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Alpine Manor victims' families find hope in AG's backing in parole case

Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a brief last week arguing that the parole board had abused their discretion when it came to Catherine Wood's case.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It's now up to a judge to decide if Catherine Wood, one of the women convicted in the murders of five women in the late 1980s, will be released on parole. 

Wood was convicted of second-degree murder for her role in the deaths of five patients at Alpine Manor Nursing Home. The five elderly victims were suffocated to death in 1987. 

Wood cooperated with police in exchange for a plea deal, she was sentenced to between 20 and 40 years. She has now served nearly 30 years in a federal Florida prison for her crimes. Her co-defendant, Gwendolyn Graham, was sentenced to life without parole. Graham, 55, is in a state prison in Ypsilanti. 

Wood applied for parole eight times before the board granted her parole in October 2018. Her release was blocked by an appeal filed by the victims' family members.The families' goal to keep Wood behind bars was backed by Attorney General Dana Nessel last week—just days before the matter would go before a Kent County Circuit Judge. 

Nessel wrote in a brief that the parole board had abused their discretion in granting Wood parole

"She looked at the original case notes, the original testimony, and saw what the parole board apparently was too daft to [see]," Stephani Scruggs, a granddaughter of one of the victims, said on Monday. "Serial killers don't get reformed—there's no good behavior. They kill people, they kill animals, they hurt people for fun." 

Wood's attorney told the judge, during Monday's hearing, that what the families and the attorney general are asking for is unlawful. 

"The law is clear that the court must respect the board's decision. The appellants and Attorney General Dana Nessel are asking you to make law, not respect it," said Ronald Lindh, Wood's attorney. "Their arguments boil down to this, your honor, that Wood's crimes were so bad that she should never be allowed parole, but the law says otherwise." 

A representative on behalf of Michigan's Parole Board was also present in court to defend the decision to grant Wood parole. 

Judge J. Joseph Rossi did not make his decision Monday, he said he will be issuing a written opinion. Whether she is granted parole or not, Wood is set to be released from prison in 2021. 

Emma Nicolas is a multimedia journalist. Have a news tip or question for Emma? Get in touch by email, Facebook or Twitter.

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