Roxanne Leigh Wood was 30 years old when she was murdered in her own home back in 1987. The woman’s throat had been cut, and she was beaten over the head with a frying pan. Now, nearly 35 years to the day, police in Michigan say they’ve finally found her killer.
Patrick Gilham, 67, was arrested and charged with murder on Thursday afternoon at his home in South Bend, Ind. over the brutal slaying that had long flummoxed Wolverine State detectives.
Photos of suspect Patrick Wayne Gilham pic.twitter.com/3BOHXdd4Y0
— MSPSouthwestMI (@MspSouthwestMI) February 18, 2022
The alleged killer’s residence is some 10 miles south of small and otherwise-sleepy Niles, Mich., where Wood was killed after a night out at a bar and a bowling alley with her husband on Feb. 20, 1987.
The victim left the bowling alley around midnight that day. Her husband, Terry Wood, followed her home roughly 45 minutes later. There, he found his wife dead on the kitchen floor and dialed 911.
According to law enforcement officials cited by Grand Rapids, Mich. ABC affiliate WOOD, Roxane Wood was already dead when her throat was slit and her head was beaten with the pan. Police also said they found no signs of any kind of forced entry into the Woods home.
Authorities found the sheath of the knife, but the weapon itself was never recovered — though not for lack of trying. Divers spent hours searching Brandywine Creek near the scene of the crime to no avail.
35 years after Roxanne Wood was murdered police have made an arrest. A news conference will be held today at 2. I’ll be live at 4,5, and 6 about who and how they made the connection. pic.twitter.com/T7WZhzhm36
— DJ Manou (@DJManouWSBT) February 18, 2022
In an initial press release, the Michigan State Police made a point both not to immediately identify the suspect, pending his arraignment, and to note that he was not related to the victim.
According to a 2013 expose by CBS affiliate WSBT-TV in nearby South Bend, Ind., Terry Wood was reportedly long considered the main suspect in the crime but has professed his innocence for years. Terry Wood was never charged, and he still lives in the Niles area.
According to the LeaderPublications, the Woods spent the night at what was then H.I.’s Old Towne Saloon in downtown Niles, now known as The Rage, a taco restaurant. After the bar, they spent some time at the similarly now-defunct but since-demolished Whites’ Bowling Lanes. Nothing remains of the old bowling alley, but the razed location is near the site of what is currently Martin’s Supermarket.
While the alleged culprit was eventually named late Friday morning, law enforcement is keeping mum about the investigation itself — particularly what led state police to fingering Gilham as their man.
“There are new techniques out there that can be utilized in that,” MSP Detective Chuck Christensen said at a press conference. “How we connected with him will be revealed through the court process.”
“One of the big challenges is resources, because these [cold] cases are very labor intensive,” he added during his remarks. “This case was picked up because we thought it was workable. We thought that there was a good possibility we could have some success.”
The case was reopened in August 2020, Christensen said.
Two detectives reportedly went through some 3,300 pages of documents, re-reviewed the original evidence from local police, and then conducted additional interviews and surveillance.
While the family waited, Christensen noted, time was also helpful.
“Because relationships change and people that maybe wouldn’t have talked 15 years ago now will talk,” the detective explained.
In brief comments to WOOD, Roxane Wood’s brother expressed a sense of bewilderment at hearing the news after all this time.
“It is so strange,” the unidentified sibling reportedly texted the TV station in a message. “Doesn’t seem real at this point.”
Gilham was arrested on a warrant from the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office. He is currently being detained in St. Joseph County, Ind. His extradition to Michigan is pending. He faces charges of open murder and breaking and entering of an occupied dwelling.
Terry Wood was more than happy with the development.
“He was very emotional, obviously, as anyone would be,” Christensen said.
[image via Michigan State Police]
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