were grateful “justice was served.”
In her victim impact statement, Duranleau said her son’s trusting nature and childlike innocence made him “a perfect target for the murderer he fell in love with.”
At least with Lathem in prison, she said “he will never be able to prey upon and hurt anyone in the free world forever.”