A look at what kind of murder mystery investigators solvedAfter more than three decades without a lead, and a tiny DNA sample the size of a human cell, it takes over.
Niles, Michigan | 1987
Detective John Moore said of the Roxanne Wood case, “There are a lot of young girls who didn’t know if there was a bad guy, because it was unsolved.”
panic in the house
In the early morning hours of February 20, 1987, Roxanne Wood walked home from a night out with friends about 45 minutes before her husband, Terry. When Terry arrived home, he found Roxanne dead on the kitchen floor. He called the local police and said, “My wife has been murdered. She is dead. She has been hacked.”
Roxanne Wood played a maternal role alongside her younger siblings, Brad and Janet. “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant talks to Janet about her sister, whom she calls “The Rock”. “She always made people think you’re her best friend,” Janet said. “She just loved everyone.”
On the evening of February 19, 1987, Roxanne and Terry Wood met at home after work. The couple drove separate cars to a restaurant and had dinner together. Later, they went to a nearby bowling alley where investigators say Terry played in a league.
When Michigan State Police investigators arrived at the Wood Home, they took pictures of the scene and police questioned Terry. Roxanne’s body was examined for more evidence.
Doubts about Terry Wood
Investigators at the scene found no evidence to create suspicion of forcible entry. According to investigators, Terry also seemed belligerent that night with first responders. And when Terry was brought to the station for routine questioning, he immediately asked for a lawyer. This set off alarm bells for investigators.
An investigator tells Terry about “48 hours” during Janet Wood’s investigation into Roxanne’s murder. “I believe you are the killer and I will not rest until you are behind bars.”
life without roxanne
Janet Wood says she always knew Terry didn’t kill her sister. She spoke to “48 Hours” about the possibility of her sister’s killer still out. “I never lost hope. I mean, this guy just didn’t do it and then lived a clean, pristine life, the rest of his life.”
In 1987, the Roxanne Wood murder case was shelved due to the limitations of technology.
Michigan State Police still had a small amount of DNA evidence dating back to 1987 from Roxanne’s case. In 2020, more than 30 years after Roxanne was murdered, she began exploring new ways to solve the case with some innovation.
In 2020, Ashlyn Kuersten, a professor at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and students began helping the Michigan State Police with the Roxanne Wood case. The students digitized more than 3,500 pages from a 1987 case file, making it faster and easier to search through the evidence for information.
“Officers are able to search by name … and see if they’ve already been interviewed,” said student Samantha Rogers. “Things they wouldn’t be able to do by turning a thousand pages.”
Detective First Lieutenant Chuck Christensen took the investigation a step further and reached out to genetic genealogist and president of Identifiers International, Colleen Fitzpatrick. His company helps identify unidentified remains and those involved in violent crimes by looking at their DNA.
“a gnat’s eyebrows of DNA”
In 2020, Identifinders International began investigating the unidentified DNA left over from Roxanne’s case. Colleen Fitzpatrick said, “We found out what I would say, the amount of DNA a gnat has left of the eyebrows, which is about 3 percent of what we normally use.” “It really seemed impossible.”
After nearly 10 months of testing the small amount of DNA that was left to solve the Roxanne Wood case, Colleen Fitzpatrick discussed the matter with Identifiers International Consultant Gabriella Vargas. After months without success, Fitzpatrick didn’t want to disappoint investigators.
Vargas looked at the case file andFrom the killer’s trace DNA. He then entered the DNA information into an online database. “I believed this matter was highly solvable,” she told “48 Hours.” “And I believed I could solve it.”
monitoring for DNA
In April 2021, Gabriella Vargas used an online DNA database to begin building the suspect’s family tree. That family tree gave rise to a man named Patrick Gilham, who was living in South Bend, Indiana, where Roxanne Wood was murdered. Investigators surveyed Gilham with the hope of collecting DNA. While undercover, Trooper Ryan Codde noticed that Gilham was a smoker and knew that cigarettes would be a great source for DNA samples. Trooper Code picked up Gilham’s cigarette after chatting with him outside the laundromat.
On July 29, 2021, investigators brought in and interviewed Patrick Gilham. They told him that he was not in trouble and that they needed to interrogate him about an old case. Detectives show Gilham pictures of Roxanne and report that she had been assaulted. They ask him questions about Roxanne, but Gilham denies knowing him. Soon she said, “I have to talk to my lawyer, man,” and investigators let her go.
Patrick Gilham Arrested
On February 17, 2022, 67-year-old Patrick Gilham was arrested and questioned for more than five hours. When asked why his DNA was found at the scene, he told investigators, “I have no clue!” and “I don’t remember.” Gilham asked for a lawyer at the end of the interview. He pleaded no contest to second-degree murder, and on April 25, 2022, Gilham was sentenced to a minimum of 23 years in prison for the 1987 murder of Roxanne Wood.
35 years as a suspect
Detective John Moore said that until Gilham’s arrest, Terry Wood was considered a person of interest. For 35 years he worked under the misconception that he had killed his wife. Detective Jason Bailey said, “I’ve heard stories that sometimes he would walk into one place and someone would call him a “slash”.
Roxanne’s brother Brad Woods was only 14 when his sister was murdered. He says he can’t believe the day he finally found the man who killed his “Rock”. “It didn’t feel real. You know, it was like nothing I ever played in my mind about what I would be like when they came to the door to say, ‘We’ve got that.'”