GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - A Kent County judge has blocked the release of a former nurse’s aide who was sentenced to prison nearly 29 years ago for her role in the deaths of five elderly nursing home patients at Alpine Manor in Walker.
Kent County Circuit Court Judge J. Joseph Rossi signed the order Tuesday afternoon stopping the parole of Catherine M. Wood, who was convicted of second-degree murder for the 1987 deaths. The five elderly victims all were suffocated.
Wood, 56, is being held at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Fla. She was slated to be released on Wednesday, Oct. 24.
An attorney who asked that Wood's release be blocked says she is still a threat to society.
“The thing about serial killers, they need to feed just like a vampire needs to feed,’’ Grand Rapids attorney John A. Engman said. “That is among their distinguishing characteristics.’’
Engman’s mother-in-law was one of the five victims murdered at Alpine Manor.
Wood has already served 29 years on a sentence of 20 to 40-years for second-degree murder. Her earliest release date was in 2005.
A co-defendant, Gwendolyn Graham, was sentenced to life without parole. Graham, 55, is in a state prison in Ypsilanti.
Wood told investigators she sometimes acted as a lookout while Graham smothered the patients. Wood and Graham were lovers at the time of the murders.
State officials decided to keep the two separated, which is why Wood is in a federal prison in Florida.
When the state Parole Board recently approved Wood’s request for release, Engman stepped in and asked that the ruling be put on hold while an appeal plays out in Kent County Circuit Court.
Michigan Parole Board spokesperson Holly Kramer says because of Rossi's ruling, Wood will remain in prison until a Kent County judge can decide if she should be released on parole or if she should remain in prison until she next comes up for parole.
Even if she remains in prison, her time behind bars will be relatively short-lived. Wood is slated for release no later than June of 2021.
“That’s fine with me; the longer we keep her in, the better,’’ Engman said.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker says his office did not challenge the Parole Board’s decision because there is not a basis for an appeal, such as unruly behavior while locked up.
“She essentially has served her time without issue,’’ Becker said.
A GoFundMe has been set up by the families of the victims.
Attorney General Bill Schuette sent a letter to the Michigan Parole Board, asking them the rescind Wood's parole. That letter can be read here:
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