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Man Sentenced For Brutal 1987 Cold Case Murder Of Michigan Woman After No Contest Plea
Roxanne Wood and her husband drove home in separate vehicles after a night of bowling in November 1987 and, shortly before her husband arrived home, someone beat her with a frying pan and slashed her throat. Police say that man was Patrick Gilham.
A man has been sentenced more than three decades after a Michigan woman was found murdered in her own kitchen.
Patrick Wayne Gilham, 67, will serve 23 to 50 years in prison for the murder of Roxanne Wood, 30, according to Indiana’s ABC 57 News. The sentence comes as part of a plea deal with Berrien County prosecutors in which Gilham pleaded no contest to charges of second degree murder for Wood’s 1987 death.
Wood’s friends and family were present on Monday when Gilham addressed the court.
“I am very sorry; I can’t believe I did what I did,” said a tearful Gilham. “I pray for them every night. I am so sorry. I just hope that some time in the future, with God’s help, that they can start to forgive me. And to my family that I’m sorry I disgraced, I’m so sorry.”
Some of Wood’s loved ones, including the victim’s brother, Brad Wood, were seemingly unmoved by Gilham’s apologies, according to CBS affiliate WSBT.
“It seems people like him tend to find Jesus in prison,” said Brad Wood. “Don’t bother looking because the devil [will] be the only one greeting you.”
Roxanne Wood was found dead in the kitchen of her Niles Township home on Nov. 20, 1987, after someone beat her with a frying pan and slashed her throat. She was found by her husband, Terry Wood, who arrived shortly behind her after the couple had left a local bowling alley in separate vehicles.
Terry Wood was the subject of great suspicion in the decades following his wife’s violent murder until the case was reopened, and DNA linked Gilham to the crime scene.
Genetic genealogists were able to narrow a DNA sample from the scene down to three brothers, but Gilham lived only four miles from the Wood home and he had a criminal past. It was the first time that Gilham had come onto investigators’ radar for Wood’s murder.
“We ended up getting a surreptitious DNA sample, which ultimately led to a match with Patrick Gilham,” said Michigan State Police Lt. Christensen, per ABC 57. “We knew he was a smoker, and we were able to surveil him and obtain a cigarette butt. New technology with forensic genealogy is just unbelievable that we are here where we are now.”
Gilham was arrested on Feb. 17 and charged with open murder and breaking and entering an occupied dwelling.
One month later, the Michigan State Police announced that he had entered a plea of no contest, agreeing to a minimum of 23 years behind bars, imposed at Monday’s sentencing.
“His actions gave all of us a life sentence, while he got to live most of his as a free man,” Wood’s sister, Janet Wood, said at the hearing. “But by the grace of God and the right detectives and modern technology, he was found, and we are here today to see him finally pay something for what he’s done — which is likely the rest of his life in a cage, like the violent animal that he is.”
At the time of Wood’s murder, Gilham had been out on parole for just six months after being released from prison for a 1980 sexual assault, according to WSBT. As reported by ABC 57, Gilham was convicted in that case of breaking into the home of Maureen Farag in Gary, Indiana, and attacking her. He served seven years behind bars.
“I hope he doesn’t see the light of day,” Maureen’s husband, Robert Farag, said at the hearing. “He doesn’t deserve it.”
Gilham claimed he could not remember murdering Wood because of his struggles with substance abuse in the past, according to NBC’s 16 News Now.
“He killed my sister in the most horrific way, in the safety of her own home in the middle of the night,” said Janet Wood, per WOOD-TV. “It sickens me to think about the level of terror she would have had at the sight of him.”
Lt. Christensen told WSBT that law enforcement is still investigating if Gilham could have been involved in other similar cases.
Gilham will be 90 years old before he is eligible for release.