Teen accused of murdering NJ correctional officer released without bond or electronic monitoring


VINELAND, N.J.- On May 4, 18-year-old Zachary Latham of Vineland, New Jersey allegedly stabbed his neighbor to death during some type of altercation.

William T. Durham Sr., an off-duty correctional officer, was stabbed multiple times when a verbal dispute turned violent according to a criminal complaint.

Just over one week later, Latham is back out on the street.

The Daily Journal reported that the incident took place after a series of confrontations just over a week ago along their street, according to Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae. Durham was an off-duty corrections officer who was assigned to South Woods State Prison.

At 7:48 p.m., police were dispatched to the location after receiving a call that reported the altercation and stabbing.

“It was reported by witnesses that a confrontation had occurred moments earlier between Latham and his wife versus Durham and his wife, Catherine,” Webb-McRae said in a statement.

Prosecutors said that the police investigation showed that Durham Sr. and his two sons, one 17 and the other 21-year-old William Jr. went to Latham’s residence, where Latham was armed with a knife and a stun gun, Webb-McRae said.

According to a friend of Durham Sr., Latham had been “terrorizing” the family for several weeks.

On the night of the murder, the argument started in front of the Durham home, and then Latham left the scene and went to his nearby home. Latham told police that as he drove off, he could see Durham Sr., his wife and the two sons following him, according to NJ.com.

Once at his home, Latham retrieved the knife and the stun gun, then confronted the Durhams as they arrived at his home.

A fight ensued, during which Durham Sr. and his two sons engaged with Latham, then two of Latham’s friends got involved in the fray. Latham’s wife recorded the encounter with her cell phone. The fight originally started in Latham’s driveway and moved into the garage.

It was at this point that Latham produced the stun gun and used it on the elder Durham.

He then stabbed him with two knives, authorities said. Police described one of the knives as having a four-inch, fixed blade. Durham Sr. was stabbed in the back and left underarm according to the criminal complaint.

He also attempted to stab Durham Jr. Court documents said that Durham Sr. was stabbed “multiple times with a four-inch fixed blade knife during a physical confrontation.”

“William T. Durham was fatally wounded by the defendant during a prolonged physical assault,” police said in their report.

Latham was transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries, which included a concussion court documents said. He was treated and released.

Police charged Latham with first-degree aggravated manslaughter, two second-degree counts of aggravated assault and various weapons offenses. He was remanded to custody at the Cumberland County Jail pending a detention hearing.

Police have seized the video Latham’s wife recorded on her cell phone as evidence.

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Murdered officer's grave desecrated before headstone even placed

While police have not released a motive for the dispute, one of Durham’s friends did.

According to Mike Gallagher, a friend of Durham’s and Vice President of PBA Local 105, Durham’s wife Catherine had told Latham to slow down one day as he sped down their street. Apparently, Latham cursed her out, and then started to harass the family online.

Monday, Latham was driving down the street and allegedly swerved his car at one of the Durham boys. Gallagher said that Latham got out of the car and punched Catherine, which ultimately led to the dispute where Durham was killed. Court documents did not indicate that Latham had been charged with assaulting Catherine Durham.

Catherine, along with her two sons were charged for their roles in the fight. Catherine was charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass and simple assault for striking Latham’s wife. The Durham boys were each charged with third-degree aggravated assault and fourth-degree criminal trespass.

Durham was a 19-year veteran of the Department of Corrections. Gallagher said that he was an “exceptional” officer.

“He would do anything for anyone. He was the kind of officer that you enjoyed working with,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher noted that Durham was a tremendous family man, and his family was especially important to him.

“He was a family man and he died a hero defending his family,” he said.

He called the killing “senseless.”

This is where it gets bizarre.

In Latham’s court appearance on Thursday, the prosecution was looking to have him held in pretrial detention, given the violent nature of his crime.

Court documents from Cumberland County Superior Court indicated that the state had established probable cause based on:

  • The probable cause affidavit
  • The preliminary law enforcement incident report
  • Other evidence, specifically State’s Proffer Defense Proffer

In denying pretrial detention, the order said:

FURTHER, for the reasons set forth on the record and herein, the court does not find clear and convincing evidence that pretrial detention is necessary to reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court when required, the protection of the safety of any other person or the community and that the defendant will not obstruct or attempt to obstruct the criminal justice process.

The state did not meet its burden to detain, that there are no conditions that would reasonably assure the defendant’s appearance in court when required; the protection of the safety of any other person and the community; and that the defendant will not obstruct or attempt to obstruct the criminal justice process. Therefore, the defendant is released on level 2 monitoring.

THEREFORE, the motion for pretrial detention is DENIED.

Latham was released subject to non-monetary conditions; in other words, he was put on Level 2 monitoring without having to post bond.

What that means is basically all he has to do is report once a month by telephone and once a month in person. Nothing else is required, including electronic monitoring.

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