Alpine Manor killer: Keep accomplice in prison

Target 8

Catherine Wood up for parole some 30 years after serial killings

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Convicted serial killer Gwendolyn Graham, in prison for life for suffocating five elderly patients at Alpine Manor Nursing Home more than 30 years ago, has advice for those fighting to keep her accomplice behind bars: keep fighting.

“I’m telling you, she’s an evil person,” Graham said of her cohort in the case, Catherine Wood. “She’s an evil person and whatever they need to do to keep her there, do it.”

But it’s not, she said, because she believes Wood is a serial killer. Graham still insists neither of them killed anybody.

“After all these years, I still don’t believe that anybody was murdered. I just don’t,” Graham said in a telephone interview with Target 8 from the Huron Valley Women’s prison in Ypsilanti.

Last September, the Michigan parole board ordered Wood released on parole. She’s already served her minimum sentence. Her victims’ families appealed, arguing that she was more involved in the killings than she’s admitted, is gaming the system and is faking remorse. They believe she would kill again.

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Graham and Wood were both nurse’s aides at what was then Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker the late 1980s. They were also a couple.

“I think a lot of the problem the town had with me is that I was openly gay,” Graham said.

They were charged with killing five elderly women suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia in 1986 and 1987. Wood cooperated with police, telling them that Graham suffocated the women with washcloths while she was the lookout. She told them they were trying to spell ‘murder’ with their initials.

Graham, who is now 55, insists Wood concocted the story out of vengeance.

“She was mad at me because I left her, I cheated on her,” Graham said. “I never understood how just cheating on her that she would go so way out of proportion to do this to me.”

Wood’s testimony was key to Graham’s conviction.

Autopsies on bodies exhumed during the investigation found no evidence of suffocation; likely, investigators said at the time, because the victims weren’t strong enough to fight back.

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In exchange for her cooperation, Wood got a deal: 20 to 40 years. She’s served nearly 30 years.

But why would Catherine Wood serve so long in prison just for revenge?

“I don’t think she intended to,” Graham said. “I don’t think she intended to at all. I think that she expected to get me locked up and that she was going to walk away and go home. I don’t think she expected to do a day.”

Graham said she thought Wood would recant.

“I thought the first year, she’d give it up, but she didn’t,” she said.

The parole board had denied Wood’s release eight times before, saying she wasn’t remorseful and would pose a threat. But an attorney for the parole board says she now shows remorse and would not pose a threat.

As for Graham, she said she has one appeal left after previous appeals failed.

She said Wood should also die in prison.

“If she’s going to take my life,” she said. “She took my whole life for something that never even happened.”

So for Graham, at least as her story goes, keeping Wood locked up is really about her own vengeance.

“She thought it was a game, and she won, and in the end, she’ll win,” Graham said. “If I die in here, and she’s walking around free, she’ll win.”

A Kent County Circuit Court judge has held two hearings on the parole board’s ruling. He is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether Wood should be released.

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