In February 1987, Terry Wood came home from a night of bowling to discover his wife, Roxanne, dead on the kitchen floor in their home in Niles, Michigan. Detectives say Roxanne Wood had been sexually assaulted and her throat slashed. DNA was preserved from the crime scene, but given technological limitations of the time, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge any suspects. The case went cold. Then, 34 years later, investigative genetic genealogist Gabriella Vargas got to work on what had been deemed unsolvable by many because of the scant amount of DNA that was left.
“I believed that this case was extremely solvable,” Vargas told “48 Hours” correspondent Peter Van Sant. “I believed that I could solve it.”
FEBRUARY 19, 1987
Brad Woods remembers February 20, 1987, like it was yesterday. He was just 14 years old.
Brad Woods: I was getting ready for school. … And I can remember my mom pounding on the bathroom door, saying to hurry up, she needed to talk to me.
Hours earlier, Brad’s 30-year-old sister Roxanne, known as “Rock”, had been nearby in her Niles, Michigan, home alone, when she was viciously attacked — her throat slashed.
Brad Woods: When I came out, you know, she had told me that — she had gotten a call that — Rock had been killed.
Devastated, Roxanne’s family couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to harm her.
Janet Wood: She always made people think you’re her best friend. … She just loved everyone.
Janet Wood: She was tall, statuesque. She dressed to the nines. That was very important to her. She was very classy.
Janet Wood could not help but admire her older sister. Their parents were divorced, and Roxanne had taken on a maternal role with her siblings.
Brad Woods: With divorced parents, a lot of times, you feel like you’re being shuffled between, you know, house to house. … And the one thing that was always stable for me was — was Rock.
Janet Wood: She was being mom to you.
Brad Woods: Yeah. … Rock. You know, she was always there.
Peter Van Sant: She was your rock.
Brad Woods: She was. She was (laughs).
Roxanne’s last name would eventually change from Woods to Wood after meeting future husband, Terry Wood, shortly after she graduated from high school.
Janet Wood: She was working at his father’s company. … Terry was still in high school. … On the wrestling team. … And in he walks. And he’s in his wrestling shorts and whatever. … (laughs) She said, “The nicest looking legs she ever saw.” And — and she was just smitten by him right away.
Roxanne and Terry married in 1982.
Janet Wood: She said it was the happiest day of her life.
Six years later, Janet would change her name from Woods to Wood as well, when she married Terry’s brother, Rob. Both brothers wound up working for the family business. For Roxanne and Terry, it proved to be a bit too much togetherness.
Janet Wood: They got dressed in the morning together, and they rode to work together, (laughs) and they came home for lunch together, and then they went back to work together.
Roxanne’s solution? Taking a job in nearby South Bend, Indiana. A little time apart seemed to help the marriage.
Janet Wood: Very, very content, happy, looking forward to starting a family.
February 19, 1987, started out as a typical Thursday evening for the couple. They met for dinner at a restaurant in downtown Niles after work and then went to a local bowling alley, arriving in separate cars.
Det. Sgt. John Moore: From the report, you could tell when Roxanne entered that bowling alley, all eyes were on her.
Michigan State Police Detective Sergeant John Moore.
Det. Sgt. John Moore: There wasn’t a whole lotta ladies there because this was the men’s bowling league, so she drew some attention.
As midnight approached, Roxanne was ready to call it a night, but Terry wanted to stay.
Janet Wood: There’s witnesses where Terry and she said goodnight to each other— hugged, kissed, “Love you. Drive Safe.”
After Roxanne headed home, Terry stayed behind and bowled another game. He then headed home and arrived home about 45 minutes after his wife. Terry entered the house through the garage and once inside, he came upon a horrific sight.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: She was laying on the floor. She had her nightgown on. He said there was a lot of blood.
According to Detective First Lieutenant Chuck Christensen, Terry said he rushed over to Roxanne.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: He got behind her, according to him, and — and picked her head up. And held her — held her head in—
Peter Van Sant: To see if —
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: —his hands for—
Peter Van Sant: — she was alive?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: To see if she was alive, yes.
Finding no signs of life, Terry grabbed the phone and called the local police station.
