Prisoners in their own home Latham, daughters live in constant fear

Nancy Latham, Chair of the Legal and Security Committee of the South Carolina Lottery. Latham was the target of a murder for hire plot according to an affidavit filed in federal court on Monday April 8, 2013. (Provided)


Murder-for-hire target Nancy Latham broke her silence Wednesday, saying she and her daughters live in constant fear for their lives, subject to police protection and afraid to even venture to the grocery store.

Choking back tears, the Mount Pleasant real estate agent described her plight during a detention hearing for 38-year-old Samuel Yenawine of Louisville, Ky. — one of the men accused of taking money to kill her.

Latham said her youngest daughter has to go to school with a police escort, and her eldest was asked to leave her first year of college because the school didn’t feel equipped to protect her from harm. They’ve become almost like prisoners in their own home, she said.

“We sit in the house with the lights out and we stay away from the windows, with cameras surrounding us,” she said. “We don’t get to enjoy our summer.”

Latham’s teenage daughter, Emily, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant that her college education is on hold because of the plot and she now accompanies her mother everywhere, terrified that something will happen to her. “My life is no longer what I thought it would be.”

Nancy Latham told the judge she fears that Yenawine, one of four people implicated in the plot, will try to “finish the job” if he is allowed to get out on bail.

Yenawine’s attorney, William Butler, argued that his client could be trusted on home detention in Kentucky. But Marchant sided with Latham and federal prosecutors, opting to keep him behind bars until trial.

Latham, also a state lottery official, told the judge the plot to kill her stemmed from her pending divorce from Chris Latham, a Bank of America executive. As she has done in a civil lawsuit against her estranged husband, she accused him of being involved in the plot to kill her.

Nancy Latham said a photograph and information on her shopping habits found in a “hit package” provided to the contract killers could only have come from one source because “no one else would have that information.”

“My husband makes a great deal of money and he has a lot of influence in the community, and he stands to lose a lot if I speak out at my divorce,” she said.

She said her husband has even more reason to wish her harm now that the plot has been exposed.

Christopher Latham has not been charged with a crime, and prosecutors have made no statements tying him to the attempt on his wife’s life.

His attorney, Stephen Schmutz, did not attend the hearing but later said Nancy Latham has been saying the same thing for some time. “I think it’s interesting and significant that the U.S. government has never mentioned Chris Latham’s name,” he said.

Also charged in the plot is Yenawine’s ex-wife, 37-year-old Wendy Annette Moore, who is Chris Latham’s girlfriend and assistant at the bank, authorities said in court. The other co-defendants are Yenawine’s girlfriend, Rachel Palmer, 36, of Louisville; and Louisville resident Russell Wilkinson, 39.

Nancy Latham said Moore is the only one of the four she has met, and that was just in passing at a court disposition one day.

The plot came to light in April after Wilkinson was stopped by Charleston police while looking to buy heroin on the East Side. Police found a gun in his car, and he volunteered information about the scheme to kill Nancy Latham to officers, police said. Yenawine was back in Kentucky at that point and was arrested later.

Moore is accused of hiring Yenawine to do the job, and he, in turn, contracted Wilkinson’s services to “watch his back,” Senior Agent Joseph Boykin of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives testified. The would-be killers bought disposable cellphones so their communications couldn’t be traced and then traveled to the Lowcountry, where they met with Moore to collect a $5,000 downpayment and receive a “hit package” full of photographs, maps, schedules and other information on Nancy Latham and her family, Boykin said.

Investigators have recovered video footage and receipts tying Yenawine to the phone purchases, and video and bank records showing Moore withdrawing funds and purchasing MoneyGrams to pay the hired killers, Boykin testified. Moore used her own name for two of the MoneyGram purchases and the name of a porn star for the third, he said.

Wilkinson told authorities he and Yenawine met up with Moore in North Charleston and on Sullivan’s Island, and his story is supported by satellite phone tracking that placed all three together at those times, Boykin said.

Investigators recovered the “hit package,” which Boykin described as “very credible,” and found the fingerprints of Yenawine and Wilkinson on the documents, along with those of another, unidentified, person, according to testimony.

After his arrest, Wilkinson agreed to call Yenawine and discuss the plot while investigators listened in, Boykin said.

During the recorded conversation, Wilkinson told Yenawine he had spotted Nancy Latham with a young man and he wanted to know whether it would be all right to kill them both, Boykin said. “Mr. Yenawine responded, ‘Yes, it will make it look better,’ ” Boykin said.

Wilkinson also asked if Yenawine wanted his gun back after the deed was done and whether tossing it in a body of water might be better, Boykin said. He said Yenawine responded with: “Yeah, why wouldn’t you do that?”

Butler, Yenawine’s attorney, tried to discredit Wilkinson, pointing out that the government’s key informer is a heroin addict who made threats againstYenawine that were captured on his seized phone. He also noted that his client was 10 hours away in Kentucky when Wilkinson was arrested.

Nancy Latham wasn’t swayed, pleading with Marchant to keep Yenawine behind bars for the safety of her daughters, if not her.

“Please take care of my kids and keep them safe,” she said, her voice cracking. “We are terrified.”

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