Plea deal struck in 2017 murder prosecutors say was part of sexual fantasy

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CHICAGO — New details emerged Tuesday about a plea deal being considered for one of the suspects in a 2017 murder prosecutors say was part of a sexual fantasy, while the lawyer for the other defendant is firing back at the agreement.

Andrew Warren, who used to work for Oxford University, told prosecutors he would testify against former Northwestern professor Wyndem Lathem after both were accused of fatally stabbing a hair stylist in River North.

If not for the internet, the odds of these two men meeting would have been minuscule at best. But prosecutors say after chatting online, Warren and Lathem not only met, but also shared a desire to commit murder. Soon after the chats began, Warren was on his way to America, apparently telling no one he was leaving.

Prosecutors say in July of 2017, the two carried out their murder fantasy at Lathem’s River North high-rise apartment. They say Lathem lured his boyfriend Trenton Cornell Duranleau to the apartment to be stabbed to death while the two recorded it. The 26-year-old was stabbed 70 times and with such brutality he was nearly decapitated. His throat was slit, and his pulmonary artery was torn.

The discovery prompted a nationwide manhunt for Warren and Lathem. The two men surrendered to authorities in California just days later.

Warren’s trial was scheduled to start next week, but on Monday he decided to take a deal: In exchange for a plea of guilty to murder, he would turn on his American friend and for that testimony. Prosecutors agreed to recommend a 45-year prison sentence.

No trial date was set for Lathem, who has pleaded not guilty.

Lathem was an associate professor of microbiology at Northwestern when the murder happened. The university fired him after he fled.

On Tuesday, a Cook County judge ruled all but about one paragraph of the deal will be made public.

Lathem’s attorney says Warren made additional allegations against Lathem in the deal that could poison the jury pool.

“We encourage transparency and we are ready to proceed to trial, and the public will see the evidence when it hits the witness stand. That’s where the evidence should come from,” attorney Adam Sheppard said.

Lathem has pled not guilty, and his attorney says he looks forward to cross examining and hearing warren’s testimony at trial.

“Whether it’s itself truthful, that will be up for a jury to decide. We don’t think it is,” Sheppard said.

It could be months before a trial date is set. The details of the plea deal could be released as early as Wednesday.


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