Nancy Latham looked up in relief when a guilty verdict was read Wednesday night on one of the murder-for-hire charges against her former husband, Chris Latham. Prosecutors said he and his girlfriend tried to have her killed last year.
Latham, 51, was found guilty Wednesday of use of interstate commerce facilities in a commission of murder-for-hire. The jury in federal court in Charleston was deadlocked on the two remaining counts of conspiracy to use interstate commerce facilities in a commission of a murder-for-hire and possessing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence.
Chris Latham's girlfriend and former bank administrative assistant, Wendy Moore, 37, was found guilty on those three charges and guilty of a fourth count of solicitation to commit murder-for-hire.
Prosecutors said Moore plotted a scheme to have Nancy Latham, a South Carolina Lottery commissioner, killed in April 2013. Nancy Latham now goes by her maiden name, Cannon, since her divorce from the former bank executive who faces a possible maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Moore faces a potential maximum of 30 years in prison, if the sentences are run consecutively. The possession count has a mandate to run consecutively.
The pair were not sentenced immediately following the verdict and will be sentenced at a later date.
Following the 21/2-week trial and 10 hours of waiting for the jury as they deliberated, Nancy walked out of the courtroom Wednesday night with her two daughters, Emily and Madison, and said she was relieved.
"We're incredibly grateful and the fact that my kids are now safe, I expect that we'll sleep very well tonight and we'll look forward to starting our lives again," she said.
Nancy and her daughters have been under a protective detail throughout the trial.
Chris and Nancy Latham were in the middle of a contentious divorce when the hit was placed on her life and Chris Latham stood to lose a lot of money in alimony, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys argued against that during the trial. Latham's attorneys said Nancy Latham wasn't going to get a dime because they alleged she was having an affair and would not receive any alimony They said that meant there was no motive on Chris Latham's part. Nancy Latham testified she never had an affair and prosecutors called the allegations an attack on her.
"Nancy Cannon stood up for herself. Nancy Cannon fought back," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams during closing arguments Tuesday. "They have the audacity to blame her for this."
The scheme was uncovered on April 5, 2013, when police pulled over Aaron Wilkinson, 41, of Louisville, Ky., in Charleston's East Side. After being arrested for having a suspended driver's license, he told investigators he was in Charleston because he was supposed to be killing a woman, who was the target of a murder-for-hire plot.
Wilkinson, who was charged in this case and pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder-for-hire last month, testified in the trial for the prosecution.
Throughout the trial, Moore and Latham's defense attorneys attacked Wilkinson's credibility and highlighted his criminal background.
Wilkinson said that Moore's ex-husband, Samuel Yenawine, 38, of Louisville, got him involved in the alleged scheme but that he didn't want to go through with it. Yenawine, who was charged in this case, committed suicide last year while jailed in Georgetown County.
After his arrest, Wilkinson led investigators to a hit packet that included photos and maps of Nancy Latham's home and information about her life. Moore's handwriting was identified on one of the documents of the packet, according to the testimony of one state law enforcement official.
Prosecutors said Moore and Latham prepared the packet together although neither of their fingerprints were found on the documents.
The pair searched for the maps on their work computers and printed the documents on their work printers, according to prosecutors who presented internet and print logs from Bank of America, where they both worked.
Moore and Latham's printers, and Moore's work laptop were never recovered, prosecutors said.
During the trial, prosecutors also played recorded phone calls from the jail after Moore was arrested, but before Chris Latham was charged. In some of those calls, the pair spoke in code about hiring a Kentucky attorney for Yenawine, according to Williams' closing arguments.
"It's a chess game," Chris Latham said in one of the calls played to the jury.
"To them, it's all a game. The game ends here," Williams said as he closed his argument to the jury Tuesday.
David Aylor, Moore's attorney, said during his closing arguments the case was a game of hide-the-ball played by the government.
He told the jury prosecutors had come up short in providing evidence of Moore's involvement.
Following the trial Aylor said he was "obviously very disappointed."
"There was a lot of evidence in the case. We accept the decision and we'll move forward," he said.
Steve Schmutz, one of Latham's attorneys also expressed his disappointment. When asked if he thinks Latham will have to return to court to face the pending two charges where the jury deadlocked, Schmutz said "I don't know about that. We'll just have to see."
Prosecutors did not indicate whether or not they would retry the remaining counts again against Latham.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.