November 2

This Day in History

Crime

Nov 2, 1989:

A nurse's aide gets life imprisonment

Gwendolyn Graham is sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for killing five elderly female residents of the Alpine Manor Nursing Home near Grand Rapids, Michigan. Both Graham and her criminal and romantic partner, Catherine Wood, had been employed as nurses' aides at the home.

A Texas native, Graham moved to Michigan in 1986 and found employment at Alpine Manor. Catherine Wood, Graham's supervisor, had recently divorced and soon became her lover. Before long, Graham enlisted Wood's aid in a brutal scheme: the duo decided to kill people whose initials would spell out the word "murder" when the spree was over. The first victim, however, fought back harder than expected so the pair abandoned the "initials game" and instead began focusing on the weakest women in the nursing home. According to Wood, Graham suffocated her victims with a washcloth while Wood stood guard as a lookout.

Reportedly, Graham and Wood often boasted about the murders but colleagues did not take them seriously. Wood claimed that in April 1987, Graham challenged her to "prove her love" by murdering someone. When she refused, Graham dumped her for another woman and returned to Texas. Wood, who later claimed that she was concerned that Graham would continue her killing spree in the South, confided in her ex-husband about the murders.

The story of the women's exploits reached the police in late 1988. The deaths of five elderly women, who were originally believed to have died of natural causes, were then investigated by police officers. Although authorities could find no direct physical evidence linking Graham and Wood to the deaths, they were both arrested in December 1988. In return for a reduced sentence of 20 to 40 years, Wood agreed to testify against Graham. Graham was convicted of five counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility for parole.

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