Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood
||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (October 2013)|
|Gwen Graham & Katherine Wood|
Mugshots of Gwen Graham (top) and Cathy Wood (bottom)
August 6, 1963 (Graham)|
March 7, 1962 (Wood)
|Other names||The Lethal Lovers|
|Criminal penalty||Life imprisonment (Graham)
20 – 40 years imprisonment (Wood)
|Number of victims||5|
|Span of killings||January 1987–February 1987|
|Date apprehended||December 1989|
Gwendolyn Graham (born August 6, 1963) and Cathy Wood (born March 7, 1962) are American serial killers who authorities believe killed five elderly women in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 1980s. They committed their crimes in the Alpine Manor nursing home, where they both worked as nurse's aides.
The two women met at the Alpine Manor nursing home shortly after Graham had moved to Grand Rapids from Texas. They quickly became friends, and then lovers, in 1986. Two years later they both were facing murder charges for allegedly smothering five elderly patients as part of a "love bond," resulting in one of the most sensational murder cases in Michigan's history.
The details of the murders came almost entirely from accounts to criminal justice authorities by Cathy Wood, whose murder charges were reduced by a plea agreement so she could testify against Graham in Graham's trial for first degree murder. However, Wood's accounts and her self portrayal as a pawn of Gwen Graham were later brought into serious question by award-winning journalist Lowell Cauffiel in his 1992 true crime book, Forever and Five Days.
According to Wood's account, in January 1987, Graham entered the room of a woman who had Alzheimer's disease and smothered her with a wash cloth as Wood acted as her lookout. The woman was too incapacitated to fight back, and thus became the pair's first victim. The woman's death appeared to be natural, so an autopsy wasn't performed. Wood claimed Gwen murdered the patient to "relieve her tension." Also, they now shared a horrible secret that would assure they would never be able to leave each other.
Over the next few months, four more Alpine Manor patients were murdered by Graham, Wood alleged. Many of the victims, whose ages ranged from 65 to 97, were incapacitated and suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Wood testified that the couple turned the selection of victims into a game, first trying to chose their victims by their initials to spell M-U-R-D-E-R. But when that became difficult, they began counting each murder as a "day," as in the phrase, "I will love you for forever and a day." A poem by Wood to Graham, and introduced in the trial, concluded, "You'll be mine forever and five days." Wood also testified that Graham took souvenirs from the victims, keeping them to relive the deaths. However, no such souvenirs were ever discovered by police. The excessively overweight Wood also portrayed herself as a helpless, love-sick victim under the spell of Graham, who she portrayed as sexually, physically and emotionally dominant in their relationship.
The couple eventually broke up when Graham began dating an attractive female nurses aid who also worked at Alpine Manor. Graham then moved to Texas with the woman and began work in a hospital taking care of infants.
The murder investigation began in 1988 after Wood’s ex-husband, whom she had told about the murders, went to the police. Detectives for the Walker Police Department extensively questioned Cathy Wood in a series of interviews. She incrementally leaked out her version of the homicides, portraying Graham as the mastermind and hands-on killer. The investigation led to the exhumation of two nursing home victims who had not been cremated. But when medical examination failed to reveal physical evidence of homicide, not entirely unusual in a smothering case, the county medical examiner nevertheless ruled the deaths homicides, basing it on the interviews Wood had given to the police. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Wood and Graham. In December 1989, Graham was arrested in her hometown of Tyler, Texas.
During the trial, Wood plea-bargained her way to a reduced sentence, claiming that it was Graham who planned and carried out the killings while she served as a lookout or distracted supervisors. Graham maintained her innocence, testifying that the alleged murders were part of an elaborate "mind game" by Cathy. Despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury ultimately was swayed by the testimony of Graham's new girlfriend, who revealed that in Texas Graham had confessed to her that she and Wood had killed five people.
On November 3, 1989, Graham was found guilty of five counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and the court gave her five life sentences. Graham is imprisoned for life at the Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Charter Township, Michigan.
Wood was charged with one count of second-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. She was sentenced to 20 years on each count and has been eligible for parole since March 2, 2005. Wood is currently incarcerated in the minimum security Federal Correctional Institution, Tallahassee in Florida; she is expected to be released on June 6, 2021.
Several of the families sued the owners of Alpine Manor for hiring "dangerous and unbalanced employees". Alpine Manor has since gone out of business, but the building now houses a nursing home called "Sanctuary at Saint Mary's".
Graham and Wood were featured in two episodes of the TV series The Serial Killers in which they were interviewed about their relationship and crimes.
- Buhk, T.T. and Cohle, S.D. (2008). Skeletons in the closet. New York: Prometheus Books.
- Cauffiel, Lowell. Forever And Five Days: The Chilling True Story of Love, Betrayal and Serial Murder in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Pinnacle, 1997. ISBN 0-7860-0469-X
- "Woman Sentenced In Patients' Deaths" (Nov 3, 1989). Worcester Telegram & Gazette.