Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood
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|Gwen Graham & Katherine Wood|
Mugshots of Gwen Graham (top) and Cathy Wood (bottom)
|Also known as||The Lethal Lovers|
|Born||August 6, 1963 (Graham)|
March 7, 1962 (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 1962) are American serial killers who killed five elderly women in 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 where Graham was a nurse's aide and Wood was her supervisor. They quickly became friends and then lovers in 1986. They practiced sexual asphyxia to achieve a better orgasm. Graham began to talk about committing murder as a sexual game.
Posting Wood as a lookout, Graham attempted to kill a few elderly women. However, the women were able enough to fight back. In January 1987, Graham entered the room of a woman who had Alzheimer's disease; 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 was never performed.
Over the next few months, four more Alpine Manor patients were murdered. Many of the victims, whose ages ranged from 65 to 97, were incapacitated and suffered from Alzheimer's disease. Graham and Wood turned the selection of victims into a game, choosing victims whose initials collectively spelled M-U-R-D-E-R. Graham took souvenirs from the victims, keeping them to relive the deaths. Both women openly bragged about smothering six victims to their coworkers, with Graham even showing off her souvenirs, but no one believed them.
The couple broke up when Wood refused to actively kill a patient to prove her love to Graham. Wood transferred to another shift. Graham moved to Texas with another woman and began work in a hospital taking care of infants.
The murder investigation began in 1988 after Wood’s ex-husband, who she had told about the murders, went to the police. Her ex-husband told the police in October 1988, which led them to investigate further. The first victim was exhumed on November 30, 1988 almost a year after her burial. The coffin was then taken to Kent County Morgue for examination. Eight possible victims were identified, but police ended up pursuing five.
In the end there was enough evidence to warrant the arrest of Wood and Graham. In December 1989, Graham was arrested in her hometown of Tyler, Texas; however, she maintained their claims were made as a joke to scare their co-workers.
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. 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. She resides in the Huron Valley Complex (for female offenders). 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 in Tallahassee, 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.
- Crime Library
- New York Times: Ex-Nursing Home Aide Gets Life Term in 5 Patient Killings
- Gray Murders Project[dead link]
- Mugshots.com - Gwen Graham and Cathy Woods
- Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Woods by Elisabeth Wetsch
- The Serial Killers - Catherine May Wood and Gwendolyn Graham; The Lethal Lovers