Prosecutors say that a former Northwestern associate professor and a suspended Oxford University employee have admitted to the brutal stabbing murder of a 26-year-old who was part of their erotic fantasy, Chicago Tribune reports.
During a bond hearing for the two murder suspects on Sunday, Illinois assistant state's attorney Natosha Toller painted a gruesome picture of the scene, allegedly born from a violent sexual murder-suicide fantasy that the pair plotted after meeting in an online chatroom.
The suspects, Wyndham Lathem, a 42-year-old academic at Northwestern and Andrew Warren, 56, an employee at Oxford, allegedly discussed "carrying out their sexual fantasies of killing others and then themselves" online before deciding to act in July, Toller said. Lathem allegedly bought Warren a plane ticket to Chicago, where together they planned to murder Lathem's boyfriend—26-year-old Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau—and one other person at the professor's high-rise condo.
Around 4 AM on July 27, after Cornell-Duranleau had fallen asleep at the apartment, Lathem invited Warren over, Toller said. He then reportedly asked Warren to film as he stabbed his boyfriend with a drywall saw, though Warren ultimately decided against it. Cornell-Duranleau woke up in the midst of the stabbing, screaming and fighting back, prosecutors say. His last words reportedly were, "Wyndham, what are you doing?"
Toller claims that Lathem had Warren hold the victim down, cover his mouth, and hit him with a lamp to subdue him, before Warren also attacked Cornell-Duranleau with a pair of knives. Cornell-Duranleau was stabbed a total of 70 times, leaving him with a torn pulmonary artery, punctured lungs, and nearly decapitated.
The pair then fled west in a rental car, but not before Lathem stopped to make a $5,610 donation to a Chicago LGBTQ health center in Cornell-Duranleau's name. While driving through Wisconsin hours later, he stopped again at a public library and left another $1,000 donation, also in the victim's name.
The pair finally turned themselves in to California authorities on August 8 after a nationwide manhunt, and Lathem sent a video to his family admitting to the gruesome crime, according to police. Both men are now being held in Chicago without bail and are scheduled to make a court appearance on Tuesday.
According to Lathem's lawyer, his friends and co-workers have reached out in his defense, describing the former microbiology professor as a "kind, intelligent, and gentle soul."
"The court has read [Lathem's] professional and academic achievements. Some of the finest in the world, right? It has nothing to do with this, though," Judge Adam Bourgeois Jr. said in court on Sunday. "The heinous facts speak for themselves."