Ex-professor accused of Illinois murder sought freedom to fight virus

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FILE – In this Aug. 19, 2017, file photo, Wyndham Lathem arrives at a police station as he is escorted by Chicago police in Chicago. Lathem, a former Northwestern University professor charged in the murder of his boyfriend, was rebuffed by a judge after asking to be released from a Chicago jail so his research skills can be used to battle COVID-19, The Chicago Sun-Times, citing court records Monday, April 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Jim Young, Pool, File)

CHICAGO (AP) – A former Northwestern University professor charged in the murder of his boyfriend was rebuffed by a judge after asking to be released from a Chicago jail so his research skills can be used to battle COVID-19.

Wyndham Lathem asked last week to be freed on $1 million bail from Cook County Jail, which has one of the nation’s most aggressive outbreaks of coronavirus. In addition to his research skills, Lathem also cited health issues that put him at greater risk if he contracts COVID-19.

The Chicago Sun-Times, citing court records Monday, reports that in an emergency hearing conducted via teleconference, Judge Charles Burns on Friday denied granting Lathem bail.

The microbiologist gained renown for his research on the bubonic plague.

“With his background and experience, Dr. Lathem is well-suited to advise and participate in studies that are aimed at understanding SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Dr. William Goldman, chair of Microbiology and Immunology at University of North Carolina, in an email appended to Lathem’s motion. “It would make sense to take advantage of as many experts as possible during this worldwide crisis that is rapidly expanding in scope.”

Lathem is accused in the 2017 stabbing death of Trenton Cornell-Duranleau. Latham’s accomplice, Oxford University employee [b17b2d50166845dc88380d5d375ce3fd]Andrew Warren, pleaded guilty last year in a deal that calls for him to [f3b9b1ccab6840cf94fac79f12cc2755]testify against Lathem, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Lathem, 45, has been held in Cook County Jail without bail since his arrest and lost his position as a professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Attorney Adam Sheppard said Monday that Lathem was disappointed by the ruling, adding his client reported mild symptoms of COVID-19 on Friday.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office reports that as late Sunday, there were 309 detainees that have tested positive for COVID-19. Two detainees have died of complications related to the coronavirus. The cause of death of a third detainee diagnosed with COVID-19 has tentatively been attributed to cardiac arrest.

“We are deeply concerned about his health,” Sheppard said. “He had been hopeful that he might get out (on bond), but he was not overly optimistic.”

Sheppard said nursing staff at the jail has informally asked Lathem for advice on containing the outbreak.

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