TERRY WOOD (police call audio): She is dead, she has been cut.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Terry noticed that … her panties were down around her knee/ankle area … her nightgown was pulled up.
DISPATCHER: Now listen to me, OK?
At times, Terry seemed to get belligerent with the person trying to help him.
DISPATCHER: I’m going to get some information from you and I’m going to get a car started, OK?
TERRY WOOD: No, get 50 f****** cars started, g*******now!
DISPATCHER: They are started.
TERRY WOOD: No, they’re not. Now, g*******. Now!
The dispatcher kept Terry on the phone.
DISPATCHER: Don’t scream into the phone because the phone distorts, and I can’t understand you that well, OK?
TERRY WOOD: You mean so you can get a recording on it.
DISPATCHER: No, I’m trying to get some information from you, OK?
TERRY WOOD: Yeah, right.
Terry’s aggressive demeanor on the phone quickly became a red flag according to investigators.
Peter Van Sant: Is that suspicious behavior to you?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: It’s a bit suspicious. … Typically, they’re in … shock, distraught. But not normally do you hear that anger component in there, to the level that it is in this one.
Detective Sergeant Jason Bailey says a seed of suspicion grew even more once police arrived at the home.
Det. Sgt. Jason Bailey: He definitely had fits of rage. I know at one point he was screaming—that he wanted a supervisor, a sergeant there.
Peter Van Sant: Is he making himself a suspect by this kind of behavior?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Everybody reacts differently. But based on this abnormal reaction, I believe he was making himself a suspect.
First responders eventually had no choice but to subdue Terry by placing him in the back of a patrol car. And when they drove him down to the police post for routine questioning, Terry quickly asked for an attorney, which investigators say set off more alarm bells.
Janet Wood: The detective at that time told him within five to ten minutes … “You did this, and I will not rest until I put you away forever.”
Peter Van Sant: An investigator said that to Terry?
Janet Wood: To Terry. … “I believe you’re the killer and I will not rest until you’re behind bars.”
IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS
As investigators began piecing together clues in Roxanne Wood’s rape and murder, the emerging picture offered up just one suspect: her husband, Terry.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: There was no sign of any forced entry.
Peter Van Sant: Did that raise eyebrows?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Absolutely.
But Terry told police they’d been having problems with the lock on the back door, claiming it didn’t work. Investigators, however, remained suspicious.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: We have a sheath, up here, of a filet knife, located near the body.
That filet knife, presumed to be the murder weapon, had been taken from a kitchen drawer. It was never found.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: That would be odd … that a killer would come to a house without a weapon.
Terry told police that he’d slipped in Roxanne’s blood as he lifted her head to check on her. But there were no blood smears indicating he’d actually done that. Investigators thought they’d discovered a potential motive when they looked into Roxanne and Terry’s past.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: We did uncover an extramarital affair by both parties.
Peter Van Sant: By both parties?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Yep.
Peter Van Sant: And, so, when you have a murder like this, and you learn there was some infidelity, are you wondering, “Could jealousy have been a motive?”
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Absolutely.
Janet Wood: I remember the detective saying … “It was rage. … Only someone close to her would have this kind of rage.” I never bought that.
Janet firmly believed in Terry’s innocence.
Janet Wood: I just knew him too well. … So that just didn’t fit with what I knew. … Terry wasn’t a rageful guy. He may have a sharp tongue (laughs), occasionally, but never a violent— person.
Despite strongly suspecting Terry, prosecutors didn’t believe there was enough evidence to charge him. After just a few months, the case went cold, leaving a cloud of suspicion hanging over Terry. He declined “48 Hours”‘ request for an interview.
Det. Sgt. Jason Bailey: I’d heard stories that at times he’d walk into — walk into a place and somebody would call him “Slash.”
DNA was left at the crime scene. A sample was preserved but given the limitations on technology back in 1987, not much could be done with it. Still, Roxanne’s family never gave up.
Janet Wood: I didn’t lose hope ever. … I mean, this guy just didn’t do this and then lead a clean, pristine life, the rest of his life.
