SULLIVAN’S ISLAND — About a dozen law enforcement agents converged on a house here tonight to conduct a search warrant in a murder-for-hire case.
The intended target in the case is going through a divorce with her husband. The Brownell Avenue home that agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are searching is believed to be where the target’s husband, Chris Latham, has lived.
Agents said tonight that Latham was not the subject of the search. Repeated attempts to reach Latham or his attorney by phone have been unsuccessful.
Two Kentucky men and a local woman were arrested after federal investigators said they were part of a plot to kill Nancy Latham, an agent for Beachside Real Estate as well as treasurer of the S.C. Education Lottery Commission.
Latham has said she had been advised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office not to talk about the case. A spokesman for the office did not provide more information.
The alleged plot was exposed Friday when Charleston police pulled over Aaron Russell Wilkinson, 39, of Louisville, Ky., in a traffic stop. Police found a revolver and a box of ammunition in the car and arrested Wilkinson for driving with a suspended driver’s license, according to court documents.
The affidavit outlined what happened:
Wilkinson told police he was in Charleston because he was involved in a plot to kill a local woman for money. He said he didn’t intend to kill the woman but was trying to appease the man who recruited him to help him kill her. Police called in ATF to investigate.
Wilkinson said a former cell mate, Samuel Arthur Yenawine, 38, of Louisville, approached him March 31 and asked him to drive with him to Nashville to pick up about 2 kilograms of cocaine. They took off in a Volkswagen Passat that Yenawine’s girlfriend rented. While they were driving, Yenawine announced that they were going to South Carolina instead to kill a witness in a racketeering case, a story that later turned out to be untrue.
They arrived April 1 at the North Charleston Econolodge on Saul White Boulevard and met up with Yenawine’s ex-wife, Wendy Annette Moore.
Court documents reveal Moore had been accused of having an affair with Chris Latham.
Wilkinson said he waited in the car while Moore gave Yenawine $5,000 and a bottle of Loritab and Valium, supposedly to make the death look like an accident.
Wilkinson said he would get $5,000 for his role in the plot and Yenawine would get $20,000 to $30,000. The affidavit did not say where the money was coming from.
Yenawine gave Wilkinson $4,000 to deposit in his wife’s bank account in Kentucky, with the understanding that Yenawine’s girlfriend would go with Wilkinson’s wife to a bank and withdraw it.
Wilkinson made the deposit at the Walmart at Tanger Outlets.
The pair then met Moore outside a house on Sullivan’s Island, where she handed Yenawine a manila envelope. The envelope turned out to contain photos of Latham and her house and vehicles, and her schedules. Wilkinson said he then learned that Latham was the target.
Yenawine called his girlfriend because he was concerned that she would withdraw the $4,000 and spend it on drugs, Wilkinson told agents. They decided that night to drive back to Kentucky.
Wilkinson said he was afraid of Yenawine and offered to drive back to Charleston and carry out the hit himself. He and his wife left Kentucky on April 2 and arrived in Charleston on April 3, driving the same VW Passat as before. The couple rented a room at the Days Inn on West Montague Avenue in North Charleston and tried to come up with a plan. Wilkinson said he had no intention of killing anybody, but was afraid of Yenawine.
It all came to an end when he was arrested Friday for driving under suspension.
Wilkinson and Moore were booked into the Charleston County jail, and Yenawine was booked into the Oldham County Jail in Kentucky.
All three were to be charged with conspiracy and travel in interstate commerce with the intent to commit murder and aiding and abetting.
Wilkinson and Yenawine also were to be charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.
Nancy Latham is well-known in the community.
She is a wildlife artist and a member of Trident United Way’s Palmetto Society, fundraising chairwoman of Wando Theatre Boosters, and a supporter of the Spoleto Festival USA and Trident Technical College Foundation, according to her biography on the lottery commission’s website.
Divorce papers filed in Charleston County family court indicate House Speaker Bobby Harrell was accused of using his influence in the Latham marriage dispute.
Both Bobby and Cathy Harrell have been named in those court papers.
“Cathy Harrell has said extremely derogatory statements about the defendant (Chris Latham) and has stated such things to third parties,” according to court documents filed by Chris Latham’s attorney. “Cathy Harrell further testified that Bobby Harrell ‘gave an earful’ to clients of the defendant.”
Harrell appointed Nancy Latham as treasurer to the South Carolina State Lottery Commission. And Bobby and Cathy Harrell are the Latham children’s godparents.
Cathy Harrell has been identified as a potential witness in the divorce proceedings.
An affidavit filed by Chris Latham alleges the Harrells intended to use their political influence in every way possible to ruin Latham’s career and influence the outcome of the divorce.
In a text message between Cathy Harrell and Nancy Latham, Cathy states, “If there is anything we and especially Bobby can do make a list and he will be done!”
On March 29, Family Court Judge Dana Morris issued an order stating that she did not find “that there has been any improper attempt to influence the judiciary by either Mr. Harrell or Mrs. Harrell.”
Bobby Harrell released a statement at 5:30 p.m. that said, in part, his wife, Cathy, offered to do anything the couple could to help Nancy Latham. He was also critical of how the newspaper has handled the story.
“She has been traumatized and her life very possibly was in danger,” Harrell said in the statement. “The newspaper left out the most important part of the email from my wife to Nancy offering to help. My wife wrote, ‘We took an oath before God to step up and take care of (the children) in all ways.’ We were fulfilling a promise to Nancy and God, and I do not apologize for that.”
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553 or twitter.com/dmunday.