The Kentucky man whose impromptu, roadside confession exposed an alleged Lowcountry murder-for-hire plot has been ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to see if he is competent to stand trial.
Meanwhile, the alleged target of the plot and her estranged husband agreed Wednesday on new measures to protect themselves from one another, avoiding a contentious court hearing today in their already bitter divorce case.
Dueling claims of danger and threats have swirled around the divorce of Mount Pleasant real estate agent Nancy Latham and her banker husband Christopher, reaching a fever pitch after an alleged scheme to kill her came to light.
That occurred last month when 39-year-old Russell Wilkinson blurted out details of the plot to Charleston police officers after they pulled over his car while he was shopping for heroin on the city’s East Side, authorities have said.
His confession to a federal agent was enough to fill an eight-page affidavit and, so far, has emerged as the crux of the case against him and three others.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant signed an order Wednesday to have Wilkinson examined by federal Bureau of Prison psychiatrists after his public defender raised questions about his mental competency.
It is too early to say what, if any, effect that will have on the prosecution’s case, but lawyers for his co-defendants weren’t exactly saddened by the news.
Also charged in the case are Samuel Yenawine, 38, of Louisville, Ky.; his girlfriend, Rachel Palmer, 36, also of Louisville; and his ex-wife, 37-year-old Wendy Annette Moore, who lives in the Charleston area.
“Obviously, I think this is interesting,” said David Aylor, Moore’s attorney. “The lion’s share of evidence being used against my client is based on the words of Mr. Wilkinson.”
Yenawine’s lawyer, William Butler, agreed. “It may be bode well for the other defendants,” he said. “We’ll just have to see how it works out.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Williams, the lead prosecutor on the case, could not be reached for comment. Wilkinson’s public defender, Ann Briks Walsh, declined to comment.
Marchant’s order states that Walsh asked for the exam to determine if her client “suffers from a mental disease or defect which would render him mentally incompetent” and unable to understand or assist in his defense.
The exam also will seek to determine “the existence of insanity at the time of the offense,” and whether Wilkinson “suffers from diminished capacity,” the document states.
The order came one day after Wilkinson was arraigned on four federal counts that could land him behind bars for more than 30 years. Wilkinson said little during that proceeding.
In an interview last month with The Post and Courier, he spoke for more than an hour about the case, detailing names, dates, places and events. His recollections during the interview at the Charleston County jail mirrored statements contained in the federal affidavit.
Wilkinson said he was addicted to heroin, but he appeared lucid, sober and articulate, using words such as “dossier” to describe a kit of materials he and Yenawine allegedly received to carry out the hit.
Nancy Latham, who also is treasurer of the S.C. Education Lottery Commission, cited the alleged plot in her motion seeking a protective order against her husband from the Charleston County Family Court. In the motion and in a civil lawsuit, she has accused him of being involved in a plan to kill her, though he hasn’t been charged with a crime.
Chris Latham’s attorneys have denied her allegations, and he sought a protective order of his own. In court documents he insists he is in fear for his life because he has allegedly been targeted for harm by his wife and her half brother, a convicted triple-murderer who is out on parole.
The competing motions were set to be the subject of a lengthy hearing today in Charleston, but an agreement hashed out by the two sides and approved by a judge late Wednesday nullifies the need for the proceeding.
The consent order grants Nancy Latham a protective order barring her husband from contacting, abusing, stalking, threatening, harassing or harming her. Violating the order could mean jail time and fines.
The consent order, in turn, bars Nancy Latham from abusing, threatening or harassing her husband, visiting the Bank of America where he works or communicating with bank workers or clients.
Robert Rosen, Chris Latham’s attorney, said the couple was already bound by many of the same restrictions in an October court order, but the consent order seemed a way to resolve lingering concerns without a lengthy legal proceeding.
Under the arrangement, Nancy Latham dropped her request to have the court bar her husband from possessing guns or contacting their children, Rosen said.
“She abandoned that,” he said. “She obviously didn’t feel she needed that.”
Nancy Latham’s lawyer, Timothy Madden, declined to comment on the order, saying “it speaks for itself.”