Man accused of killing NJ correctional police officer remains free pending trial

Judges rejected an appeal filed by prosecutors seeking to revoke the pre-trial release of Zachary Latham, who was charged in the stabbing death of William Durham Sr.

By Matt Gray
NJ Advance Media Group

VINELAND, N.J. — Appellate division judges have rejected an appeal filed by prosecutors seeking to revoke the pre-trial release of a Vineland man charged in the stabbing death of an off-duty corrections officer.

Cumberland County prosecutors filed the appeal after Zachary T. Latham, 18, was set free pending trial in the May 4 killing of William T. Durham Sr.

Zachary Latham, 18, is charged with aggravated manslaughter.
Zachary Latham, 18, is charged with aggravated manslaughter. (Photo/Cumberland County Department of Corrections)

The killing occurred during a brawl between Latham and members of Durham’s family following a long-simmering feud, authorities said.

The Durhams reported to police that Latham began harassing the family and posting videos of them on social media after Durham’s wife, Catherine, told Latham to slow down after he allegedly sped down the street they share.

The dispute boiled over on May 4 when the family alleged that Latham swerved his car toward one of the Durhams’ sons as the teen road his bike, authorities said.

Much of what followed was captured on cellphone video, culminating in a violent confrontation in the driveway and garage at Latham’s home. Latham was armed with a stun gun and a knife when he confronted the Durhams in front of his house. Durham Sr. and his two sons, ages 21 and 17, were unarmed, prosecutors said.

Two friends who were with Latham jumped into the fight as Latham’s wife recorded the melee with her cellphone. Durham Sr., 51, suffered multiple stab wounds, including one that punctured a lung. He died later at a hospital.

Latham was charged with first-degree aggravated manslaughter, two second-degree counts of aggravated assault and various weapons offenses. Catherine Durham and her sons were also charged.

While Latham’s attorney argued he was the victim and was only defending himself, the prosecution responded that Latham initiated the violence and could have retreated into his home and called police. In arguing for his pre-trial detention, prosecutors also noted that Latham, who recently turned 18, had a pending juvenile court matter from an unrelated incident weeks earlier in which he was charged with simple assault, terroristic threats and criminal mischief.

The court’s pre-trial services unit had recommended he remain detained based on the severity of the new charges, but Superior Court Judge William F. Ziegler found pre-trial release was presumed, based on his reading of state law. He released Latham with conditions, including that he live elsewhere while the case proceeds.

PBA Local 105, which represented Durham, denounced the decision to release Latham and urged the courts to reconsider the move.

In its appeal, prosecutors claimed Ziegler misinterpreted state law regarding detention and failed to consider the danger Latham posed to Durham’s family and the community.

After receiving the motion for leave to appeal from the prosecutor’s office and a brief from defense attorney Nathan Perry, Appellate Division Judges Clarkson S. Fisher Jr. and Douglas M. Fasciale reviewed the matter and denied the motion on June 18.

It’s unclear if the prosecutor’s office will take the case to the state Supreme Court.

Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae had no comment on the matter when contacted Sunday.

Latham is scheduled to return to court Aug. 20 for a pre-indictment hearing.


©2020 NJ Advance Media Group, Edison, N.J.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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