A Killer Pact: What Two Nurses Did in the Name of Love

When it comes to nurses and caregivers in old folks’ homes, we can only hope (even assume) that they have the patients’ best interests at heart. Right? Well, in the case of Catherine Wood and Gwendolyn Graham – two nurses who worked at Grand Rapids Alpine Manor senior living facility – their own interests were what they were after, even if it meant taking lives.

Cathy Wood / Gwen Graham / Cathy Wood / Gwen Graham.
Source: YouTube

You see, Cathy and Gwen were more than just coworkers; they were lovers with a pact. They were eventually dubbed the “Lethal Lovers” for they started to kill their patients, one by one. It’s hard to fathom, of course, but this is a true story.

When Cathy Met Gwen

It was in 1986 that 26-year-old Cathy Wood and 25-year-old Gwen Graham met at Alpine Manor, both working as nurses at the nursing home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Cathy had been there first, meeting Gwen after moving from Texas. It didn’t take long for the pair to become lovers.

A still of Cathy Wood and Gwen Graham’s arrest.
Source: YouTube

Not much time passed, either, between their first meeting and their first murder. By 1987, Gwen and Cathy took the life of their first victim. Fortunately for the killer nurses, the death was chalked up to natural causes, which meant they were only at the beginning of their rampage.

Creating Drama in the Worst Place Possible

Cathy was a divorcee who not only left her husband but men in general, choosing women instead. A bitter blonde, Cathy had a mean streak. She had a tendency to tease the other nurses at Alpine Manor and play sinister jokes on them.

An image of Cathy talking to the media.
Source: YouTube

Obviously, it wasn’t welcomed behavior, and sooner than later she was creating drama in a place that should ideally be a drama-free environment. Then Gwen came along, new to the nursing home as well as the area. Gwen may have been new to the Alpine staff, but her preference for women was anything but.

Forever and Five Days

Whereas Cathy was freshly on a female-only path, Gwen wasn’t; she had preferred women for a long time. Described as always eager to please, Gwen fell for Cathy right off the bat. The two started seeing each other, and soon enough made a love pact to be together “forever and five days.”

A photo of Gwen Graham’s arrest.
Gwen Graham. Source: YouTube

To many, their relationship might have seemed innocent, like two lovebirds who just can’t get enough of each other. But this couple’s love was far from harmless. Quite the contrary. These two were aggressive, from lovemaking to drug use to murderous plots.

Like a Mob Boss and Her Goon

As you may have guessed, it was Cathy who called all the shots. Gwen went along for the ride, but that didn’t excuse her from her equally guilty behavior. While Cathy was the mastermind, Gwen was the muscle. Like a lesbian version of a mob boss and his goon.

A mugshot of Gwen / A mugshot of Cathy.
Gwen Graham, Cathy Wood. Source: Pinterest

In the end, the murderous couple claimed the lives of at least six patients at the nursing home. Their method of choice? Smothering them in their beds. Their killing spree began with their first victim, a 60-year-old woman named Marguerite Chambers.

Marguerite’s Weekly Visitor

Sunday evenings were when Ed Chambers came to visit his wife at the Alpine Manor for his Sunday night visit. On this particular Sunday, Grand Rapids hit freezing temperatures. He went into the home and entered his wife’s room.

An exterior shot of Alpine Minor.
Source: Pinterest

He called Marguerite’s name as he turned the corner, preparing her a moment ahead of appearing in her room, so as to not frighten her. The two sat together for an hour, steady hand holding shaking hand. Ed never knew if Marguerite understood him, but he spoke to her anyways.

Day 1,293

It had been 12 years since Marguerite was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and five years since she had been institutionalized. By the time 8:00 p.m. rolled around, Ed readied himself to leave, with the expectation that he would see her again next week. But he didn’t.

A picture of the elderly sitting outdoors at Alpine Manor.
Source: Alpine Manor

On January 18, Marguerite was on her 1,293rd day as a patient of Alpine Manor. Outside her room, nurses’ aides were going from room to room, doing their rounds, preparing everyone for the night. Most of the aides were busy while others were on break.

He Never Missed a Visit

At 8:00 p.m., as Ed was about to leave, licensed nurses were going to each room, passing out the evening medications. When Ed stepped outside, he noticed only a few cars in the parking lot. They were mostly employees’ cars, as most visitors were staying at home due to the weather.

