On November 2, 1989, Gwendolyn Graham was convicted for the murders of five elderly female patients at the Alpine Manor nursing home near Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was considered the end of a sensational murder case at the time.
Graham (born August 6, 1963) and Cathy Wood (born 1962) were nurse’s aides at the nursing home. Graham had just moved from Texas and Wood was recently divorced. In 1986 they became friends and then lovers. Two years later they were both facing murder charges for allegedly smothering five elderly patients as part of a “love bond.”
According to Wood’s account, in January 1987, Graham entered the room of a woman who had Alzheimer’s disease and smothered her with a washcloth as Wood acted as her lookout. The woman’s death appeared to be natural , so an autopsy wasn’t performed. Wood told authorities Graham murdered the patient to “relieve her tension.” Also, they shared a secret that would assure they would never leave each other.
Wood said that over the next few months, four more Alpine Manor patients were murdered by Graham. The victim’s ages ranged from 65 to 97. A poem written by Wood to Graham and introduced at trial concluded, “You’ll be mine forever and five days.”
Wood portrayed herself as a lovesick, helpless victim under the spell of Graham, who she portrayed as sexually, physically and emotionally dominant in their relationship.
The couple broke up when Graham began dating an attractive female nurse’s aid who also worked at Alpine Manor. Graham moved back to Texas with the woman and began working in a hospital taking care of infants./
In 1988 Wood told her ex-husband about the murders and he went to the police and an investigation began. Wood, in a series of interviews leaked out her version of the homicides., portraying Graham as the mastermind and hands on killer. Two of the victim’s who were not cremated were exhumed, but a medical examination failed to reveal physical evidence of homicide, not unusual in a smothering case. The medical examiner still ruled the death’s homicides based on the interviews Wood gave police. In December 1989, Graham was arrested in her hometown of Tyler, Texas.
Wood plea bargained her way to a reduced sentence. She testified it was Graham who planned and carried out the murders while she served as a lookout. Graham maintained her innocence claiming the murders were part of an elaborate mind game of Cathy’s.The jury was swayed by the testimony of Graham’s new girlfriend, who revealed that in Texas Graham had confessed to her that she and Wood had killed five people.
On November 3, 1989 Graham was found guilty of five counts of murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder and received five life sentences. She resides in the Huron Valley Correctional Complex. Wood pled guilty to 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 at the minimum security Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Florida; she is expected to be released on June 6, 2021.
The case was the basis of a 1992 true crime novel “Forever and Five Days” by Lowell Cauffiel.