FORT MILL, S.C. — A convicted serial killer who spent nearly 30 years behind bars walked out of a federal prison in Florida Thursday afternoon and will live in Fort Mill, Channel 9 has learned.
Catherine Wood’s case out of Michigan in 1987 made national headlines, and her victims' families said her future neighbors in York County should be very worried.
They did not mince words, saying they believe Wood may kill again, just like she did in 1987 when she worked at the Old Alpine Manor nursing home in Michigan.
Investigators said Wood, who was a nurse’s aide at the time, and her partner, Gwendolyn Graham, murdered five women ages 60 to 98. All of the victims suffered from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
It was reported that the serial killer duo even chose their victims by their last names, wanting to spell out the word murder with their initials.
Wood testified that Graham suffocated the victims with washcloths and she acted as a lookout. But investigators believed Wood was more involved, and there could have been as many as a dozen victims.
Graham is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, but Wood walked out of a federal prison in Tallahassee, released over the objections of families of the women she helped kill, fearing she'll kill again. She served nearly 30 years for her second-degree murder conviction.
She moved to Fort Mill Thursday to live with her sister.
A family member of one of the victims, who fought for Wood to stay behind bars, said people who live in Fort Mill should be very concerned.
"I feel sorry for the people who have to live around her, quite frankly,” said John Engman. His mother-in-law, Mae Mason, was one of those murdered. “I think she is a danger to society. I would certainly think they (authorities) are going to keep an eye on her -- at least for two years. But after that, she can go wherever she wants.”
Channel 9 reporter Greg Suskin went to the home of Wood’s sister on Misty Morning Court to try to speak with Wood, but someone slammed the front door in his face.
Neighbors who Suskin spoke with had no idea Wood moved into the house.
“I don’t know,” a resident said. “It’s just kind of shocking, really.”
Some felt like Wood had paid her debt to society and wasn’t a threat.
They were glad Suskin told them Wood was living nearby.
“The fact that we’re aware of it, that’s the good thing. We’re aware of it,” a resident said.
The parole board had denied Wood's release eight times before, finding she was a potential danger and wasn't remorseful.
“If I was a neighbor, I would want to definitely know that we have a serial killer living next door,” Engman said.
Retired Walker, Michigan Police Sgt. Roger Kaliniak, who helped investigate the murders at Alpine Manor Nursing Home in 1987, fears the 57-year-old Wood will kill again.
"She's a serial killer and she could do it again, and most of them do," he said. "I believe that Cathy Wood was the mastermind, she was the one that was pulling strings on Gwendolyn Graham. Gwendolyn Graham handled the dirty work and Cathy Wood was the brains behind it. "
On Friday, Channel 9 ran into Michigan TV reporter Ken Kolker.
He covered the court case 30 years ago for a newspaper.
"It was bizarre. We were watching bodies being exhumed, ya know, going to cemeteries,” Kolker said.
Kolker went to Tallahassee Thursday to be there for Wood’s release from prison, then followed her to her new home in Fort Mill.
"I actually interviewed her in prison 30 years ago, and then to be here in this brand new neighborhood in South Carolina knocking on her door. I never thought that would happen,” he said.
The South Carolina parole board said the terms of Wood's parole will keep her away from the elderly, children and vulnerable adults.
Her parole ends in June 2021.
“My fear is that she will find some old person, old people, incorporate herself into their family, take their property, take their lives and move on and do it again,” Engman said.
Graham and Wood, dubbed “The Lethal Lovers,” worked together to smother the five patients as part of a lover’s pact, according to the New York Times.
It’s those salacious details that led to the case being featured on Oxygen’s “Killer Couples” in 2014. The channel provided an episode description saying, “A pair of female serial killers turn a nursing home into a hotbed of sex, scandal, and murder.”
Two years later, Graham and Woods were the inspiration behind a 2016 episode of “American Horror Story,” where two fictional nurses named Miranda and Bridget decide to kill their patients.
The case was also the basis of the 1992 true crime novel, “Forever and Five Days: The Chilling True Story of Love, Betrayal and Serial Murder in Grand Rapids Michigan” by Lowell Cauffiel.
An overview of the book reads in part, “Wood and her lover, Gwen Graham, make a pact to kill those whom they were hired to care for. No one notices when an elderly person dies a quiet death, but as these two slip deeper into their plan, the terrible secret becomes unbearable.”
(WOOD and WZZM contributed to this report)
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