An image of Gwendolyn Graham in court.
Gwendolyn Graham. Source: YouTube

With inches of snow on the roads, most family members and loved ones waited for the next day to make their visits. Not Ed: Ed always made his visits. He thought of his wife and how she loved classical music, especially waltzes.

Room 614-1

In room 614-1, Marguerite’s room, classical music would be heard at least once week. A new staffer brought her music to listen to along with a portable tape player. Marguerite’s world was extremely predictable, as nursing homes tend to be.

An image of a room in an elderly care center.
Photo by Alyssa Schukar/The Washington Post/Getty Images

But things started to change in the days leading up to Christmas that year. One change was the music, a welcomed change. The other was more of an irregularity, an change in her typical schedule. This interruption was not soothing like her waltzes. Rather, it unleashed her impulses.

Merry Christmas, Marguerite

It was after Ed left that the nightmares began. On Christmas Day, Marguerite found herself suddenly at a loss for air. Something was smothering her, with fury, putting too much pressure on her nose and jaw.

An image of an ambulance arriving at Alpine Manor.
Source: Wood TV8

There was terry cloth, pressed against her face, and after a few moments, she lost consciousness. But Marguerite didn’t die that day. She survived the smothering attempt, but there were signs and smells that she wouldn’t be able to forget. That familiar face – that pair of hands with the scent of Sween Cream.

Yeah, That Explains It

Marguerite was ill, so she couldn’t articulate what had happened to her. The next day, her nurse could only know by her vital signs. She noticed Marguerite’s pulse was running a bit over a beat per second, but her blood pressure was in the normal range for a woman of her age.

A portrait of Marguerite.
Marguerite. Source: Wood TV8

She also noticed that Marguerite had been quite restless the night before, during the facility’s third shift. She ran a fever of 101 that night, which could explain the uneasiness and unrest. At least, that’s what the nurse figured to herself.

A Different Kind of Visitor

But that night wasn’t an isolated incident. No, her intruder was about to visit her again. This time, Marguerite was jolted from her sleep. First, she heard the sound of the metal rod being pulled as someone closed the curtain.

A photo of a window with a closed curtain.
Photo by Ron Lach/Pexels

She then felt two hands taking the pillow from underneath her head. The next thing she knew, she was out of air. Again. The terry cloth. Again. One piece covered her nostrils, the other was under her chin. Her mouth was violently pushed tight.

Angel of Death

Marguerite thrashed, trying to breathe, and groaned a guttural moan. In her last moments, she looked up at the face above her – the face of the person who so desperately wanted to end her life. This person might as well have been an angel of death.

A view inside a patients’ room in Alpine Manor.
Source: Pinterest

Both Cathy and Gwen were scheduled to be off the day after Marguerite died. The day after, though, on Tuesday, they were scheduled to work a double shift, the afternoon/evening and night. Cathy, however, called in with an excuse for both of them.

A Guilty Conscience

The excuse: problems in the basement. “The water heater is broken,” Cathy told her supervisor. “We’re waiting for a repairman.” What they were really doing was hanging out at home, drinking together.

An image of Cathy in court.
Cathy Wood. Source: WZZM

The hot water heater was in the basement, near the sewer drain and chimney door. Cathy later admitted that she was scared to go down the stairs of the basement during those two days. “I thought maybe Marguerite would be down there and she would get me,” she said. A guilty conscience, it seems.

Sorrys and I Love Yous

Cathy also confessed that she and Gwen were quite aggressive in bed, especially that night, in which wrist restraints were used. “I’m sorry,” one of them said repeatedly. “I’m sorry.” One of them was clearly a bit of a klutz and wasn’t so well versed in that kind of “play.”

A photo of Gwendolyn standing in court.
Gwendolyn. Source: Wood TV8

Later, they played 45s on their record player, listening to Mel Carter sing. “Hold Me. Thrill Me. Kiss Me. Make me tell you I’m in love with you.” Gwen then said to Cathy, “I’ll love you forever.”

Jealousy Breeds Revenge

It may not come as a surprise to hear that Gwen and Cathy’s sick love affair didn’t last. At some point in 1988, Cathy fessed up to her ex-husband, Ken Wood, about the murders at the Alpine Manor. It came after Gwen started seeing another woman.

