Chicago stabbing death: One donation, two suspects at large, lots of mystery

On a warm, rain-free day last week, a man walked into the public library of Lake Geneva, a Wisconsin resort city about an hour’s drive from Chicago.

He wanted to make a $1,000 cash donation in the name of Trenton Cornell-Duranleau.

The donor, Lake Geneva police said Friday, is one of two suspects wanted in the stabbing death of Cornell-Duranleau, 26, who was found dead from multiple stab wounds in Chicago on the same day of the donation.

The cosmetologist was discovered July 27 in the apartment belonging to Northwestern University associate professor Wyndham Lathem, authorities said.

Cornell-Duranleau’s death has triggered a national manhunt for two men who work for prestigious universities and a host of questions about what exactly happened.

On Wednesday, Chicago police issued first-degree murder arrest warrants for Lathem, 42, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Northwestern, and Andrew Warren, 56, who works for Oxford University in the UK.

Chicago police have been tight-lipped about many details. They said they could not elaborate on any possible relationship between the victim and the two suspects.

A high-ranking police official on Thursday told CNN that responding officers found a horrific scene in Lathem’s River North apartment: A man had been stabbed several times.

“The victim was savagely murdered,” the official said. Frankly, he was “mutilated.”

Police recovered what they believed to be a murder weapon — a broken blade.

The Cook County medical examiner’s office said the autopsy is not complete.

According to CNN affiliate WLS, investigators determined that Warren had recently come to Chicago from England but didn’t know whether he knew the victim.

Police said they believe the two suspects have fled the state.

“We do have an idea of their whereabouts and efforts to locate them are only intensifying from here on in,” police said in an email to CNN. “Our primary focus is to facilitate a safe surrender.”

Federal agencies, including US marshals, have been assisting in the search. Lathem’s passport and Warren’s travel visa have been restricted.

‘This place is very safe’

The apartment is in an upscale, high-rise called the Grand Plaza Apartments.

“There’s shock, there’s no doubt about it. You know, this place is very safe,” Grand Plaza resident Richard Aili told WLS. “I’ve been here 14 years and I’ve never heard of problems such as that.”

Northwestern said in a statement that Lathem “has been placed on administrative leave and banned from entering the Northwestern University campuses.”

“This is now a criminal matter under investigation by the appropriate authorities, and Northwestern University is cooperating in that investigation,” according to the statement.

Lathem joined the Northwestern faculty in 2007 and researched bacteria that cause disease in humans, particularly lung infections, according to his university biography page, which has since been removed.

He spoke at conferences and has appeared in videos about disease research. One posted earlier this year details how an organism contributed to pneumonic plague.

Victim remembered as friendly, a ‘character’

A hairstylist fondly recalled Cornell-Duranleau.

“He was a nice kid who got along with everyone. People loved him. He was friendly,” Peggy Bosel told CNN.

Bosel has been a hairstylist at Timber’s Salon in Trenton, Michigan, for 19 years. The slaying victim worked there for around a year and a half. “He loved people and was really trying to get into the hair business, but that wasn’t working out too well. It’s a hard business,” Bosel said.

She said Cornell-Duranleau was a “character” and had a good sense of humor.

The stylist said she and colleagues had never heard of the suspects.

Cornell-Duranleau left the Michigan salon at least a couple years ago, Bosel said. “He wanted to expand himself and get more experience in the business.”

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