DNA technology evolved, and the sample was eventually able to be uploaded to CODIS, the national criminal DNA database in 1999. But no match was returned. As disappointing as that was, everyone was hopeful that the DNA would at least clear Terry when it was tested against his. The result? It wasn’t Terry’s DNA.
Peter Van Sant: So, did that eliminate Terry as a person of interest, as a suspect in this case?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: No.
Peter Van Sant: Why not? It’s not his semen.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Just because you find semen in somebody doesn’t necessarily mean that that person is the one that killed them.
After that, the case offered no new leads until 2020.
After more than three decades of compiling thousands of reports, police were drowning in paperwork. That’s when a professor and an innovative group of students at Western Michigan University figured out a way to speed up the investigation.
Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten: The real-world experience I think is priceless.
Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten teaches a criminal justice studies program. For years, she’s been talking to Detective Christensen about how her students might help on a cold case.
Dr. Ashlyn Kuersten: What a great partnership that would be if we could ever make something like that happen.
So, the professor and the detective came up with a plan. Dr. Kuersten’s students would process around 3,500 pages of documents accumulated since the day Roxanne was murdered into a single, digitized database. Samantha Rogers was one of several students who worked on the case.
Samantha Rogers: The officers are able to search by name … and see if they’ve already been interviewed. If they needed a follow-up. …They can search locations. … Things that they wouldn’t be able to do just flippin’ through thousands of pages.
McKenzie Stommen says the decades-old files were a solemn reminder of how long some victims wait for justice.
McKenzie Stommen: It gave … a sense of gravity to what we were doing that these cases have gone unsolved for that long.
Around the same time the students began crunching data, Christensen decided it was time for a Hail Mary pass. Colleen Fitzpatrick is the president and founder of Identifinders International, a company that specializes in genetic genealogy.
Colleen Fitzpatrick: It’s been used in forensic cases to help identify — unidentified remains and violent offenders for violent crimes.
Christensen hired her genealogy company to examine the tiny amount of DNA preserved from Roxanne’s case.
Colleen Fitzpatrick: We found out there was, what I would call, a gnat’s eyebrow of DNA left, about 3% of what we normally use. … That was the lowest amount of DNA we’ve ever had to work with, to solve a case.
Identifinders spent about 10 months working with the data the sample produced but came up empty.
Colleen Fitzpatrick: It really did feel impossible, it really did.
Then one day in April 2021, Fitzpatrick happened to be chatting with investigative genetic genealogist Gabriella Vargas who worked as a consultant for Identifinders.
Gabriella Vargas: And I said, “Well, why don’t you let me look at it? … I concluded that … I did not stand with the others. … I believed that this case was extremely solvable. And I believed that I could solve it.
So, Vargas got to work. Incredibly, she was able to generate a genetic profile from the killer’s trace DNA.
Gabriella Vargas: It … tells me where does … their ancestral origins come from. Are they Eastern European? Are they Mediterranean? Are they African American?
Peter Van Sant: And what was the race of this person?
Gabriella Vargas: Caucasian.
Vargas then turned to an online DNA service. When consumers use DNA sites like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, they can take their results and upload them to a broader database called GEDmatch in the hope of finding more relatives.
Gabriella Vargas: They can choose to opt into law enforcement matching. If they do that, I can see if they are a match to my suspect.
Vargas was able to use GEDmatch and the genetic profile she developed to start to build the family tree of Roxanne’s killer.
Peter Van Sant: How far back did you go in time?
Gabriella Vargas (showing family tree to Van Sant): One side of the tree … the ancestor was 1823. On the other side, the top ancestor was 1797. … Essentially what we’re looking for amongst these matches are where they connect to each other. … And it led me to a union couple.
A union couple is where two sides of the family tree meet.
Gabrielle Vargas: This couple was born around 1920. Based on that, we can presume that they would have kids around 1940, maybe 1950. … It would have to be one of their children.
The couple she found had three sons. She let the detectives know. They did background checks and eliminated two of the three brothers as possibilities. They were down to the last brother.
Det. Sgt. John Moore: He’s been involved in a lotta different things, a lotta —
Peter Van Sant: Violent things?
