A former Northwestern University professor has been sentenced to more than five decades behind bars for the “cold-blooded” and “calculated” sex-fetish stabbing death of his boyfriend.
Renowned microbiologist Wyndham Lathem, 47, was sentenced Tuesday to 53 years for killing 26-year-old Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lathem was convicted in October of first-degree murder and faced a prison sentence of 20 to 60 years.
Cook County Judge Charles Burns said he believed a sentence on the “extreme” end was merited, according to the paper.
“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,” said Burns, who called the murder a “calculated execution.”
The fatal stabbing of the hairstylist on July 27, 2017, was part of a sexual fantasy hatched in an online chatroom between Lathem and Oxford University employee Andrew Warren, whose plan included killing someone and then themselves, prosecutors said.
The victim was stabbed 70 times at Lathem’s Chicago condo with such brutality that he was nearly decapitated. His throat was slit and his pulmonary artery torn.
Lathem paid for Warren’s ticket to travel to the US and picked him up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport a few days before the killing, Assistant State’s Attorney Natosha Toller told the court in August 2017.
On July 26, one day before the killing, Lathem booked a room for Warren near the condo, Toller said.
Cornell-Duranleau, a Michigan native, had been asleep in Lathem’s high-rise Chicago condo when Lathem let Warren into the 10th-floor unit around 4:30 a.m. July 27 — treading carefully so as not to wake the victim.
As Warren stood in a doorway, Lathem crept up to Cornell-Duranleau and began plunging a 6-inch drywall saw knife into his chest and neck, Toller said.
Warren then joined Lathem in stabbing him, the prosecutor said. At one point, the victim bit Warren’s hand as he struggled to fight off the attack.
She said the victim’s last words to Lathem were: “Wyndham, what are you doing?”
The men then drove to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, where Lathem went to the public library and wrote a $1,000 check as a donation, also in the victim’s name, the court heard.
Warren, who pleaded guilty to the murder in 2019 in exchange for receiving a 45-year prison sentence, testified against Lathem and 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 during the trial, adding that he was then supposed to shoot the microbiologist.
Lathem’s attorney described the former Oxford University financial officer as a “gold digger” who was jealous of Cornell-Duranleau’s relationship with Lathem.
During Tuesday’s sentencing, Lathem didn’t admit his role in the murder but said he wanted to tell Cornell-Duranleau’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,” a sobbing Lathem said, according to the Sun-Times.
“And the last four and a half years have not made it any easier. Every day I think of Trent,” he added.