Charleston murder-for-hire case headed to jury

Nancy Cannon and daughters Emily (left) and Madison arrive Tuesday at federal court on Broad Street. Buy this photo

A federal jury that spent the past 2 1/2 weeks listening to testimony about an alleged murder-for-hire plot will begin deliberating Wednesday.

Closing arguments wrapped up Tuesday night in the trial against Chris Latham, 51, and Wendy Moore, 37, who are accused in April 2013 of setting up a plot-to-kill Latham's estranged wife, Nancy Latham, who goes by Cannon since her divorce.

The Lathams were nearing the end of a contentious divorce, according to prosecutors. Neither Latham or Moore testified in their own defense.

During closing arguments in a Charleston courtroom, Moore and Latham's attorneys attacked the testimony and credibility of Aaron Wilkinson, 41, of Louisville, Ky., who was charged in this case and pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder-for-hire.

Wilkinson testified that Moore's ex-husband, Samuel Yenawine, 38, of Louisville got him involved in the alleged scheme. Yenawine committed suicide in his jail cell after being arrested in this case last year, according to authorities.

David Aylor, Moore's attorney, highlighted Wilkinson's prior criminal history and said he's acted out of self-preservation.

Aylor told the jury the prosecution had not identified any motive on Moore's part.

"A motive doesn't exist," Aylor said.

Steve Schmutz, Latham's attorney, said the prosecution's case is based on assumption.

"They found nothing on Mr. Latham," he said.

Prosecutors told the jury there is overwhelming evidence in this case, apart from Aaron Wilkinson's testimony.

"Wendy Moore's goose is cooked," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Rhett DeHart during closing arguments. "You don't need Aaron Wilkinson to convict Chris Latham and Wendy Moore."

Prosecutors highlighted a "hit packet" of 11 documents that contained photos and maps of Nancy Latham's home, photos of Nancy Latham and specific information about her life that prosecutors said was created by Chris Latham and Moore using their work computers and printers, some of which were never recovered.

"This murder-for-hire is real," said Nathan Williams, another assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case.

Williams also criticized the defense attorneys during his closing arguments regarding their lines of questioning about an alleged affair they said Nancy Latham had.

During the trial, defense attorneys had said that information was relevant because the prosecution had told the jury that Chris Latham's motive was money and that he stood to lose a lot of it in the divorce.

Latham's attorneys said he wasn't going to have to pay a dime because his divorce attorney was going to prove Nancy Latham was having an affair, which would mean she would not get any alimony and therefore there wasn't a motive.

But Williams called that an attack on Nancy Latham.

"The woman has been through enough," he told the jury. "They should be ashamed. That's a terrible distraction and they jumped right on it."

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.

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