A video still of Cathy Wood in court.
Cathy Wood. Source: YouTube

Ken then reported what he knew to the police, and his ex-wife was then interviewed by the police. She claimed that it was her lover who was the real murderer – that she was merely the lookout. She began with the murder of Marguerite.

An Emotional Release

Cathy said she saw Gwen smother Marguerite on January 18, 1987, with a washcloth. She also told the police that she didn’t intervene, but she spoke to Gwen about the murder afterward, which is when Gwen told her that killing was an “emotional release” for her.

A mugshot of Gwendolyn at the time.
Source: YouTube

At the time, police were investigating as many as eight suspicious deaths at the same nursing home which occurred during the first five months of 1987. Marguerite was simply the first. Cathy soon confessed to killing five more residents at the home.

A “Mercy” Killing

One of the killings was what Gwen called a “mercy killing” because the woman was suffering from gangrene. Cathy also divulged that Gwen would take a souvenir from each of her victims only to dispose of them when Gwen moved out of the house they shared.

An exterior shot of Alpine Manor.
Source: Wood TV8

The two lived together from September 1986 to July 1987, during which time they managed to get a lot of killing done. By June 1987, Gwen quit the Alpine Manor and returned to Texas, while Cathy continued to work at the nursing home until October that year.

For the Fun of It

According to the police, it was likely the probes into the suspicious deaths that prompted the women to quit their jobs. The probe only began when Ken Wood reported what his ex-wife confided in him to the police.

A video still of Cathy Wood during an interview.
Cathy Wood. Source: YouTube

But what he told the police – which Cathy didn’t – was that she participated in the murders for the “fun of it.” Ken reported all of his in August 1987, three months after their 8-year marriage ended in divorce and the union between Cathy and Gwen ended.


The five women they killed in the nursing home ranged from 60 to 98, with Marguerite being the youngest. All of them were smothered with washcloths. It was even more disturbing when people found out that it was all “for fun” and due to a “love bond” between the two nurses.

An image of Cathy in court.
Cathy Wood. Source: YouTube

Believe it or not, the coupe played a sinister game in which they chose their victims based on their names so they would be able to spell out the word “M-U-R-D-E-R.” Apparently, they abandoned the plan when some of the slayings failed.

A Fear of Being Hurt, She Said…

Ken reasoned that he finally decided to report the murders to the police because Cathy was not receiving the professional counseling she most obviously needed. At the time of the confessions, the police ruled out any motive of financial gain or the idea that the killings were out of sympathy.

A video still of Cathy crying as she speaks during an interview.
Cathy Wood. Source: YouTube

When asked why she never told the cops about her lover’s killings, Cathy alleged that she remained silent out of fear that Gwen would hurt her. It should be noted that Gwen was 5 feet 1, 145 pounds, whereas Cathy was 6 feet tall and about 250 pounds…

There Could Have Been 12

Moreover, the authorities believed there could have been up to 12 people and that Cathy served mainly as the lookout. Gwen, the murderous mastermind, allegedly concocted the plan as a way to keep Cathy close after she learned she was interested in another woman.

A picture of two other victims.
Source: YouTube

In 1989, Cathy testified against her ex-lover at the trial in which Gwen was convicted of first-degree murder of all five victims. She was ultimately given five life sentences. As for Cathy, she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder in Marguerite Chambers’ death.

Denied Seven Times

Cathy also pled guilty to a separate count of conspiracy to commit second-degree murder. She was handed down a sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison with the possibility of parole, which came to be in 2005.

A current picture of Cathy Wood during the trial.
Photo by Andy Barron

Between 2005 and 2018, the Michigan Department of Corrections denied Cathy’s request for parole a total of seven times. However, in 2018, she was let free. After stating that she was “no longer a menace to society and had accepted responsibility for her crimes,” Cathy Wood was a free woman.

Free, After Thirty Years

Of course, the families of the victims were not pleased. In 2019, loved ones appealed Cathy’s release. They alleged that the now-ex-convict had actually tried to kill at least ten patients, perhaps only succeeding in five.

A district attorney holds a news conference.
Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks. Photo by Andy Barron

Nonetheless, Cathy, now 56, is a free woman after having served nearly 30 years behind bars in a Florida prison. This woman, who was consistently viewed as a “potential danger” and showed no remorse for her crimes, was finally free to go. In 2020, she moved in with her family in South Carolina.

