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Ex-professor accused of murder sought freedom to fight virus

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, 45, is accused in the 2017 stabbing death of Trenton Cornell-Duranleau. Latham’s accomplice, Oxford University employee Andrew Warren, pleaded guilty last year in a deal that calls for him to 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.

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