Ex-NU professor Lathem appears in court; nods, smiles, mouths words
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DUBLIN, Calif. — For the first time since he was identified as a suspect, the former Northwestern University professor accused in a bizarre River North murder stood before a judge in northern California on Monday and was formally read the charges against him.
Wearing a red jail jumpsuit, Wyndham Lathem, 42, was brought into Court Department Room 711 around 2:30 p.m. and looked to five friends of his who attended the hearing — nodding, smiling and silently mouthing words to them. Later, the friends declined to speak with reporters.
But when he was addressed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing, Lathem responded with a clear voice.
When Hing asked Lathem whether he understood he was being charged with murder, Lathem answered in one word: “Yes.”
Lathem’s court appearance came on the same day his attorneys said Lathem plans to plead not guilty to killing hairstylist Trenton H. James Cornell-Duranleau inside Lathem’s condo in a River North high-rise; Northwestern formally announced Lathem had been fired, effective Aug. 4; and authorities in San Francisco County released a mugshot of his co-defendant, Oxford University employee Andrew Warren, who is scheduled to appear in court for the first time on Friday.
Lathem surrendered to police in Oakland on Friday after a week on the lam with Warren. In court, Lathem and his California attorney, Kenneth Wine, agreed to waive his arraignment and right to oppose extradition back to Chicago. Wine also told Hing he did not want Lathem to be subject to further police questioning without an attorney present.
Hing set a “control date” — a deadline for Lathem to be returned to Chicago — for Sept. 6. He’s expected to return more quickly than that.
Wine told reporters earlier that his client came out to California because that’s where his closest family and friends live.
In Chicago, lawyer Adam Sheppard — who is teaming up with his father, veteran defense attorney Barry Sheppard, to represent Lathem here — warned against a rush to judgment of his client.
“There are a wide variety of scenarios that are possibly consistent with innocence,” Adam Sheppard said. “As the facts unfold, I would keep an open mind.”
Warren, a 56-year-old Oxford pension administrator, will have an extradition hearing Friday morning at the San Francisco County Criminal Court.
Officers discovered Cornell-Duranleau’s body on July 27 inside Lathem’s 10th-floor apartment in the Grand Plaza apartments. An autopsy showed Cornell-Duranleau, 26, who apparently lived with Lathem, died of multiple stab wounds.
Barry Sheppard negotiated terms of Lathem’s surrender with police after Lathem contacted him Friday afternoon, Adam Sheppard said. After several hours of back-and-forth, Lathem drove Warren to a San Francisco Police station near Golden Gate Park, then turned himself in to police in Oakland.
Adam Sheppard said he would seek to have Lathem granted bond so he could go free while awaiting trial in Cook County.
“I think pretrial release would be merited, given [Lathem’s] complete lack of a criminal history, his distinguished career as a microbiologist and immunologist, and good character,” Adam Sheppard said. “We have been flooded with letters and calls from family and friends, and everybody describes him as a man of outstanding character. These allegations against him are totally at odds with the man they know.”
On Monday, before the hearing, Wine issued a statement describing similar testimonials from Lathem’s friends.
“They all describe him in the same way — a kind, intelligent and gentle soul . . . what he is accused of is totally contrary to the way he has lived his entire life.”
Adam Sheppard wouldn’t comment on the conversations with Lathem that led up to his arrest, nor offer an explanation for his client’s weeklong journey to Northern California, which included a trip through Lake Geneva, Wisconsin., where either Lathem or Warren made a $1,000 donation to the public library there in Cornell-Duranleau’s name.
Adam Sheppard also wouldn’t comment on how Lathem knew Cornell-Duranleau or their relationship, or how Lathem is connected to Warren.
Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson on Monday shed no new light on the brutal stabbing at a news conference at police headquarters called to encourage people to apply to take the Dec. 16 police exam
“There’s a process. We have to wait until their extradition hearings are completed,” Johnson said.
Pressed on whether there is a motive for the murder, Johnson said, “Not at this time.”
The superintendent said he had no details to share about the crime or the crime scene in the 500 block of North State. “We haven’t talked to them yet,” he said of the suspects.
Sam Charles reported from California. Andy Grimm and Fran Spielman reported from Chicago.