Det. Sgt. John Moore: Horrible — violent things, sexual deviant things. You name it, he’s probably been involved in it.
Peter Van Sant: And you connect the DNA with someone who has a history of violent behavior … you got yourself a suspect.
Det. Sgt. John Moore: Absolutely.
DNA LEADS TO SUSPECT WITH A VIOLENT PAST
After 34 years and one last chance at solving the case with a speck of DNA too small to see with the human eye, Detective Chuck Christensen’s daring bet paid off big.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: And to know that we had come to this point was simply amazing.
Michigan State Police now believed they had finally tracked down Roxanne Wood’s killer.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: We were confident now we were going to solve this and make an arrest.
Peter Van Sant: You could now pinpoint who that individual was that had committed these awful crimes. And who is that person?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: That individual is Patrick Gilham.
Patrick Gilham — a man who was living just a few miles from where he allegedly raped and murdered Roxanne Wood.
And it turns out, he had a troubled past.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Had been a drinker.
Peter Van Sant: Was he into drugs?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: He’s into drugs. Just an individual that was … lost in life and a bad individual … based on his background.
When detectives dug into Gilham’s criminal history, they found a connection to another disturbing case eight years before Roxanne’s attack.
Robert Farag: My wife, Maureen, was attacked by Patrick Gilham in 1979.
Robert and Maureen Farag and their two young daughters lived in Gary, Indiana, back in September 1979.
Robert Farag: We were just kind of blossoming into adulthood with the kids, with our lifestyle, with our jobs.
Robert was economic director for the city, and Maureen was an art teacher at the local middle school.
Peter Van Sant: What is it about Maureen that you fell in love with?
Robert Farag: Wow. I can’t say one thing only. … She was very attractive, which just caught my eye. … She was so nice. People gravitated to her because of her warm personality.
One night, while making his way home from a business trip, Robert called Maureen with a favor.
Robert Farag: I said, “Maureen I don’t have my keys to the house, could you leave the side door open.”
At around 11 p.m., Robert turned onto his street. He’ll never forget what he saw.
Robert Farag: When I pull up—I see the police cars.
Robert quickly found Maureen, who calmly told him she was in bed when she was startled awake by a noise downstairs.
Robert Farag: Maureen sees this guy going through her purse. … He got scared, whatever and chased her. Maureen started going upstairs. And he grabbed her at the bottom of the stairs and got on top of her. And he tried his best to molest her. He wasn’t successful.
Maureen told Robert the man then took her purse and fled. Throughout the attack, Maureen had stayed quiet. She didn’t want to awaken her two girls.
Peter Van Sant: That takes an incredible amount of courage. … She was willing to sacrifice herself there, if need be, to protect her 1 and 3-year-old daughters.
Robert Farag: Yes. Maureen had a lot more than courage. She had strength.
About a week later, Gilham was pulled over in Gary for a traffic violation. A police officer noticed credit cards on the seat next to him. They were Maureen’s.
Robert Farag: The police officer called me and said, “We picked the guy up. We’re bringing him in to the station.”
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: When he was interviewed by police, he said, “All I remember is going into the house. And I blacked out and woke up with my pants around my ankles.”
Patrick Gilham was charged with burglary and unlawful deviate conduct. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in Indiana State Prison.
Peter Van Sant: How did you go on with life from that point?
Robert Farag: We forgot about it. … We changed our house. We changed our neighborhood. … She never told anybody because she felt that was a private issue.
Patrick Gilham served just seven years of his 14-year sentence. About four months after his release, police believe Gilham assaulted Roxanne Wood.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Criminals learn as they go. And I believe he learned from that first crime he did that, “I better not leave this witness alive because I will be in prison for a long, long time.”
Maureen Farag died in 2018 from cancer not knowing anything about the Roxanne Wood case. Now, armed their DNA evidence, investigators were ready to move in on Patrick Gilham.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: At this point, we decide to get a surreptitious sample to compare to the profile that we had from Roxanne Wood from the scene. And we do this through our undercover surveillance team.
Ryan Codde: I’m Ryan Codde. And I am a trooper with the Michigan State Police.
