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Gwendolyn Graham and Cathy Wood Got Their Thrills Smothering Nursing Home Patients

(Image: Kent County Sheriff's Department)

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.

Melanie McGuire, Who Stuffed Her Husband In Matching Luggage

Melanie McGuire

Melanie “the suitcase murderer” McGuire was a meticulous woman, but the nurse and mother of two just didn’t cover her tracks well enough to get away with murder.

Melanie was a nurse at a fertility clinic. Her husband, Bill, was a computer programmer. The New Jersey couple had been married for 5 years and had two sons, ages 2 and 4, when on April 28, 2004, Bill disappeared.

Things had been, as far as anyone could tell, going well for the young family. They had just closed on a new, bigger house. But Melanie told police that the night her husband vanished, he had slapped her across the face and shoved a dryer sheet in her mouth before leaving the home, never to be seen again. She filed for a restraining order against him, and she also started telling people that Bill was a gambler.

Eventually Bill would turn up, but not all at once. He was found in pieces in three separate suitcases over the course of several days near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, each of which were all part of one fashionably matching set. He’d been shot, dismembered and spread among the three pieces of luggage. His car would later be found outside the Flamingo Motel in Atlantic City.

Melanie’s story began to fall apart after police found footage of her parking Bill’s car at the motel. She would later contend that, because she knew Bill was a gambler, she had gone alone to Atlantic City to find him. Discovering his car at a casino, she claimed that she angrily decided to park his car at the nearby motel because not being able to find your car in a casino lot after gambling all night is annoying as hell. But, of course, in this version of her story, that meant she also decided not to tell anyone her missing husband might be in Atlantic City. It also turned out that Melanie had just purchased a gun only days before the killing and Googled things a murderer might Google, like how various sedatives might work. Perhaps if Melanie had waited until 2008 to kill her husband, she could have used Google Chrome’s Incognito browsing option. Police also discovered that the matching suitcase set was not a trio, but part of a whole family of matching luggage, the rest of which was found in Melanie’s home.

Why would Melanie murder her husband and the father of her young children? She was having an affair with a doctor at the clinic, and prosecutors alleged that Melanie decided making her husband disappear was easier than divorcing him. They said Melanie first drugged her husband with medicine she took from the clinic, then shot him dead, then cut up his body into pieces, stuffed them into the cases, and disposed of the suitcases and the car herself.

Though Melanie would try to claim that Bill was a gambler who was murdered by Atlantic City mobsters over unpaid debts, the jury didn’t buy it. She was found guilty and sentenced to life at 34 years old in 2007, giving her plenty of time to think about how she really should have just filed for divorce.

According to To Have and to Kill, a book about the case by John Glatt, the judge who sentenced her said: “One who callously destroys a family to accomplish her own selfish ends must face the most severe consequences that the law can provide.”

Melanie has maintained her innocence.

Diane Kay Borchardt, the Killing Kind of Teacher

Diane Kay Borchardt has a friendly face, but don’t be fooled. She was an obsessive wretch who would rather see her husband dead than be happy with anyone else.

Diane a teacher’s aide and hall monitor at Jefferson High School in Wisconsin. It was a nice place, not a lot of danger. So it was shocking when in 1994, three students at the school where Diane worked murdered her estranged husband, Ruben Borchardt. The teens—Douglas Vest, Jr., 17; Joshua Yanke, 17; and Michael Maldonado, 16—shot him dead in the basement of his home. His son awoke at the sound of gunfire and rushed to the basement to find his father dying. He would say that some of his dad’s final words were, “I can’t believe she would do this to me.”

See, Ruben had anticipated that Diane would try to harm in in some way, so much so that it was her he thought, even though he knew he’d been attacked by at least two men.

Ruben and Diane had met shortly after Diane’s divorce and after Ruben’s first wife had died in a car crash. They fought constantly, however, and one of their children would later describe Diane as being argumentative. Diane also hated the idea of Ruben being with anyone else, including his dead wife. She became angry at the mere mention of her. She lied to Ruben’s young children to prevent them from learning that she was not their biological mother. She tried to scrub out the woman’s existence, and made everyone in the house miserable. After putting up with her jealous rantings long enough, Ruben eventually met another woman who did make him happy and began having an affair. Diane suspected this, and her first act of recruiting her students into doing her dirty work was asking them to spy on her husband.

