NILES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The man who allegedly used a knife and frying pan to kill a woman near Niles 35 years ago was on parole at the time of the murder.
Patrick Gilham, 67, of South Bend, Indiana, was arrested at his home around 1:15 p.m. Thursday for the killing of Roxanne Wood, 30.
Gilham was jailed in St. Joseph County, Indiana, pending extradition to Michigan, where he faces charges of open murder and breaking and entering of an occupied dwelling, Berrien County Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli said.
Michigan State Police and prosecutors have been tight-lipped about exactly what led them to develop Gilham as a suspect, citing preservation of their case.
“…There are new techniques out there that can be utilized in that,” MSP Detective 1st Lt. Chuck Christensen said at a Friday afternoon press conference. “How we connected with him will be revealed through the court process.”
He said two detectives took the case up in August 2020, reviewed more than 3,300 pages of documents and went back to the evidence, plus conducted new interviews and surveillance.
“One of the big challenges is resources because these (cold cases) are very labor intensive,” Christensen said, citing the need for travel to reach people who may have moved and other organizational and logistical roadblocks.
But he also said the time can be a blessing.
“Because relationships change and people that maybe wouldn’t have talked 15 years ago now will talk,” he explained.
“This case was picked up because we thought it was workable,” he added. “We thought that there was a good possibility we could have some success.”
Cold case detectives also looked at the murder in 2001 but that review didn’t yield an arrest.
South Bend is 10 miles south of Niles. Police don’t yet know whether Gilham and Wood knew each other. MSP said the investigation is still underway.
Wood’s brother told News 8 he needed time to process news of the arrest.
“It is so strange. Doesn’t seem real at this point,” he wrote in a text exchange with News 8.
Police and prosecutors expressed condolences to Wood’s family and said they hope the arrest can help offer closure.
“(Wood’s family) had to wait a long time, obviously, for this,” Christensen said.
According to Indiana court records, Gilham was on parole at the time of the murders for burglary and criminal deviate conduct. He pleaded guilty to those crimes in 1980 and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was released after six.
Gilham had appealed his 1980 conviction after a court ruled in an unrelated case that judges must verbally explain a defendant’s rights prior to accepting their guilty plea.
He got out of Indiana’s Westville Correctional Facility on August 5, 1986.
Six months later, on Feb. 20, 1987, Roxanne Wood was found dead in the home she shared with husband. Her throat had been slashed and she had been hit over the head with a frying pan.
In the hours leading up to Roxanne Wood’s murder on Feb. 20, 1987, she and her husband Terry Wood had gone out to a bar and then bowling alley in Niles. Roxanne left the bowling alley around midnight and her husband followed about 45 minutes later, police said shortly after the killing.
When Terry Wood arrived back at their home on Tam-O-Shanter Lane in the area of Country Club Drive and S. 15th Street, police said, he found Roxanne dead on the kitchen floor. He called 911 at 1:18 a.m.
State police recovered the sheath of the knife at the scene but not the murder weapon itself. There was no evidence of forced entry to the home, police reports at the time of the murder said, though Prosecutor Pierangeli said Friday that Gilham “forcibly entered” the home.
Terry Wood, who still lives in the Niles area, had for decades been a person of interest in his wife’s murder but he has always maintained his innocence. MSP said he was pleased and relieved to learn of Gilham’s arrest.
Lt. Christensen said detectives think Gilham may have been responsible for other crimes. Anyone with information about him or Wood’s murder is asked to call the MSP Niles Post at 269.683.4411.
—News 8 digital executive producer Rachel Van Gilder contributed to this report.