NJ teen who killed neighbor instigated fight to be ‘TikTok famous’: lawyer
A New Jersey teenager who stabbed to death a corrections officer neighbor had deliberately instigated the fatal fight — hoping it would make him “TikTok famous,” according to lawyers of the dead man’s family.
Zachary Latham had just turned 18 when he stabbed to death William “Timmy” Durham Sr., 51, who had been with his wife and two sons when they confronted the teen in May over an ongoing feud, prosecutors said.
Latham — a private in the New Jersey National Guard — insisted he only grabbed a four-inch bladed knife as well as a Taser to protect himself from a mob attack in his home in Vineland, according to NJ.com.
But the Durhams’ attorneys claim he deliberately lured them there to film it for social media infamy — following a series of earlier video confrontations, including one that got more than 3 million views, the report said.
The teen’s wife, Sarah, recorded the deadly fight “because it was her and Latham’s intent to post these videos to TikTok and become ‘TikTok famous,’” the lawyers told prosecutors in a letter, according to NJ.com.
Durham Sr. — an officer at South Woods State Prison — died after being tased and stabbed multiple times in the filmed fight, the report said.
His family’s lawyers are now seeking Latham’s aggravated manslaughter and assault charges be upgraded to first-degree murder, NJ.com said.
“If Latham was in fear for his or Sarah’s safety, they both would have retreated inside, called police and stayed there,” the lawyers, Diane Ruberton and Robert Simons, reportedly wrote of the deadly fight.
“They did not because their intent was to lure the Durhams there, attack them and record it for TikTok,” they insisted.
In April, he filmed himself being confronted by Durham’s wife, Catherine, over his driving — getting 3.1 million views as he repeatedly called her “Karen.”
In another, Durham’s son William, 21, appears to try to open his car door as he drives past — with Latham warning, “I got a knife, dude,” the lawyers noted in their letter. “Karen’s son found out the video went viral and tried taking me out of the car😂” he captioned that video.
Karen hates my car😂#levelup #CookieWithACause #karen #foryoupage#fyp
♬ original sound – c6_zaach
Since deleted posts showed him holding a gun, saying, “that this is how you handle neighbors,” the lawyers wrote, NJ.com said.
The Durhams sought help from police, but were told they could not sign a complaint against him because the courts were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the lawyers reportedly complained.
The family finally confronted Latham at his home after he swerved toward one of Durham’s other sons, aged 17, as he rode his bike, then hit the mom as she first confronted him about it, the lawyers said.
The letter also calls for all charges to be dropped against the family, saying that being “treated as criminals … when they are victims” is “compounding this tragedy.”
Catherine Durham is charged with criminal trespass and simple assault from the fight, while her sons, William and the 17-year-old juvenile, were each charged with criminal trespass and aggravated assault.
Latham is free pending his next court appearance on May 20 — and still posting on TikTok.
Vineland Acting Police Chief Pedro Casiano referred questions to the prosecutor’s office, which did not comment on the letter, NJ.com said.
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