She Could Do It Again

As for Gwen, she has no chance of seeing the light of day ever again. That is, other than the 30-minute courtyard breaks she’s permitted to receive. Meanwhile, most people in society are wary of Cathy walking the streets.

A photo of Gwendolyn Graham from jail.
Gwendolyn Graham. Source: Wood TV8

“She’s a serial killer and she could do it again, and most of them do,” retired Michigan Police Sgt. Roger Kaliniak stated. John Engman, the son-in-law of the late Mae Mason, one of the victims, is furious over her release. “I think she is a danger to society,” he told WSOC-TV.

The Serial Killer Next Door

“I would certainly think they are going to keep an eye on her — at least for two years. But after that, she can go wherever she wants.” He added, “If I was a neighbor, I would want to definitely know that we have a serial killer living next door.”

A photo of Lowell Cauffiel during an interview at a radio station.
Lowell Cauffiel. Source: YouTube

Crime author Lowell Cauffiel wrote about the case, saying Cathy was really the mastermind – not Gwen – and equally involved in the murders. Many agree with Cauffiel in the notion that Cathy downplayed her involvement as just the “lookout.”

She Said, She Said

It was in prison that Cathy reportedly confessed the killings to two fellow inmates, also admitting to having turned on her ex-lover Gwen for another woman who also worked at the Alpine Manor. Contrary to what has been reported, Cauffiel claims that Gwen was probably incapable of such murders.

An image of Cathy’s current home.
Source: YouTube

And that’s because, the author believes, she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Gwen later called her partner in crime “evil” in an interview. Whether or not their participation was equal, both women knew exactly what they were doing.

Whatever That Means

“I’m telling you, she’s an evil person,” Gwen told Target 8 from the Huron Valley Women’s prison. Strangely, she then said this: “After all these years, I still don’t believe that anybody was murdered. I just don’t.” Whatever that means….

A dated picture of Gwen during the trial.
Source: Wood TV8

If there’s one person who knows these two killer nurses better than most it’s a woman named Jackie Wood, Cathy’s daughter. For the two years that her mother was performing evil acts, Jackie was being raised by Cathy who acted as though nothing was happening.

The Child of a Serial Killer

After Cathy was sent to prison, Jackie started battling depression and emotional numbness that dragged along well into her adulthood. Only a child when her mother was taken away for heinous crimes, Jackie was forced to try to make sense of it all.

An image of Cathy getting out of a car after being released from jail.
Cathy Wood. Source: FOX46

Decades after remaining silent about being the child of a serial killer, Jackie eventually opened up about her issues as a way to move on. In 2019, she decided to call into The Howard Stern Show. On it, she discussed her relationship with her estranged mother and the stigma she had carried with her since childhood.

She Was Only Eight

Jackie was only eight years old when her life made a sharp turn for the worst. In 1988, her mom was suddenly arrested. Their relationship has been damaged ever since. Jackie told Howard Stern that it also ruined her relationship with her father, Ken.

An image of Cathy Wood arriving at home.
Source: WCNC

They were close, but it wasn’t a healthy kind of close. “He was a despicable person,” she said on the XM radio show. “Because of this intense experience, we were very close, but it was a very dysfunctional relationship.”

It Was More Because of Her Dad

After Cathy was sent to prison, Jackie lived with her dad. She revealed that her dad was abusive; that he spanked her often. “I don’t think [my mother’s crimes] attribute to my mental illness… or my trauma as much as the abuse I received from my dad,” Jackie shared.

A mugshot of Cathy Wood.
Cathy Wood. Source: YouTube

“My dad was very physically and verbally abusive towards me. That’s really where the real trauma is.” Tragically, the girl not only lost her mother (and the image of what a mother should be), but any hope of having a healthy relationship with her father as well.

She Would Have Visited Her More Often

Jackie still visited her mom in prison over the years –until she turned 21. Afterward, Cathy was moved out of state (to Florida) and the young woman just didn’t have enough money to make the trips out to see her.

A dated video still of Cathy in jail.
Source: YouTube

During their earlier visits, Cathy would speak openly about her guilt. But Cathy’s sister – Jackie’s aunt – begged Cathy to pretend she was only “joking” about her part in the murders. Despite everything, Jackie wishes she had more time with her mom. If she had the funds, she probably would have gone more often.

