Lathams’ split had turned ugly But divorce put on hold by revelation of alleged murder-for-hire plot
Nancy and Chris Latham were at odds.
She requested $5,500 a month in child support for their two teenage daughters. They dueled over alimony and accused each other of adultery.
Chris Latham filed police reports about a satellite tracking device being hidden under his car. He also accused his wife of trespassing at his Sullivan’s Island rental home. She described in divorce documents his bad temper, including his punching a hole in a pantry door.
A judge eventually ordered the pair to stay apart.
Now their divorce has been delayed after an alleged murder-for-hire scheme was exposed.
Further evidence about how serious authorities considered the plot surfaced Friday when S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell and his wife Cathy confirmed that they were given heightened security.
The measure, which included State Law Enforcement Division agents in their home, was specifically meant to protect Cathy Harrell.
While the Harrells and the Lathams had been close friends for more than two decades, Cathy Harrell was ready to testify on Nancy Latham’s behalf. But the couple’s divorce trial was halted this week in light of the revelation of the alleged plot.
“I was a possible target because of my association with Nancy,” Cathy Harrell said. “I was a witness in the divorce case.”
Attempts to reach Chris Latham were unsuccessful. His attorney, Stephen Schmutz of Charleston, was unavailable for comment Friday, a worker in his office said.
The three accused in the plot — Samuel Arthur Yenawine, 38; Aaron Russell Wilkinson, 39; and Wendy Annette Moore, 37 — all trace their roots to Kentucky, where more insight into their background has emerged.
Moore had owned an adult entertainment business in Louisville called Brooke and Wendy Modeling. At the time, she was married to Yenawine, and they lived together with their children on the second floor of the business. They rented a first-floor apartment to a bouncer for the business.
Yenawine fatally stabbed the bouncer one evening in 2001 after suspecting him of molesting the couple’s children, according to court papers. Yenawine then stripped off his bloody clothes, soaked them in glue and a cleaning solution, then set them on fire, court papers stated.
Yenawine went upstairs, showered and went to sleep. Moore later awoke to the smell of smoke.
In connection with the death, Yenawine served 10 years in prison, where he met Wilkinson.
Wilkinson has convictions for methamphetamine and marijuana possession and a history of forgery dating to 1992. He is labeled a persistent felony offender and isn’t allowed to have a gun.
So when a Charleston police officer found a revolver in his car on April 5, the alleged plot started falling apart.
Wilkinson had been driving near Hanover and Line streets in downtown Charleston, where officers were patrolling for drug activity, an incident report stated. The car was speeding and its headlights were out, so the officer stopped it.
From the start, Wilkinson was nervous and acknowledged that he didn’t have a driver’s license. He said that he and Moore were on vacation from Kentucky and were looking for a liquor store downtown.
Wilkinson agreed to let the police search his car. The officer first found a box containing 45 rounds of .32-caliber ammunition. Wilkinson said his gun was “back at the hotel,” the report stated, but the officer soon came across the loaded snub-nose revolver in a compartment near the steering wheel.
Officers arrested Wilkinson and took him to police headquarters for further questioning. He eventually told authorities, according to federal court documents, that he, Moore and Yenawine were involved in the plot against Nancy Latham. None of the court filings have indicated who might have hired them and offered up to $30,000 for the job.
Moore’s attorney, David Aylor, said Wilkinson’s statements make up the main evidence in the case against the trio, but Aylor said Wilkinson lacks credibility because he is a felon.
Aylor said Moore has two college degrees and had been working with Chris Latham at a Bank of America affiliate for two years. He said that she has never been arrested. She has been living with her two children, who attend Wando High School, at a rental home on Sullivan’s Island, the attorney said.
Yenawine, who was divorced from Moore, has since remarried. In October he was arrested in Louisville on a charge of violating a protective order that his latest wife had filed against him, according to a police report.
He remained Friday in a federal holding facility in Grayson County, Kentucky, while awaiting a court hearing next week, when a federal judge will determine whether the case should proceed toward trial.
His attorney, William Butler of Louisville, said he would then be extradited to South Carolina.
Butler has had Yenawine as a client in the past, and he also represented Moore in the fatal stabbing and arson fire in 2001. Butler said he regarded Yenawine as “a hard-working, blue-collar guy.”
In the Lathams’ divorce fight, hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake. Chris Latham, a regional executive at Bank of America, was paid $683,000 in 2011 through salary, incentives and awards, according to the divorce case file.
In June a judge ordered him to pay his wife $5,500 each month for “family support.” He also was required to handle insurance fees and taxes.
Nancy Latham of Mount Pleasant is treasurer of the S.C. Education Lottery Commission. She also is a real estate agent on Isle of Palms.
Throughout the divorce proceedings, which started on Nov. 18, 2011, the couple accused each other of affairs. They argued over personal belongings and their children, and they accused each other of harassment.
In December 2011, Chris Latham reported to Charleston police that the lug nuts on one of his car wheels had been loosened and an electronic tracking device had been tacked under the car, an incident report stated.
He also accused his wife of trying to sneak into his Sullivan’s Island home around midnight in October. He said she yelled obscenities at him before driving away, an affidavit stated. Nancy Latham wanted her husband to continue paying the family support, all health and insurance, as well as $97,000 that was in an escrow account, according to a divorce document.
In October, a Family Court judge ordered the two to stay away from each other. They were restrained from having physical contact with each other or being at each other’s homes, as well as from harassing, threatening, interfering with or bothering the other in any way, the order stated. They also were restricted from contacting each other’s employers.
The end appeared to be in sight. The divorce trial was supposed to start Monday but was put on hold when an assistant U.S. attorney told the Charleston Family Court that going forward would not be advisable, said Charleston attorney Robert Rosen, who represents Chris Latham only in the divorce case.
On Thursday, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searched the home on Sullivan’s Island where Chris Latham had been living. Agents said he was not the subject of the search.
On Friday, Cathy Harrell, Bobby Harrell’s wife, reiterated her support for her friend as she tried to cope with the news that someone wanted her dead. Cathy Harrell called her an energetic, kind and caring person.
She noted that Nancy Latham had survived breast cancer and refused to wear a wig after her hair fell out.
Cathy Harrell said not knowing the motivation for the alleged plot and who is behind it is the worst part now.
“I’m still concerned until all the pieces of the puzzle are put together,” she said.