South Jersey man charged with manslaughter aggravated in knife death of neighbor to return to jail pending trial following his recent arrest in Florida for allegedly threatening a motorist.
Zachary T. Latham, 18, of Vineland, was charged last May with the murder of veteran correctional officer William T. Durham Sr., 51, following an ongoing dispute. Latham was released from prison the same month, despite objection from prosecutors and Durham family, and was allowed to move to Florida pending trial in New Jersey.
He got a job as a car salesman in Fort Myers, but continued to push the limits on his release orders, authorities said.
In September, a judge ordered Latham to stop commenting publicly on the Durham affair after making several comments on social media and after the Durhams’ home address was shared by a commentator on one of his TikTok posts.
Prosecutors allege that he then created a new TikTok account and continued to post about the case. They filed a petition last month to revoke his release on these issues.
Before this case could be heard by a judge, the Florida Highway Patrol arrested Latham on January 23 in Fort Myers after saying they threatened a motorist with a pellet gun that looks like an AK-47 assault rifle during ‘a confrontation in which he attempted to crash into the victim’s vehicle, police said.
He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault and released from prison under electronic surveillance after posting bail.
Pleading for Latham’s detention on Tuesday afternoon, Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Charles Wettstein described the new charges and said the accused’s recent behavior on social media shows a lack of respect for the court order.
Latham also bragged about Vineland’s murder, Wettstein claimed.
“The accused used this crime as a source of acclaim in Florida, where he now lives, bragging about being famous for being a cop killer,” Wettstein said. “He used this to intimidate others in the hope of preventing them from providing information and cooperating with this investigation.”
Public Defender Nathan Perry called the prosecution’s decision to appeal Latham’s initial release order “ridiculous”, criticized the “grossly unwarranted” media attention the case received and accused of other people from harassing his client, suing him on social media, threatening his life, advertising his address and even getting him fired from his job in Florida.
Perry shared social media posts, including one from a woman explaining how she planned to kill Latham if she saw him.
“Since Mr. Latham was released some people have formed like these … modern day lynch mobs,” Perry said. “There are literally Zach Latham hate groups forming online. … A person, as I understood it, from law enforcement repeatedly called his job in Florida and managed to get him fired by calling his employer over and over again.
“These people, including members of the Durham family, are constantly baiting Mr. Latham.”
The issues between Latham and the Durhams are said to have started after the victim’s wife, Catherine, told Latham to stop speeding in their Vineland neighborhood. Latham posted a video of the meeting on TikTok, and followed with additional videos mocking the family, authorities said.
The conflict escalated over the following weeks and ended in a fatal encounter on May 4, authorities said. Durham Sr. and his sons arrived at Latham’s estate to confront him. They weren’t armed, but Latham came out of his house with a stun gun and knives as his wife recorded with her cell phone, the authorities said.
A bloody brawl ensued between Durhams, Lathams and two of his friends. Latham stabbed Durham Sr. on several occasions and he later died in a hospital, authorities said.
Latham claimed he was defending himself and his lawyer argued that “to a very, very good extent the Durhams have realized this great sadness.” A Durham lawyer claimed that Latham drew the family into the fatal showdown over “TikTok fame”.
He was charged with first degree aggravated manslaughter, two counts of second degree aggravated assault and various weapons offenses, while the victim’s wife and two children were charged assault and trespassing.
Latham has not yet been charged, but one of Durham’s sons was recently indicted on charges of aggravated third degree assault and fourth degree criminal trespass.
The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office appealed Latham’s interim release in May, arguing he was behind the violence and could have gone home and called the police. They also cited a pending juvenile court case of an unrelated incident weeks before the murder in which Latham was charged with common assault, terrorist threats and criminal mischief. This affair had nothing to do with the Durhams.
An appeal board rejected the offer.
When Latham was first arrested in the murder, the court’s pre-trial services unit recommended that he remain in detention due to the seriousness of the new charges, but Superior Court Judge William F. Ziegler considered the release to be presumed, based on his interpretation of state law.
Ziegler said on Tuesday he stands by his original decision to grant Latham’s release, but recent events have changed his assessment.
“Now I am faced with the fact that the accused in this case violated three key conditions of his provisional release,” Ziegler said, including being charged with a new violent crime, a violation involving weapons and continuing to publish on the case. on social networks.
“I can no longer fall back on the proposition that this is a case of aberrant behavior based on factors that are not likely to recur,” he said of the New Jersey charges . “The accused has apparently now at least exposed in the state of Florida as well as in New Jersey with the tragic events which have taken place here that he is not able to govern himself or his emotions and is in fact subject to threats of – or in fact engaging in – violent conduct.
Ziegler has asked the DA’s office to contact authorities in Florida on how to detain Latham.
Latham, who turned 18 just weeks before the murder, lived with his grandparents in several Durham homes. He was emancipated at the age of 17, married, and served as a private in the New Jersey National Guard. A spokeswoman confirmed last week that Latham was “separated” from the guard in September.
Latham’s arrest in Florida began with an alleged argument at an auto encounter.
He allegedly told a 17-year-old motorist he had a gun, showed what appeared to be a gun sticking out of his pants and attempted to crash into the victim’s car, according to a probable cause statement. Latham denied taking the airsoft gun out of a bag in his car and said he chased the other driver after backing up in a friend’s car.
Latham claimed to have recorded the encounter, but police said it turned out to be false.
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Matt Gray can be reached at [email protected].