Peter Van Sant: And you do some undercover work from time to time?
Ryan Codde: I do. I’m assigned with a fugitive recovery team for the Fifth District.
In May 2021, Codde and his team surveilled Gilham in South Bend for days on end and picked up a crucial clue that would aid them in collecting his DNA.
Ryan Codde: We noticed that he was a smoker.
Peter Van Sant: And why does that help you?
Ryan Codde: Just in the simple fact that uh, you know, when you’re smoking, it’s a great source of DNA. You have your lips directly on the butt of the cigarette. And your saliva gets in the cigarette.
Hot on Gilham’s tail, the team witnessed their target flick a cigarette butt outside his truck window while driving.
Peter Van Sant: Oh boy, you’re rubbing your hands, you’re going, “This is gonna be that final piece of the puzzle,” that you had talked about, right?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Yes. Yes.
Det. Sgt. John Moore: But there’s a twist. We sent that up to the lab right away. A couple days later the lab director calls me, and he said, “It’s not a match.”
A CRUCIAL PIECE OF EVIDENCE
Det. Sgt. John Moore: DNA is DNA. If … it’s not a match, it’s not a match.
Detective Moore says investigators were shocked when the lab called to say the DNA sample from Patrick Gilham’s cigarette butt did not match Roxanne’s killer.
Det. Sgt. John Moore: We were scratchin’ our heads. … I called the trooper that grabbed that cigarette butt, and I said, “Is there any way at all that you lost sight … when it flipped outta his finger?” And he said, “… a car drove by right then.”
It was possible the cigarette butt tested was not Gilham’s.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: The only thing logically that we can do is go back and get another one.
So undercover Trooper Ryan Codde headed back to work, once again tailing Gilham.
Trooper Ryan Codde: He pulled into this laundromat … which we saw as a window of opportunity that he would most likely be coming out to take a smoke break.
This time, Codde was determined not to lose sight of Gilham’s discarded cigarette butt for even a moment. And instead of tailing him in a car, Codde followed Gilham on foot.
Trooper Ryan Codde: I’m not a smoker. … And there was a gas station right over on the corner that I saw. And I — I was like, “Well, you know, I need to go over and get a pack of cigarettes … and — sit on the — the curb next to the laundromat.”
Trooper Ryan Codde: He came and took a seat — probably about six to eight feet away from me. And we had a smoke together (laughs).
Peter Van Sant: So how did you strike up a conversation with him?
Trooper Ryan Codde: I just tried to say hi to him … made some small conversation. … He liked the Red Wings.
It wasn’t long before Gilham finished his cigarette and went back inside.
Trooper Ryan Codde: I — saw him throw his cigarette — which was right — right in about this area. And — so it was a great situation because the cigarette was by itself.
Trooper Ryan Codde: So, I pull out — a glove and go over, and I picked the cigarette up with my hand.
Peter Van Sant: Was it still — was it still smokin’—
Trooper Ryan Codde: Oh, it was — it was still warm. Yes, it was (laughs). So I wrapped it up inside that glove, I stuck it in my pocket, and — and headed out.
Investigators held their breath until the results from Gilham’s cigarette butt came back. It was a perfect match to the DNA left at the 1987 crime scene.
Det Lt. Chuck Christensen: I was ecstatic. I was very, very happy.
But investigators were not yet ready to make an arrest, opting to bring Gilham in for an interview in July 2021.
DET. SGT. JASON BAILEY: You’re not in trouble. You’re here voluntarily.
Detective Bailey says they told Gilham they needed to question him about an old case.
Det. Sgt. Jason Bailey: “Do you know anybody by the name of Roxanne?” He explains to us, “I know two Roxannes.” And he says, “One’s a stripper, one’s a drug addict.”
Gilham was shown a picture of Roxanne Wood.
DET. SGT. JASON BAILEY: That girl look familiar? You ever met her before?
PATRICK GILHAM: Nope. Never met her.
DET. SGT. JASON BAILEY: That’s a newer picture. Here’s an older picture.
Then Gilham was shown a second photo of Roxanne.
PATRICK GILHAM: Nope.
