Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood were lovers. And one of the things they liked to do was get their kicks by murdering the elderly.
This tale takes place in Walker, a town adjacent to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is a perfectly pleasant mid-sized city in West Michigan, a 45-minute drive from the lake. It’s home to the Amway Corporation, a handful of fine breweries, and in the 1980s, the Alpine Manor nursing home. That’s where Gwen found herself employed as a nurse’s aid shortly after she moved to the Midwestern city from Texas. There, she met Cathy, also a nurse’s aid.
It wasn’t long before the two began dating. Their relationship took a deplorable turn not long after it had begun. How exactly it all went down depends on which women you ask. This is often true of couples who kill: sure, it’s all love and homicide when the going is good, but get the cops involved and it was always the other one’s idea.
If you ask Cathy, she was merely the lookout on that first murder in January 1987. It was Gwen who took a wash cloth and smothered a female patient who, elderly and suffering from Alzheimer’s, was too weak to fend her off. Because the death of an elderly patient with no visible wounds is not particularly suspicious, an autopsy was not performed. According to Cathy, Gwen said she felt like she was doing the victim a favor by putting her out of her misery.
The pair would go on to murder four more patients and oh, were they twisted. They didn’t particularly care which feeble old person they knocked off, it was all about the thrill of the kill. Sometimes they chose victims based on their initials, in an attempt to win a game of macabre Scrabble by spelling “M-U-R-D-E-R.” They also incorporated their murders into pillow talk, saying sweetly, “I love you forever and a day” to each other, with the amount of additional days increasing with each kill.
Though the murders were meant to bond the pair through their shared secret, they only made it to “forever and five days.” Gwen dumped Cathy for another woman at the nursing home, and the two new lovers took off back to Gwen’s home state of Texas.
The murders came to light thanks to Cathy’s ex-husband. Cathy told him about her crimes, and he went to police.
During the trial, Cathy was depicted as an unwitting pawn of Gwen’s. Gwen said it was all a lie, that Cathy would make horrible jokes about murder and she simply went along with the jokes. However, other friends and lovers of Gwen’s testified that she, too, had talked about the murder. After all was said and done, all Gwen was sentenced to multiple life sentences, while Cathy was sentenced to 40 years and will walk free in 2021.
However, in the book Forever and Five Days by Lowell Cauffiel, Cathy is presented as a cunning manipulator who was the brains behind the entire operation and who, at times, has allegedly told inmates various other versions of the story. In one, she made it all up. In another, she was the sole killer. In both, the sob story she told the court was only for the purpose of acting vengeance on Gwen for leaving her.