A world-renowned microbiologist imprisoned on murder charges asked to be freed from jail so that his research skills could be used in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, but his request was quickly denied.
Wyndham Lathem — the former Northwestern University microbiology professor who was the subject of a weeklong manhunt after his boyfriend was found brutally stabbed to death in his apartment in 2017 — asked a judge to free him on $1 million bail last week, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Lathem, who earned fame due to his research on the bubonic plague, has been held without bail in Chicago's Cook County Jail since his arrest over two years ago.
Then last week, Lathem submitted a request to be freed citing health concerns amid the jail's battle against the spread of the virus and, of course, his background in studying infectious diseases.
According to the New Scientist, Lathem's attorney included some 30 letters of praise from colleagues and friends in the request, including one from Dr. William Goldman, Lathem's postdoctoral adviser at Washington University in St. Louis who is now the chair of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina.
"With his background and experience, Dr. Lathem is well-suited to advise and participate in studies that are aimed at understanding SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic," wrote Dr. Goldman. "It would make sense to take advantage of as many experts as possible during this worldwide crisis that is rapidly expanding in scope."
However, Lathem's request was denied by Judge Charles Burns in an emergency hearing Friday, according to court records obtained by the Sun-Times.
The outlet also noted that in the years before his arrest, Lathem was granted "select agent" status by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a status which gave him lab access to some of the world's deadliest pathogens for research.
Lathem and British national Andrew Warren, who worked as an administrator at Oxford University, were charged in 2017 with the murder of Lathem's 26-year-old boyfriend Trenton Cornell-Duranleau. Prosecutors alleged that the two men plotted the murder in the months prior in an internet chat room where they discussed their "sexual fantasies of killing others and then themselves."