Ignored or Taunted

She really only had a few years that she can even remember with her mom, before she found out she was a murderer. The truth is, she didn’t spend too much time with her mom in her early years. Jackie explained that her mother’s affection for her went back and forth between hot and cold.

A dated video still of Cathy in court.
Cathy Wood. Source: ABC

She was either ignored or taunted. There was one time, Jackie recalled, when her mother laughed at her when her father used a paddle to spank her.

She Wasn’t a “Total Monster”

“I was really scared that my dad was going to give me a spanking… but he was going through this particular cupboard where the paddle was kept. And as he’s searching through it, my mom is leaning on his back and she’s pointing at me and laughing, and she’s… waving because I’m going to get a spanking.”

A dated portrait of Cathy Wood.
Source: YouTube

But Jackie was quick to clarify that her mom wasn’t a “total monster” and that their relationship “definitely had warm moments.” If that sounds hard to believe, then get this…

Getting Friendly With Gwen

It may sound odd, and it really is, but after her mom’s conviction, Jackie engaged in a casual friendship with her mom’s partner in crime, Gwen. In the OHO podcast interview, Jackie said she and Gwen played Monopoly during their prison visits.

A mugshot of Gwen.
Gwen. Source: Wood TV

Jackie didn’t divulge too much about her time with Gwen, other than the fact that they got to know one another and had several conversations during her visits to the prison. She said Gwen was always kind to her.

So, Yeah, About My Mom…

Things only got worse once her mother was nearing her parole date. On the podcast Openly Hostile Opinions, Jackie explained how strange it was to tell people about her life and obviously her mother. Regardless of whether or not people are judging her, she said, she thinks everyone sees her as a “freak.”

An image inside a prison cell.
Photo by RODNAE Productions/Pexels

Whenever she meets someone new, Jackie tries to ease them into her mother’s story in attempt to explain why she’s “off.” Many think that opening up is the healthy thing to do, while others believe she should keep it under wraps.

Trying to Keep the Family Together?

When it comes to speaking to the families of the Alpine Manor victims, Jackie says she doesn’t believe she’s “obligated” to extend her empathy. When asked why her father took 14 months to report Cathy to the police, Jackie assumes her father was trying to keep their family together.

A mugshot of Cathy Wood.
Source: YouTube

“I honestly think that he wanted her back,” she told Stern. “And he took her to Vegas shortly before he turned her in and thought that that maybe was what was gonna get them back together, I think…”

Was It Revenge?

Jackie revealed even more: “He was told by his therapist to get his story straight, because, since he caught my mom with another woman while they were still married, this therapist was thinking that the cops might not believe him and think that he was just trying to get revenge.”

A photo of Cathy getting inside a car.
Cathy Wood. Source: Wood TV8

The story of Gwen and Cathy is overwhelming to the average person, so we can only imagine how it was for Jackie. She admitted that she eventually became numb to the stories on the news and in newspapers of her mother’s crimes.

The Wound Cuts Deep

Jackie blames her mother, father, and everything that happened for why she had deep emotional and addiction problems in her 30s. She learned to “suppress all feelings,” she shared. Eventually, Jackie and her mom had a serious falling out, and they didn’t speak for several years.

A general view of Cathy’s current neighborhood.
Source: Wood TV8

In 2020, she expressed a possible interest in reuniting with her mother now that she’s out of prison. It’s only natural that she’s confused – should she reunite with her mother or keep her distance? “It’s so complicated,” she told Stern.

Playing the System

All kind of diagnoses and names have been used to explain Cathy over the decades. If Jackie believes any of them, it’s her mother’s narcissism.

A picture of one of Cathy’s victims.
Source: Pinterest

Jackie agrees that it was likely her mom who was the mastermind behind the crimes and not Gwen. She believes her mom indeed tried to play the justice system – saying she was just going along with the murders – even if her “minimal punishment” was still decades in prison.

A Possible Book on Its Way

After earning her MFA, Jackie started writing a book on her life as the child of a serial killer. At first, Cathy was supportive of her daughter’s endeavor. Later on, though, she changed her mind, calling it hurtful. It was the reason for their falling out.

A dated image of Cathy’s arrest.
Cathy Wood. Source: YouTube

“I’ve been talking about writing a book for 20 years, and the thing is, nothing’s come of it.” Whether or not we see Jackie’s book on the shelves anytime soon (or later), is up in the air. Time will tell, as it usually does.