Alleged co-conspirator takes stand in murder-for-hire trial - WCIV-TV | ABC News 4 - Charleston News, Sports, Weather

Alleged co-conspirator takes stand in murder-for-hire trial

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) – The man who tipped off investigators to the plot to kill a Charleston woman in the middle of a contentious divorce took the stand Tuesday after jurors heard from the woman's divorce attorney.

The accused co-conspirator turned state's witness, 39-year-old Aaron Wilkinson, spent Tuesday afternoon explaining to the court how he ended up in a Charleston jail.

He shuffled into the court in a black-and-white jumpsuit and shackles and told the jury that he was there because he thought he was on a drug run with a friend -- Samuel Yenawine -- to Tennessee. Wilkinson said the pair left Kentucky and picked up a gun in Indiana before turning toward Tennessee.

In testimony, Wilkinson said he fell asleep in the car and woke up near mountains. That's when Yenawine told him they were on their way to South Carolina to kill someone. According to Wilkinson, he got out of the car and tried to walk along the interstate but got back in the car because it was too cold.

A long nap and a heroin hit later, Wilkinson says he woke up near Columbia and stayed awake while the two men made their way to Columbia.

He went on to tell the court what his first hours in Charleston were like, from the purchase of disposable phones at a Summerville Walmart to meeting a blonde woman he identified as Wendy Moore, Yenawine's ex-wife and former adult actress.

Wilkinson said he knew Moore from his and Yenawine's time in a Kentucky prison because he would serve as a go-between for the former couple when Yenawine was in solitary confinement. However, she was a brunette at that time, he said.

According to Wilkinson, he, Yenawine and Moore would communicate by email drafts. Each one would take turns logging into the same email account and writing a draft email. Then another person would log in, read the message and respond.

When the two men made it to Summerville, he said they had to meet up with Moore to have her pay for a hotel room since neither one of them had a license. A blonde woman Wilkinson thinks is Moore shows up and gives Yenawine an envelope full of hundred dollar bills and a bottle of pills.

Wilkinson tells the court the pills are supposed to be used in Nancy Latham's murder to make it look like she was killed during a drug deal.

During their time in Summerville, Wilkinson and Yenawine make several trips to Walmart, head to Sullivan's Island, and Yenawine talks to a woman on the phone several times. After they pick up the hit package, Wilkinson says he looks for pictures of a man but only sees pictures of Nancy Latham and is confused.

Yenawine tells him that they are there to kill the woman because she is making things difficult for people, Wilkinson testified Tuesday.

Wilkinson's testimony ended Tuesday evening with him saying he heard a man on the phone with Yenawine telling him to make sure nothing happened while the children were present.

 

Weather affects the trial

But it was things outside the courtroom and the power of the judge that made an impact in the courtroom. Another winter storm moving across the state has jurors nervous and court officials trying to decide what will happen the rest of the week.

The judge decided Tuesday afternoon to cancel Wednesday's proceedings ahead of the winter storm.

Court officials will call the jurors and find out what the weather is like near their homes before making a decision about Thursday's hearings.

Meanwhile, the case continued inside the courtroom.

 

Nancy Latham's divorce attorney testifies

Before Wilkinson took the stand, Nancy Latham's divorce attorney Tim Madden explained for jurors the details of the couple's high-dollar divorce. Mrs. Latham waived her attorney-client privilege to allow her attorney to speak, which means the details of the couple's divorce agreement become public record.

Madden said Chris Latham's salary ranged from $600,000 to $650,000 while he worked at Bank of America, and his client was looking to get $5,000-10,000 per month in alimony and another $1,500-2,500 in child support.

The couple also agreed to keep Bank of America, Chris Latham's employer, out of the proceedings because the revelation of a relationship between Chris Latham and Wendy Moore, his secretary, would cost him his job.

Madden said he told Nancy Latham it was in her best interest to see that her estranged husband stay employed so that he could pay her settlement.

Madden also told the court that a photo of Nancy Latham and one of her daughters found in the hit package was used in the divorce proceedings.

He also said Nancy Latham had a GPS tracking device put on her ex-husband's car and hired three private investigators over the course of several years to follow him.

Madden was only on the stand a brief time, despite his knowledge of the couple's divorce proceedings and financial situations.

He did tell the court that his attorney's fees for Nancy Latham were over $315,000; she had paid $275,000 of that.

 

Attorneys try to discount ATF agent's testimony

Cellphones, pills, and a financial motive were topics of discussion in Tuesday morning's cross-examination of an ATF agent who helped local authorities investigate an alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Before lunch Tuesday, the court heard that ATF special agent Joseph Boykin took the hit package to Nancy Latham and she was able to point out what she said was her estranged husband's handwriting.

According to Boykin, that's when details about the couple's heated divorce and fights over alimony and property were shared with investigators.

Boykin said that information helped them give Chris Latham motive in the case.

But Attorney David Aylor spent the first half of the morning trying to pick apart Boykin's testimony, arguing he misled a Grand Jury by leaving out details.

In the Grand Jury testimony, Boykin said Wilkinson could not identify the man with Moore when they met on Sullivan's Island to pick up the hit package. But Aylor says Boykin misled the Grand Jury because Wilkinson said the man looked like Chris Latham, but the report said "unknown male."

Aylor tried to get Boykin to admit there were discrepancies between the testimony given Monday and what was told the Grand Jury, but Boykin did not concede the differences on which Aylor was fixated.

Aylor also went back to Boykin's testimony Monday when he said one of the names Moore used to purchase a wire transfer was actually the name she used when she was an adult film actress in Kentucky.

According to records, Moore was an actress for a time while she was married to Yenawine; he was her manager. That ended after Yenawine was found guilty of arson and sentenced to life in prison.

During cross-examination, Boykin said officers also found an assortment of pills in Bethany Wilkinson's possession, including diazepam, hydrocodone, and acetaminophen. Boykin testified that investigators thought they were trying to make what they called "hillbilly heroin," but lacked the drug quantities to make anything effective.

The court also heard more about text messages between Samuel Yenawine and Aaron Wilkinson through Boykin's testimony, but the messages have not been shown to the court yet.

Boykin referenced two other ATF agents who investigated the case against Chris Latham, so jurors may hear from them Tuesday afternoon and in the coming days – weather permitting.

On Monday, prosecutors began their case with testimony from the officer who arrested Wilkinson and the city detective who first started trying to piece Wilkinson's story together.

In April, Wilkinson was stopped in downtown Charleston and arrested after an officer found a loaded gun in his car. Once in police custody, he told officials that he was there to kill Nancy Latham.

From there, he laid out a convoluted murder-for-hire plot that involved a banking executive and his estranged philanthropic wife, the banker's new live-in girlfriend and her ex-convict ex-husband, and another woman.

The investigation led to charges for five people, but one of the alleged lead conspirators, Yenawine, in the case was found dead in his Georgetown jail cell. Medical examiners said he hanged himself in the cell.

Stay with ABCNews4.com for the latest on the trial from the courtroom.


  • Ava Wilhite

    Email: awilhite@abcnews4.com Reporter Profile




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