A university professor murdered his boyfriend as part of a sexual fantasy hatched with an Oxford University administrator he met online, prosecutors say.
Northwestern University microbiology professor Wyndham Lathem and Oxford bursar Andrew Warren have appeared in court charged with the sexually motivated murder of Lathem’s boyfriend Trenton Cornell-Duranleau, who was stabbed 70 times with such force that he was nearly decapitated.
The murder is alleged to have taken place at Lathem’s home in Chicago on 27 July after months of planning by the pair.
Prosecutor Natosha Toller told the Cook County court that Lathem, 46, and Warren, 56, had communicated for months about “carrying out their sexual fantasies of killing others and then themselves”.
Lathem paid for Warren's ticket to travel to the US and he picked Warren up at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport a few days before the killing, the prosecutor said. On 26 July, 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 apartment when Lathem is alleged to have let Warren into the 10th-floor unit around 4.30am on 27 July — 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, Ms Toller said.
Lathem had told Warren to take video of the killing using his cellphone, but Warren did not end up recording it, the prosecutor said.
When Cornell-Duranleau awoke, he began screaming and fought back; Lathem yelled at Warren, asking him to help subdue Cornell-Duranleau, the prosecutor said.
Warren ran over to cover the victim's mouth, then struck him in the head with a heavy lamp in an attempt to silence him, Toller said. As Lathem continued to stab the victim, Warren left the room and returned with two kitchen knives, she said.
Warren bent over Cornell-Duranleau and 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 were to Lathem: "Wyndham, what are you doing?"
While prosecutors said Lathem and Warren had concocted a plan to kill themselves after the stabbing, Toller did not say why they never followed through with it.
Following the murder, the alleged killers then went on the run for eight days prompting a nationwide manhunt.
Warren’s colleagues in the financial office at Oxford University urged him to turn himself in and both eventually surrendered to police in California on 4 August.
Lathem's lawyer, Barry Sheppard, said in a brief statement to reporters after the hearing that people shouldn't "engage in a rush to judgment." He said his client had led "a life of unblemished ... citizenship," which included academic work on the bubonic plague virus.
Warren spoke briefly when the judge asked if he wanted a British diplomatic officer to be in contact. "No," Warren said. For the bond hearing, Warren relied on a public defender, who did not comment later.
The judge set a Tuesday hearing for the men, when another judge will be assigned to oversee the criminal case. Both would have a chance to enter pleas at a later date.
Additional reporting by AP