Former banking exec pleads not guilty to conspiring to kill wife
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - The former banker caught up in a contract killing plot that targeted his estranged wife was arraigned Wednesday afternoon on racketeering and murder-for-hire charges.
In a Wednesday afternoon hearing, Chris Latham pleaded not guilty to the charges and asked for a continuance. A second hearing was pushed back to Monday. During the hearing, he maintained eye contact with his wife and their daughters.
Federal officials say Mr. Latham "did conspire, confederate, agree and have a tacit understanding with each other and with others known and unknown to the Grand Jury to travel in, and cause another to travel in, interstate commerce, with the intent that a murder be committed."
It adds that he also used and carried a firearm to further the crime.
Mr. Latham, whose estranged wife has accused him of being in a plot to kill her, was arrested by federal agents in the town of Salem. Chris Latham's attorney said agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms took Latham into custody.
The arrest was initially reported by the Post and Courier.
According to court records, the arrest warrant for Mr. Latham was signed Tuesday after a Grand Jury indicted him, Moore, Wilkinson, and Palmer.
He was transferred to the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday.
Mr. Latham's attorney told the newspaper Tuesday evening that he did not know any details about the charges Mr. Latham faces, but added the former banker would probably be in court on Wednesday.
'I think she slept well'
With Mr. Latham's arrest, Mrs. Latham's attorney said the woman mired in a heated divorce proceeding slept well for the first time in a long time Tuesday night.
Matt Yelverton said his client's fears have finally been put at ease with the arrest of her husband, adding that there are a lot of what he called smoking guns in the case.
But Yelverton said seeing their father cuffed in the courtroom did cause some emotional distress for the girls.
Mr. Latham's case has been continued until Monday, where Mrs. Latham is expected to speak in the federal bond court hearing.
Mrs. Latham believes Mr. Latham at the very least knew about Moore's plot to kill her and did nothing to stop it, court documents show, and her evidence goes beyond the romance, expressions of love and accusations of playing house in a Sullivan's Island rental.
There's the manila envelope full of documents that provided Yenawine and Wilkinson with a background on Mrs. Latham - those documents all came from the discovery process in the Latham divorce proceedings.
"I have seen photographs of the documents given to the man hired to kill me, and it contains photos and information only Chris would know," Mrs. Latham writes, citing a photo of her driveway, divorce hearing documents, personal information about Mrs. Latham and the Latham children, and descriptions of where she and her daughters would be.
There's the effort on Mr. Latham's part to get Mrs. Latham at certain places at specific times, information she contends was relayed to Moore, Yenawine and Wilkinson.
Mrs. Latham says her death would clean up a lot of financial woes for Mr. Latham and Moore. It would have kept Moore and Mr. Latham's relationship a secret, securing his employment, she says. It would have stymied any perjury charges Mr. Latham may have faced. It would have put an end to the hundreds of hours of legal work that's consuming hundreds of thousands of dollars. It would have ended a divorce proceeding and alimony fight that's now become the four months' traffic on Charleston's legal stage.
It began with a traffic stop
The ATF has been investigating the alleged contract killing that targeted Nancy Latham, an investigation that has led to four arrests already.
The plot started to come unraveled during a traffic stop in April, when 39-year-old Aaron Russell Wilkinson told officers he was in town to kill Mrs. Latham. The tale Wilkinson told spread across several years and states and implicated three other people.
Since then, Wilkinson's former cellmate in a Kentucky prison, Samuel Yenawine, as well as Wendy Moore, Yenawine's ex-wife and Chris Latham's current girlfriend, and Rachel Palmer have come under scrutiny by investigators and arrested.
Moore's attorney, David Aylor, said late Tuesday night that her defense was continuing forward despite any developments in the cases against her co-defendants.
Yenawine was found dead in a Georgetown County Detention Center cell. Medical examiners said he died by hanging himself. Yenawine's attorney has debated that conclusion, saying his client had maintained his innocence and had been upbeat shortly before his death.
In a July hearing, Mrs. Latham said in an affidavit that she believed her estranged husband was involved in the plot to kill her. She said the motive was money.
"He had an affair with his secretary and got caught, and she hired people to kill me to keep me from testifying about it," Mrs. Latham said in a July 12 affidavit.
Moore once served as Mr. Latham's secretary at Bank of America, but Mrs. Latham says that professional relationship turned personal, romantic and serious, which she pointed out in court documents was a serious violation of company policy that could cost them both their jobs.
For Mr. Latham, that could mean losing a mid-six-figure salary and a $3,000-a-month house on the beach, a home Mrs. Latham says he was secretly sharing with his secretary. The Sullivan's Island beach rental has turned into quite a home, according to Mrs. Latham, who says in the affidavit that Moore's children and parents moved into the house with the new couple.
Mrs. Latham argued that she has no meaningful income, adding that she is trying to rely on the court-ordered $5,500 per month in child support and an additional $3,000 per month for living costs.
A judge is still deliberating on the tale of the Lathams and their estate before a decision is rendered at a later date.