Stabbing suspect Wyndham Lathem, former Feinberg researcher, to be extradited to Chicago by end of week

Ben Pope, Summer Editor

Former Northwestern professor Wyndham Lathem will be extradited from a California jail back to Chicago this week to begin court proceedings in a murder case, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

After waiving his right to an extradition hearing last week, the ex-Feinberg School of Medicine professor, a suspect in the July 27 murder of Trenton Cornell-Duranleau, will be arraigned upon his return, Barry Sheppard, Lathem’s lawyer, told The Daily on Monday.

University of Oxford employee Andrew Warren, another suspect in the murder case, waived his right to a hearing as well and will be extradited soon after Lathem, the Sun-Times reported.

Until he was fired by Northwestern on Aug. 4, Lathem had conducted research on Yersinia pestis, the bacterial strain that can cause both bubonic and pneumonic plague.

The incident stunned many in the scientific community across the nation, many of whom knew or had heard of Lathem from his well known work investigating Yersinia pestis.

Several professors from institutions across the country, including the University of California, Davis, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore, who knew Lathem’s work on Yersinia pestis, said they were stunned after hearing about the stabbing.

“Like many of my colleagues, we are shocked and saddened by what has apparently transpired,” said Vincent Young, a University of Michigan professor in the department of microbiology and immunology — the same department in which Lathem worked at Northwestern.

Cornell-Duranleau, who sources told the Chicago Tribune may have been dating Lathem, was found dead from more than 40 stab wounds in Lathem’s North State Street apartment, sparking a weeklong manhunt for both Lathem and Warren.

On the day of the stabbing, a $1,000 donation was allegedly made from one of the suspects to a Wisconsin library in Cornell-Duranleau’s name. Police also said Lathem sent an apologetic video to his friends and family. Lathem and Warren surrendered separately in the Bay Area on Aug. 4.

Lathem was fired Aug. 4 by Northwestern for “the act of fleeing from police when there was an arrest warrant out for him,” University spokesman Al Cubbage said at the time, ending a 10-year tenure as an associate professor at Feinberg.

Virginia Miller, a former mentor of Lathem at Washington University who had kept in touch with him over the years, said Lathem was a man dedicated to science whom she couldn’t imagine committing a murder.

“I am still having a very difficult time imagining Wyndham being involved in this murder,” she said in an email to The Daily. “My reaction upon hearing of the arrest warrant initially was disbelief, quickly followed by sadness and worry for Wyndham.”

Throughout the past 14 years, Lathem established himself as one of the nation’s preeminent Yersinia researchers. He contributed to 28 different published research findings that have been cited more than 1,700 times, according to his database on ResearchGate.

Shortly before leaving Washington University in St. Louis for Northwestern in 2007, he discovered a gene in Yersinia pestis, known as PLA, that allows pestis to replicate quickly in air-filled areas — such as lungs, where it causes pneumonia, the key element of pneumonic plague — but does not affect its replication rate in lymph nodes and the bloodstream.

At Feinberg, Lathem discovered that the development of PLA gene was the factor that caused pestis to evolve from its ancestral bacteria and that PLA deactivates a “key regulator” in humans’ immune system response to bacterial infection, known as PAI-1.

Northwestern’s microbiology-immunology department was “advised” to refer all media requests to Cubbage, said a graduate student in the department. Cubbage declined to comment for this story and, citing the fact that Lathem is no longer employed by Northwestern, said the University will have no further comments regarding Lathem in the future.

Less than five months before the stabbing, Lathem was denied security clearance by French officials to begin working at Institut Pasteur in Paris, according to a Tribune report.

Lathem had been planning to move his lab from Feinberg to Institute Pasteur in France since last summer, according to the Tribune, and tweeted on March 10 that he was “packing up everything and should be in Paris in two weeks.” He was later denied a security clearance by French authorities, causing him to lose the job, according to the Tribune. Institute spokeswoman Aurelie Perthuison told the Tribune that French authorities did not provide the institute with a reason for the clearance denial.

Various former colleagues of Lathem said to The Daily that they perceived him as a friendly and engaging person. Adam Sheppard, one of Lathem’s lawyers, said Lathem had received an outpouring of support from such colleagues.

Much less is known about Warren, Lathem’s alleged accomplice, who traveled from England to the United States just two days before Cornell-Duranleau’s murder, according to the Sun-Times.

Warren was reported missing by his family on July 25, the Sun-Times reported. At Oxford’s Somerville College, he worked as a senior treasury assistant — a job he has since been suspended from, according to The Guardian.

Lathem and Warren are expected to appear in court next week for their arraignments.

Editor’s note: This story was re-published at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday with additional information.

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