DET. SGT. JASON BAILEY: Never seen her? Never met her? Don’t know who she is?
PATRICK GILHAM: (shakes his head no)
Det. Sgt. Jason Bailey: And I said, “Well, we’re here to talk to you about her. This woman’s been assaulted.”
PATRICK GILHAM: This is too much for me man. (Waves his hands in the air, taps hands on table.)
Det. Sgt. Jason Bailey: You could see his body just tense up, and — almost to the point of hyperventilation, hands started shaking, threw his hands, you know, back in the air. … I’ve never had a reaction outta somebody … like that in 23 years of doing this.
Peter Van Sant: Does he continue talking?
PATRICK GILHAM: I gotta talk to my lawyer.
Det. Sgt. Jason Bailey: At that time, he requested to speak to his attorney.
PATRICK GILHAM: I gotta talk to my lawyer, man.
In February 2022, just days shy of the 35th anniversary of Roxanne’s murder, Patrick Gilham was arrested at his South Bend, Indiana, home.
Roxanne’s brother, Brad Woods.
Brad Woods: It didn’t seem real. It was nothing like I had ever played in my mind of how I would be when they came to the door to say, “We’ve got him.”
Detective Christensen then met face to face with the man who had lived for decades with cruel rumors and doubt: Terry Wood.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: I sat him down and explained … he was no longer a person of interest, and we knew he had nothing to do with it.
Peter Van Sant: How did he react?
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: He was very emotional. He started crying, of course … was bewildered, and in shock.
As a 35-year-old burden was lifted off Terry, the hammer was about to fall for Gilham.
DETECTIVE: You’re under arrest, OK?
Investigators questioned him for five-and-a-half hours at a police station in South Bend, with Gilham only asking for an attorney at the very end. At times, he spoke in circles.
PATRICK GILHAM: I can’t believe I did it — if I did it. But you’re saying I did so.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: When pressed on it, he just kept saying … “You guys are telling me I did this. And if I did this, I’m a monster.”
PATRICK GILHAM: I’m a monster, man. If I did that, that’s a monster. That’s a monster, man.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: “Only a monster would do this.”
DET. SGT. JASON BAILEY: Let me ask you this. How do you think your DNA was found with her?
PATRICK GILHAM: I have no clue.
DET. SGT. JASON BAILEY: How do you think?
PATRICK GILHAM: I have no clue man!
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: He said that several times during the interview when he was confronted with the case facts. And he kept saying, “I don’t remember.”
PATRICK GILHAM: I don’t remember man, I told you.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: “I don’t remember doing that.”
But Janet Wood says Gilham’s reaction when he was questioned seven months prior proved he was lying now.
Janet Wood: He visibly reacted. … shook like a leaf, leaned back in his chair, pounding his chest.
PATRICK GILHAM: I gotta talk to my lawyer.
Janet Wood: “I think I need a lawyer.” … You tell me he doesn’t remember what he did.
Gilham was charged with Roxanne Wood’s murder. But had a golden opportunity to apprehend him decades earlier slipped through investigators’ fingers?
DAY OF RECKONING
In the summer of 1987, just months after Roxanne Wood was murdered in her home, her alleged killer crossed paths with yet another woman. It was a hot night in South Bend when Rose Caparell went outside to her front lawn.
Rose Caparell: I was standing down there watering and all of a sudden, I hear this loud car coming down the street.
Rose, standing alone, says she noticed a blue El Camino, driven by a stranger, getting closer.
Rose Caparell: I looked, and he had a taillight out on the car. … about three, four minutes later I hear the same car coming back down this street.
Peter Van Sant: Now, it had a bad muffler, right?
Rose Caparell: Oh, the muffler was loud. … I just got a feeling that somethin’ just wasn’t right. … And by the time I got halfway to my front door, a man came around the corner of the house. He had a stocking cap on, and he had a full beard. All you could basically see was his eyes. … I just turned and ran, screamin’ down the street.
Peter Van Sant: Have you ever run faster in your life than that moment?
Rose Caparell: No. And I’m not a runner. And I ran.
Rose says she ran to a neighbor’s house and called local police, but the assailant had escaped.
