Judge to issue opinion about Alpine Manor killer’s parole

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kent County judge will issue a written opinion on whether a woman convicted decades ago of the Alpine Manor nursing home murders should be paroled.

Kent County Circuit Court Judge J. Joseph Rossi heard closing arguments Monday on whether Catherine Wood should be released. It’s unclear when he will issue his opinion, but he will have three options: approve her release, order her held in prison until her maximum sentence is served in 2021, or send the case back to the parole board.

“If she’s released, is she going to be one of the first serial killers to ever be paroled? That’s a question I have to have answered,” Jan Hunderman, the daughter of victim Marguerite Chambers, said.

In 1987, a jury convicted former nurse’s aides Wood and Gwendolyn Graham of killing patients at the former Alpine Manor nursing home in Walker. Graham and Wood suffocated five residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The nurse’s aides were reportedly trying to spell “murder” with the victims’ initials. Newly released evidence shows the duo attempted to kill even more patients.

The Michigan Department of Corrections parole board ordered Wood’s release in September, saying she was no longer a menace to society.

“There is evidence to support that this is no longer a citizen who no longer is denying her crimes, but she is finally coming to believe, and rightly so, that she is fully responsible for these crimes,” H. Steven Langschwager, the attorney for the parole board, said Monday.

The board’s decision led to a lawsuit filed by victims’ families, who claim it abused its discretion.

John Engman, a lawyer whose mother-in-law was one the victims, asked Rossi to reverse the parole board’s ruling.

“I don’t think this remorse is real. They did these things for fun,” he said. “In the country vernacular, even an old dog can learn new tricks.”

Family members of the victims fear Wood will kill again.

Wood’s attorney Roland Lindh urged Rossi to not “let popular opinion stop you from upholding the law.”

“What I’m asking (of the court) is to respect the law. The judge back 30 years ago sentenced her,” Lindh said. “You do every bit of your minimum (sentence) and it’s up to the parole board whether you’re going to do that maximum.”

On Friday, Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a brief opposing Wood’s release.

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