A woman convicted of killing five nursing home residents in the 1980’s has been released on parole. People familiar with the case are concerned that the woman could be a danger to other elderly individuals. The families of the victims are disappointed that the woman has been released, rather than serving a life sentence.
Nursing Home Serial Killer Information
Catherine Wood was a nurse’s aide at Alpine Manor Nursing Home in Walker, Michigan in the 1980’s. She and co-worker Gwendolyn Graham made national headlines in 1987 when they were arrested and charged with several counts of murder.
According to reports, the pair worked together to suffocate five residents with washcloths. All of the residents were between 60 and 98 years old. The victims all suffered from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
According to officials, the pair committed the crimes as a way of having fun. The pair even chose their victims by last name, in an effort to spell out the word “murder” with the victims’ initials. During trial, Wood testified that she was a lookout while Graham committed the murders. Investigators continue to believe that Wood was more involved than she testified. Investigators also believe there may be more victims.
At trial, Graham was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Wood was convicted of conspiracy and second-degree murder. She served almost 30 years in a federal prison before being paroled in January, 2020. Instead of returning to Michigan, Wood is moving to South Carolina, where she will live with her sister.
The South Carolina parole board says the conditions of Wood’s parole will prevent her from access to the elderly, vulnerable adults and children. Her parole will end in 2021. These conditions are not doing much to ease the concerns of the victims’ families and the community, however.
Families and Community Concerned about Nursing Home Residents
There is a lot of controversy around Wood’s parole. The families of several victims have come forward expressing their fear that Wood may be a danger to others. The victims’ families have objected to her release and even filed a lawsuit in order to keep her behind bars. But in October 2019, a judge rules that he would not block the decision of the parole board.
John Engman, the son-in-law of one of the victims, told WSOC News,
“My fear is that she will find some old person, old people, incorporate herself into their family, take their property, take their lives and move on and do it again.”
The decision is a bit shocking considering that Wood was denied parole eight times prior due to her lack of remorse. The parole board also previously found her to be a potential danger. An investigator who worked on the Alpine Manor murder case says,
“She’s a serial killer and she could do it again, and most of them do. I believe that Cathy Wood was the mastermind, she was the one that was pulling strings on Gwendolyn Graham. Gwendolyn Graham handled the dirty work and Cathy Wood was the brains behind it.”
In addition to the objections by the victims’ families, many people in the community around Fort Mill, South Carolina are also wary of having a convicted nursing home serial killer in their midst. Some residents have come forward saying it is “shocking” and they are glad they are informed about her presence. Unfortunately, the situation is putting stress on a community with otherwise few concerns about safety.
Information about Wrongful Death in Nursing Homes
The legal definition of a wrongful death is,
“the death of a human being as the result of a wrongful act of another person. Such wrongful acts include: negligence (like careless driving), an intentional attack such as assault and/or battery, a death in the course of another crime, vehicular manslaughter, manslaughter or murder.”
In the case of Catherine Wood and Gwendolyn Graham, each of the deaths could be considered a “wrongful death.”
A wrongful death in a nursing home is one of the most serious types of nursing home abuse. These deaths may be caused by physical abuse, medication errors, inadequate medical care or malicious crimes. In any of these situations, the victim and his or her loved ones are subject to incredible loss, trauma and devastation.
Getting Justice for Victims of Wrongful Death
Aside from any criminal proceedings that may follow a wrongful death, the surviving family also has rights under civil laws. Surviving family members have the right to file a lawsuit against the party or parties who are liable for causing the death of their loved one. This is a wrongful death claim.
A successful wrongful death claim provides compensation to the family for damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, cremation or burial costs, pain and suffering and more. In some cases, the plaintiffs can also seek punitive damages, or damages designed to punish the defendant for his or her negligent actions.
If you are grieving the loss of someone you love, and you believe their death was the result of negligence, contact Nursing Home Abuse Center. Our nursing home abuse lawyers can help you explore your situation, your legal rights and the options you may have to pursue a wrongful death claim. For a free consultation, call us at 1-888-548-9636.