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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Judge to hear contested parole for serial killer Catherine Wood

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A Kent County judge will hear a contested parole case Monday involving an infamous serial killer. Catherine Wood has served nearly 30 years for helping to kill at least five people.

Wood confessed to helping her nursing home co-worker Gwendolyn Graham suffocate at least five elderly and frail residents over the course of three months at the Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker, Michigan in 1987.

The parole board of the Michigan Department of Corrections denied Wood parole eight times but granted it the ninth time, in 2018.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel argues Wood should remain in prison through her full sentence's term - until 2021.  From Nessel's brief:

As a nurse's aide, Wood was one of the people who could have and should have made these women comfortable in their waning years. Instead, she helped inflict terror and death. The vicious nature of the crimes Wood has admitted to carrying out, the helplessness of the victims, the willful targeting of those victims because of that helplessness, the abuse of the caretaker relationship, the pure malice evidenced by taking souvenirs of the victims, and the sheer number of victims should each individually show that this is an exceptional circumstance that warrants exceptional consideration. Combined, these factors reveal a truly exceptional series of heinous crimes and a perpetrator more depraved than civilized society can bear.

The parole board of the Michigan Department of Corrections says Wood, age 57, is a model prisoner.  From the MDOC's statement:

After careful consideration of a number of factors in Wood’s case, including her conduct in prison, program involvement, and social support in the community, the Parole Board determined there was reasonable assurance she would not become a threat to society or public safety. Her parole is currently suspended pending an appeal of the decision.

Meanwhile, Wood's co-worker Gwendolyn Graham is serving a life sentence.  Graham was convicted of carrying out the killings by holding a cloth over the faces of the victims until they suffocated.

Woods was convicted of second degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder and given a sentence of 20-40 years.  At trial, she testified she acted as a lookout and distracted other nursing home employees to allow Graham to carry out the murders.