|Better times: Christopher Latham and wife Nancy in 2010|
This year has been bountiful for Charleston's TV facetime. While the hospitality, tourism and restaurant accolades continue, 2014 has seen an added dimension with the Holy City a backdrop for the Bravo "reality" series "Southern Charm" and the CBS drama "Reckless."
On Sept. 19 Charleston was again on national television, this time for a two-hour NBC "Dateline" program about the sordid Latham murder-for-hire saga.
My friend Bob Lang, a fellow teacher/journalist/tennis player, also watched Friday night and reminded me the next morning on the tennis courts that when the bizarre Latham case broke last year that he said it had the makings of a juicy "Dateline" segment.
And right he was. Correspondent Keith Morrison and his producers did a masterful job of documenting a true crimes story that the "Reckless" writers might find far fetched even for their make believe show.
In April 2013 Charleston police were told of a murder-for-hire plot by a man arrested in the city's East Side who said he was trying to buy heroin. The man, Russell Wilkinson, revealed he was involved in a plan to kill Nancy Latham, wife of top local Bank of America executive Christopher Latham. Enter Wendy Moore, who was having an affair with Latham, her BOA boss. Moore was tied to plot conspirator Samuel Yenawine, her ex-husband. Long story short, the cops arrested Latham, Moore, and four co-conspirators. Latham would receive a 10 year prison sentence; Moore got 15 years.
Friday night's "Dateline" report revealed many juicy, salicious and quirky details not previously reported (that I'm aware of anyway). Hence, here is a list of my takeaways from all this Latham lunacy. My list is in chronological order from the dapper and droll Keith Morrison's reportage.
(Side note: Morrison is no stranger to Charleston strangeness. He did an October 2011 "Dateline: report about the murder of 28-year-old Kate Waring, a story with its own share of tragic twists.
My Top 10 "Charleston Affair" Takeaways from the Sept. 19, 2014 "Dateline" Program:
1. Is there really "a Google app for where to buy heroin in Charleston"? That's what Russell Wilkinson told Morrison on camera when saying what led him to Charleston's America Street looking to score some H.
2. Why does Charleston's drug-dealing hotbed have to be on, of all places, America Street???
3. At Bank of America it is common practice for employees to borrow each other's printers. That's what Latham and Moore tried to convince us as to why their office printers suddenly disappeared in the early stages of the police investigation.
4. Who didn't "Dateline" interview? My goodness, everybody who was anybody in this case (white hats and black hats) were ready for their TV close ups. Latham and Moore (each allowed to wear business attire) carefully spun their tales of "I didn't really do anything wrong" innocence. Murder-for-hire whistle blower Wilkinson convincingly talked of his motives for spilling the beans about the plot. Target Nancy Latham and her two daughters? Check, check and check- each was interviewed. Key Charleston police officers and detectives, federal marshals, and prosecutors were all present and accounted for adding pieces to the puzzle. The only key player not speaking on camera was Moore's ex-husband Samuel Yenawine, who hanged himself in jail. But hats off to "Dateline" for very thorough reporting work, which included showing police interview video of their initial questioning of Wilkinson.
5. Nancy Latham, ever-bubbly and effervescent, even after such an ordeal, hit Morrison with this rapid response when he asked her if she was having an affair (a claim her husband made to explain his actions in having a private detective follow Nancy, hence the paperwork that become known as the "hit pack."). Morrison: "Were you having an affair?" Nancy Latham: "No I was not. Are you offering?"
6. Wendy Moore was given a chance to lay out her sad back story of childhood sexual abuse and her adult involvement in an "adult modeling business" she ran out of her Louisville, Ky. home. She also proudly told of how she later earned both online bachelor's and master's degrees while raising three young children. I really want to believe that but just be sure I would have checked with school registrars on that. Not sure if Morrison and his crew did that.
7. Several years ago Christopher Latham was featured in The Post and Courier's Saturday "High Profile" article for his and his bank's support of the Spoleto arts festival. I was unable to find that piece online, but it was shown in the "Dateline" report.
8. I was intrigued by the College of Charleston name scrawled on the so-called "hit pack" that Latham and/or Moore put together for the conspirators that traced Nancy Latham's habits and movements. Words were scratched out before and after the CofC mention.
9. At the end of the two-hour program Nancy Latham was shown on stage doing stand-up comedy at a club called Side Splitters. OK, didn't see that one coming! One quip was something like, "You think your divorce was rough!"
10. Also unexpected but a perfect TV moment was at the very end of the program when Nancy is shown interrupting Russell Wilkinson's "Dateline" interview. She approaches him and thanks him for saving her life. Sure it was staged, but Wilkinson seems genuinely surprised and appreciative of her gratitude. Hugs were exchanged and tears shed, maybe by some viewers too.
The full "Dateline" episode if available for your own viewing on YouTube.
Charleston has been featured a lot on television this year. Even in this sordid murder-for-hire scandal our Holy City comes through, as always...in style!
Copyright Patrick Harwood (Sept. 21, 2014)