In 1984 Cathy Woods, a young wife and mother, from Grand Rapids Michigan was unhappy with her life. She was depressed and overweight, weighing close to 240lbs. She neglected her home and showed no maternal affection towards her young daughter. As a result her marriage suffered. At one point she confided in her husband that she was curious about how it would feel to stab someone.
She went to work at Alpine Manor Nursing Home at Walker, Michigan as a nursing assistant. In 1986 she demanded a divorce and began a series of lesbian relationships. She became attracted to a new employee that had moved to Michigan from Tyler, TX, Gwendolyn Graham. The two soon became involved in a relationship and Gwen moved in with Cathy. They arranged their schedules so that they were both working on the same shift. As their physical relationship intensified they experimented in bondage and practiced sexual asphyxia. They played word games and the loser assumed the submissive role in their sexual fantasies. According to Cathy it was Gwen who first brought up the idea of murdering patients while they were playing one of their word games. Referred to as the "Murder Game", the initial plan was to spell the word murder with the initials of their victims. Just talking about murder got them both sexually excited.
Alpine Manor averaged about 40 deaths a year, so 6 unnatural deaths went unnoticed. In January of 1987 the first murder was committed. They picked an elderly woman with Alzheimer's disease who was too frail to fight off her attacker. As Cathy Wood stood watch just outside the room, Gwen Graham entered the room and smothered her with a wash cloth. According to Wood she went on to kill at least four more elderly female patients with Wood acting as the lookout. In each case Graham left behind the washcloth she used to smother her victims. She also stole items from the victims such as jewelry, dentures, and personal keepsakes in order to relive the murders and then placed the "souvenirs" on a special shelf in their home. Sometimes they washed down the bodies as part of post-mortem care and handling the bodies heightened their sexual desire. They boasted to their friends and coworkers what they were doing. Their boasts were dismissed as a sick joke even after being shown the souvenir shelf.
Eventually Graham insisted that in order to strengthen their bond Wood had to kill one of the patients herself. When Wood refused Graham became angry. She left Wood for another woman and moved back to Tyler, TX. She wrote to Wood claiming that she wanted to smash the faces of the infants in her care at the Texas hospital where she was employed. Terrified, Wood confessed their murderous deeds to her ex-husband but it would be 14 months before he went to the police.
When interrogated by the police, Wood at first tried to convince the police that it was all a joke. But under continued questioning she eventually confessed. She downplayed her involvement in the crimes and placed the blame for the actual murders squarely on the shoulders of Graham.
Both women were arrested and Wood turned state's witness against her former lover. For her testimony she was sentenced to 20 -40 years with the possibility of parole.
On September 20, 1989 Gwen Graham was convicted of 5 counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. She was sentenced six life sentences with no possibility of parole.