• Rod Kackley

Victims' families plead with judge, "Keep this killer in prison!"


(Mug shots of (l) Gwen Graham and (r) Cathy Wood, 1987)

Despite its well-crafted family-friendly, wholesome image, Grand Rapids and the western Michigan region have their share of psychotic maniac killers. Two of the deadliest were Catherine Wood and Gwen Graham.

Together they murdered patients at a nursing home in Walker, Michigan -- a Grand Rapids suburb -- while terrorizing the near- downtown Grand Rapids neighborhood in which they shared an apartment.

Catherine and Gwen were convicted in 1987 of suffocating five patients while working as nurses aides at the Alpine Manor nursing home.

In the beginning, Gwen and Catherine were happy. Everything was going swimmingly for the young women. They celebrated each killing with wild sex. It was great fun for them until a third nurses aide appeared on the scene. As Catherine and Gwen vied for Robin's affections, they turned on each other.

Gwen wound up being sentenced to life in prison without parole. She's doing her time in a Michigan prison. Catherine got a 20- to 40-year sentence and has been granted parole after serving 29 years in a federal prison in Florida.

Now, the victims' families are doing their best to keep Catherine behind bars, appealing the parole board's decision.

"The world's a safer place with her behind bars because she's going to do something again," Stephani Scruggs, victim Mae Mason's granddaughter, testified. "Every year she's behind bars, even if it's only for a couple more years, is one more year that nobody has to worry about terror in the eyes of a helpless old person."

Okay, said Catherine. She told the judge during an appeals hearing in December that she would gladly stay in prison until a final decision was made.

There was no need to set her free, Catherine said because if the appeal doesn't go her way, she'd just be imprisoned again.

Has she turned over a new leaf? Is Catherine reformed? Don't believe it for a second, said the families. They believe Cathy Wood is as evil as evil gets.

"She's manipulating again," Denise Ceccon, whose grandmother Belle Burkhard was among the victims, said after the hearing. "She's playing to the judge, and that's why she's doing it. She's going to stay there and do whatever he wants for her benefit."

How and why did Catherine and Gwen go on this murderous, shocking true crime spree, preying on sick, old women? Part of it is a shocking true crime love story, that you can read about in Sealed With A Kill, available wherever books are sold.

Looking for another example of the wickedness of West Michigan and Grand Rapids? There's no better to book to read than She Deserved Better: A Shocking True Crime Story of a Craigslist Killer.

She needed money. He wanted sex. Craigslist brought them together.

She Deserved Better: A Shocking True Crime Story of a Craigslist Killer and Sealed With A Kill: A Shocking True Crime Love Story are available wherever books are sold including:

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