When Ruben finally worked up the nerve to divorce her, she refused to leave the home. She was bitter and angry, and Ruben moved into the basement of the house to avoid her. Meanwhile, Diane was telling student Doug Vest that her husband abused her and she needed him gone or she’d lose everything. Doug was sympathetic. His own father had abused his mother. Doug refused Diane several times, but finally agreed. She promised him $600 in cash, then $20,000 once Ruben’s life insurance policy paid out.

On the night of the murder, Diane was out of town. Ruben found this odd, as well as the fact that she’d elected to take the family dog, but his suspicions were not enough to save him. The dog, as you might have guessed, was a barker. It was later concluded she must have taken the dog so that it would not alert anyone to the presence of three intruders.

Diane’s revenge was short-lived. One of the teens would eventually tell a friend, who would tell police. Yanke testified against the others, earning himself an 18-year sentence while the others got life. For her role, Diane would also receive life. If you haven’t learned anything from these tales of mayhem and murder yet, it’s that blocking your ex on Facebook and moving on, not murder, as actually the best revenge.

Christine Falling, The Killer Babysitter

Baby sitter Christine Falling is led to court by Calhoun Co. Sheriff's matron Pearl Lasseter on Dec. 3, 1982. Ms. Falling changed her plea to guilty and was immediately sentenced to two concurrent life sentences for the murder of two local infants she was baby sitting for. (AP Photo/Mark Foley)

Christine Laverne Falling was not bright nor was she clever. She was not pretty, nor was she beguiling. But somehow, this killer babysitter got away with murder several times over. 

In the late 1970s, Christine was 17 years old and living in Perry, Florida. Christine had several learning disabilities, was chronically overweight, and her first husband (she married at 14) left her after a mere six weeks because the couple got into horrible fights. Somehow, however, she had been able to convince several of her neighbors to entrust their children in her care.

Her first murder was a 2-year-old girl named Cassidy Johnson. The coroner found that the child had died from being hit in the head. When questioned, Christine told everyone that the child had lost consciousness and fell out of her crib. At the time, one of the doctors thought she was lying. He wrote a note to police asking them to investigate the teen. They didn’t.

Christine moved from Perry to the town of Lakeland. There, no one knew about the little girl that had died in her care. She picked up another gig and within two months, a 4-year-old boy named Jeffrey Davis simply stopped breathing while she was watching him.

Though suspicious, it was revealed that Jeffrey suffered from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart caused by a viral infection that can occasionally be fatal. The family was none the wiser, and hired Christine to watch other children while attending Jeffrey’s funeral. The family mourned and when they returned, they found that Jeffrey’s 2-year-old cousin Joseph also died. While this should have looked odd, it actually helped Christine. Because Joseph was discovered to have a viral infection, which they concluded killed him, it seemed more likely that the relatives were both killed via a viral infection. The oafish Christine, through no brilliant maneuvers of her own, was free to kill again.

In 1981, Christine got a job keeping house for 77-year-old Wilbur Swindle, who died the very first day she was on the job. Still, no one dug any deeper. He was old. A prime candidate for a heart attack. 

Shortly thereafter, Christine accompanied her stepsister to a doctor’s office, where her stepsister’s 8-month-old daughter received a series of routine vaccines. And though that baby just stopped breathing in the very short time during which the stepsister left them both in the car while she bought a few items from the grocery store, no one grew suspicious. Christine, so dull and dim-witted, was merely mired in tragedy. How unfortunate! 

It was Christine’s next kill that would finally be her last. An infant named Travis Coleman died while Christine was watching him, and this time, an autopsy suggested he had been suffocated.

When police questioned her, she admitted that she had murdered Travis, and those others, too. She said she heard voices compelling her to kill. “Kill the baby, kill the baby,” they whispered in her ear. She told police that she had seen people smother one another on TV, so that’s what she did. Plus, it had the added bonus of preventing her victims from screaming. She would hold a towel or blanket over their faces until they stopped breathing, quieting the intrusive voices, then acted as though nothing had happened. 

Christine was given a life sentence for her crimes, but wait, that’s not all. Delving back into Christine’s troubled childhood, it was discovered that as a tot, she had a pastime of torturing and killing neighborhood cats. Too bad the police lost that note from that doctor, huh? 

Vengeful Betty Broderick, Who Shot Her Ex & Watched Him Die

Betty Broderick

Betty Broderick was so consumed with jealousy and rage that she murdered her ex and his new wife, earning herself 30 years in jail and her very own made-for-TV movie.

Betty was born just outside of New York City to a nice Catholic family. She married Dan Broderick in 1969, a nice Catholic boy she met while attending Notre Dame, a nice Catholic school. They married and had four children. Ah, how idyllic!

Dan, a med school grad, decided to go to law school at Harvard and quickly got a job in San Diego in malpractice, so the family relocated. Betty, who by some accounts had supported her husband while he pursued his career, became a housewife. They were rich, and they were socialites. They lived the American dream. But what happened next was straight out of a cliche screenplay about the dark side of American suburbia: Dan hired a young, attractive former airline stewardess as a secretary. Betty began to think something was up with Dan and his employee. Dan called her insane and jealous. They separated in 1985, and Dan finally revealed that Betty was right: he’d been banging his receptionist since 1983. Their divorce was finalized in 1989, after a long, bitter and grueling legal battle.

Betty was enraged. She called Dan repeatedly, leaving vicious voicemails for him and new girlfriend. She vandalized his property. She crashed her car into his front door. Unfazed, Linda and Dan married in April of 1989. Witnesses at the trial for their murder would testify that Dan, worried about potential retribution, hired security to protect the wedding from Betty, and even had other security guards monitor Betty in the days preceding the wedding to keep tabs on what she was up to.

That same year, in the wee hours of a tranquil Sunday morning in November, Betty let herself into the newlyweds’ home using one of her children’s keys. She pulled out a Smith & Wesson revolver she’d bought a month before the couple’s wedding. She fired five times, hitting Linda twice, once in the head and in the chest. She shot Dan in the chest, and when he reached for the phone, she ripped it away from his grasping hand. As Dan lay dying, vengeful Betty was there to hear his last words. Their eldest daughter Kimberly would testify that her mother informed her of them: “Okay, you shot me. I’m dead.”

The bedroom (Image: Murderpedia)
The bedroom (Image: Murderpedia)

Betty would later say she hadn’t meant to kill them, but just started shooting when Linda awoke and began screaming for help. She would also later state that she didn’t shoot herself, as intended, because her gun only carried five bullets and she’d used them all on Dan and Linda. The prosecution painted her as a vicious monster, who was easily supported and affluent following the divorce, and who even had a boyfriend of her own after the separation. The defense portrayed her as a jilted woman who was pushed too far by a cold, calculating cheater. After two trials, Betty was convicted of second-degree murder and shipped off to jail. There she remains, in the California Institution for Women in Chino.

Meredith Baxter plays Betty in the 1992 TV film A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story. She was nominated for an Emmy.

Teacher Mary Beth Haglin Claims She Was Victim of Seduction By Her High School Student

What’s a poor substitute teacher to do when her high school students starts leaving her love messages in Post-It notes on her desk. There’s always the “ignore”. Or the “This isn’t appropriate, Johnny”. Or door number three, take Johnny to the park every afternoon for sex in your car. If anything, teacher Mary Beth Haglin is guilty of choosing the wrong door.

Cedar Rapids high school sub Mary Beth Haglin claimed two components to her not guilty plea of banging a seventeen year old student of hers for six months straight. First, he came onto her and pushed the relationship. Google yourself a statutory rape case and eyeball the success record on that plank. Second, Haglin claims that while perhaps a tad bit inappropriate, her relationship was fully known to her employers, including the school principal who wrote her a recommendation letter in the midst of an internal investigation into her riding her young boyfriend in the park. That same principal quietly retired from the school recently and left no forwarding address. Dr. Ralph Plagman. Go figure.

Once again, teacher-student love, the emotionally disturbed female teacher and lucky bastard male student kind, and therefore discretionarily approved by a virtual all-male jury, must be punished by the Council of Elders from Footloose. Grumpy people who hate sex and can’t fathom a seventeen year old boy’s dick wishes coming true. If anybody ought be going to jail, it’s the student who went to the authorities after seeing his classmate fucking the hot sub. There’s a word for meddling boys like that, but that word is so evil, it can not be spoken aloud in any human tongue.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Rosie Alfaro

In 1990, a little girl opened the door for a friend of her sister’s, not knowing it would be the worst and final mistake of her very short life. That friend, Rosie Alfaro, sits on death row in the state of California for one of the most brutal crimes the sunny city of Anaheim had ever seen.

Rosie Alfaro, like many future killers, did not have a great life. By 13, she was addicted to drugs and by 14, she was turning tricks. By the time she turned 18, she was the single mother for four children. In 1990, Alfaro was 18, and jonesing for a fix, already high on a combination of cocaine and heroin.

Alfaro was a friend of Amber Wallace, and knew the Wallace family relatively well. She figured she could break into their home, steal some of their shit, sell it, and buy more drugs. When she arrived at the house, she knocked, like she would have any other time. Amber’s little sister, only 9 years old, opened the door. She was home alone cutting out paper dolls as she waited for her mother and older sisters to return. Autumn’s father had died after of cancer three years earlier. 

Alfaro asked Autumn to use the family’s restroom. She would later state that her drug-addled brain told her she had to kill Autumn as Autumn was a witness, even though at that moment, she had yet to do anything out of the ordinary. She could have used the bathroom and left. Instead, Alfaro took a knife from the kitchen and lured Autumn into the family bathroom. There, she stabbed Autumn 57 times and left her body on the floor.

With Autumn dead, Alfaro gathered up several items, including a portable TV, VCR, telephone and Nintendo set. Altogether, Alfaro received a mere $300 for all of it.

Though Alfaro would later claim an unidentified man accompanied her to the Wallace home and forced her to stab Autumn, no DNA evidence of anyone but Autumn, her family and Alfaro was found in the house. Prosecutors have always alleged that Alfaro was a liar who got high and acted alone in the senseless crime.

Alfaro was sentenced to death, and she remains on Death Row to this day. Autumn’s sister, Amber Wallace Zabo, told the OC Register in 2007 that she desired to watch Alfaro die. “I would do it myself, if they’d let me,” she said.

Joanna Dennehy Sharp Personality

Joanne Dennehy stabbed three men to death and dumped their bodies in ditches around the town of Peterborough, England, earning her the rather uninspired nickname of the Peterborough Ditch Murderer. And at least once, she dressed her victim up in an outfit. 

Dennehy, 33, said she had hoped to kill nine total men, though she would ultimately only achieve a third of her goal over the course of ten days. She first murdered 31-year-old Lukasz Slaboszewski in March of 2013. She lured him to a property in Peterborough via text, as Slaboszewski believed the pair were dating. Once he arrived, she stabbed him and dumped his body in a ditch. 

Days later, she stabbed her roommate, 53-year-old John Chapman, to death. And only shortly after that, she killed her landlord, 48-year-old Kevin Lee, with whom she’d been having an affair. She dressed his corpse in a sequined dress, and dumped him in a ditch, too.

On April 2, she stabbed two different men in the town of Hereford less than 10 minutes apart, stealing one of the men’s dogs. Both survived her attacks.

She was jailed for life, becoming the third English woman to receive a life sentence after serial killers Myra Hindley and Rosemary West. She also had three accomplices: her boyfriend Gary Stretch, Leslie Layton and Robert Moore, who received sentences ranging from life to three years. Stretch was her main squeeze, and he stands over 7 feet tall. Unlike other female killers, it was said that she dominated her three male accomplices, not the other way round. 

Dennehy killed for no other reason than she wanted to, telling a shrink that after her first kill, “it got moreish and I got a taste for it.”

Dennehy’s ex-husband and the father of her two children told reporters that drinking and drugs changed her personality, and that after the birth of their first daughter, she was frequently cheating on him with both men and women and drinking all the time. He said she was often violent, and eventually he had no choice but to take his children and leave her.

The unrepentant murderer apparently enjoys watching The Great British Bake Off from her cell, where she will remain until the end of her days.

Tillie Klimek Liked Her the Arsenic, Not So Much the Manfolk

Tillie Klimek

Tillie Kilmek was an epic poisoner who knocked off any man, relative, dog or neighbor that dared to irritate her. Some say she purported to be a psychic who would first inform her victims of their impending doom, then carry it out. 

Tillie’s parents brought her to the U.S. as a baby from Poland in the late 1800s. Tillie grew up and got married in 1895 to a man named John Mitkiewicz, who died in 1914 of an illness the corner defined as heart trouble. Tillie then married a neighbor, John Ruskowski, who soon died. She took another lover, Joseph Guskowski, and he died, too. Her third husband was a man named Frank Kupczyk, who similarly fell ill. By this time around, it was just another day for Tillie. She pre-brought her husband a coffin and asked her landlady if she might store it in the basement. She freely talked to her neighbors about his impending death and because she was the cause of it, she ended up being pretty accurate about when it would happen. This is, perhaps, how the rumor started that she pretended to be psychic. After Frank died, she married her fourth husband, Joseph Klimek, in 1921. Guess what? He, too, became seriously ill.

This time, it wasn’t seen as a mere tragic occurrence. Klimek’s brother suspected something weird was happening, considering that shortly before his brother’s illness, two of the his brother’s pet dogs up and died. The brother called a doctor who suspected Klimek had been poisoned, and who took him to a hospital. There, Tillie was unable to keep feeding him arsenic and so Klimek survived, though he remained hospitalized for quite some time.

Tillie’s days a black widow ended thusly. She was arrested for attempted murder, and her ex-husbands were exhumed and tested for poison. Soon after, Tillie’s cousin Nellie was arrested for supplying her with some of the poison used.

It would seem that Tillie’s poisoning routine did not stop with her lovers. A total of 20 neighbors and relatives of Tillie’s had also become ill after dining with her, and 14 of them died.

An interesting facet of Tillie’s legacy can be seen when you step back from Tillie’s own case and examine the cases that surrounded hers. As reported in Jezebel, Chicago saw a string of women killing their husbands. That particular crime was apparently up 400 percent that year. A fair amount of those women got away with it. (Perhaps you’ve seen the musical Chicago?) The thing about those women, the women the juries found innocent, was that they were good-looking. They were penitent on the stand, flirting and weeping and accusing their late lovers of abuse. Tillie was none of those things. She was cold and unattractive and didn’t speak English particularly well. While Nellie was ultimately acquitted, Tillie was found guilty and died in jail. That fate seemed to be just fine with Tillie, as she later told a reporter she enjoyed the food and spent her time sewing. 

Myra Hindley And Her Husband Shared a Similar Hobby

Myra Hindley

Myra Hindley is an English murderer who, with her Nazi-obsessed boyfriend Ian Brady, murdered five children in the 1960s. They were known as the Moor Murderers, because that is where they buried their victim’s remains.

Myra and Ian met in 1961 while working at Millward’s Merchandising in Gorton. Myra was quickly infatuated with him despite his love of Nazi books, and soon, the two would begin killing together.

On July 12, 1963 a 16-year-old girl named Pauline Reade disappeared en route to a dance in Manchester. On that day, Ian and Myra were on the hunt for a victim. Ian first suggested a young girl walking alone, but Myra recognized her as her mother’s neighbor and declined. Then, Ian spotted Reade. Myra knew Reade, too, as a friend of her little sister’s. Still, Myra pulled up alongside Reade in a van and asked if she’d help her look for a glove she’d lost on the Saddleworth Moor. Reade agreed, and Myra drove them both to the moor. Ian arrived on a motorcycle and, after being introduced as Myra’s boyfriend, offered to aid in the fictitious glove search. Myra would claim that Ian took Reade off on his own, sexually assaulted her and slit her throat with a knife. Only then, Myra claimed, did Ian take her to see Reade’s body. Ian, however, would claim that Myra helped him do all of those things. They buried Reade in the moor.

In November of 1963, Myra encountered 12-year-old John Kilbride at a market in Lancashire. She offered him a ride and a bottle of sherry, and the two departed. Once again, she and Ian asked Kilbride to help them look for a glove on the moor. Ian sexually assaulted and murdered Kilbride while Myra waited in the car. They then did the same thing with 12-year-old Keith Bennett in June of 1964, who Myra tricked into coming with her to help her load some boxes into a vehicle. In December of 1964, they tricked 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey into coming home with them from a carnival. She was assaulted and murdered, then buried in the moor. Each partner would accuse the other of being the one who killed her. Their final victim was 17-year-old Edward Evans, who Ian befriended and invited over. Once at his home, Ian fatally beat with him an axe. This time, Ian had invited David Smith over to give him a hand. Smith was only 17, and was dating Myra’s little sister, Maureen. Smith had a criminal record and admired Ian, which perhaps gave Ian the impression he’d make a fine accomplice. However, after Smith witnessed Ian beating the teen to death, he confided in Maureen and the two went to the police.

In the home, police not only found Evans’ body, but also photos of a nude young girl, photos of the moor, and a tape recording of a screaming child. A child neighbor, who for some reason never became a victim of the couple, told authorities that she had gone with Myra and Ian to the moor many times. A search of the moor turned up the bodies of Kilbride and Downey.

The pair were convicted of the murders—Ian with three and Myra with two—and sentenced to prison. They would later confess to murdering Reade and Bennett as well, and though each would return to the moor to help police recover additional bodies, the body of Keith Bennett has never been found.

Myra died behind bars in 2002 at age 60. Ian remains in prison.

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