Peter Van Sant: What do you believe would’ve happened if that man had caught up to you?
Rose Caparell: My thought was he was gonna rape me.
A few days later, while Rose and her family were driving to dinner, her daughter Tina says she spotted that same blue El Camino with a burned-out taillight in a parking lot.
Tina Caparell: My mom says right away, “That’s the car.”
Stunned, Rose and Tina say they went to call the police leaving Rose’s husband, Stan, a retired Marine, waiting for the car’s owner.
Tina Caparell: I came back … to my dad holding a gun at the attacker sitting on the ground.
Tina says her father demanded the man hand over his driver’s license. They say the name on that license: Patrick Gilham.
Tina Caparell: We had never heard the name before.
Rose says the police never arrived, so Stan lowered his gun and let Gilham leave. She says she later reported the incident at the South Bend Police Station.
Rose Caparell: We didn’t pursue it ’cause we figured they would be doin’ somethin’ with it.
No arrest was ever made. Decades later when Caparell saw the report of Gilham being arrested for Roxanne Wood’s murder, she and Tina decided to tell their story to the Michigan police.
Peter Van Sant: Imagine if the police had come. They might have solved Roxanne Wood’s case just a few months after it had occurred.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Possible. Yes.
Peter Van Sant: An opportunity lost.
Det. Lt. Chuck Christensen: Yeah. Yeah. It could have went that way.
But in April 2022, Gilham’s day of reckoning finally came.
Rose Caparell: When he walked in, I openly said, “Piece of s***.” … I didn’t realize I was saying it as loudly as I did.
In a Michigan courtroom, he faced some of people whose lives he had viciously altered.
Janet Wood: He made eye contact with me. He sat down and he looked up. And he stared right in my face.
Even though Gilham had insisted to investigators that he didn’t remember murdering Roxanne, he later pleaded no contest to second-degree murder. And now everyone waited for his sentence to be handed down.
Brad Woods: It was almost like being face-to-face with the devil. I remember being shaky, and nervous, and I just couldn’t believe I’m sitting this close to the person that did this.
Brad and Janet finally got the chance to address the man who killed their sister all those years ago.
JANET WOOD (at sentencing): Patrick Gilham is the very definition of a nightmare women fear our whole lives …
According to Brad Woods, Gilham appeared confused, as though he’d seen a ghost, when looking at Janet. He wore headphones in order to hear.
Brad Woods: Janet does look a lot like Rock … he was probably in shock, seeing her sitting there.
JANET WOOD (at sentencing): …His actions gave all of us a life sentence, while he got to live his as a free man. … 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.
BRAD WOODS (at sentencing): It seems like people like him find Jesus in prison, but don’t bother looking because the devil will be the only one greeting you.
When it was his turn to speak, Gilham offered an apology and a prayer.
PATRICK GILHAM: I can’t believe I did what I did. And I pray for them every night. I am so sorry. I just hope that sometime in the future, with God’s help, that they can start to forgive me.
The judge sentenced Gilham, who was 67 at the time, to a minimum of 23 years in prison. Sitting in court, Terry Wood, now vindicated, watched as his wife’s real killer was led away. Robert Farag witnessed Terry’s pain firsthand.
Robert Farag: I shook his hand. He was, you know, shaking, crying. I felt more empathy for him than I could for any other person I’ve met.
Terry was cleared and his wife’s killer found thanks, in large part, to advances in technology. Genetic genealogist Gabriella Vargas, who solved a decades-long cold case in just four days, says she’s eager to do it again.
Peter Van Sant: As a result of your work, more and more law enforcement agencies will be coming to you, more and more families hoping that you can do your miracle work and solve their cold cases. That’s quite a burden for you, isn’t it?
Gabriella Vargas: Oh, absolutely not. It’s an honor. It’s an honor to be able to work these cases to bring justice to these victims and closure to these families. And I will never stop.
As the Wood family finally found some peace, their rock will always be with them giving them the strength to move forward. Janet remembers a dream she had about her sister.
Janet Wood: We were in downtown Niles. … She came up and grabbed me. She goes, “Janet.” And I was like, “Rock, oh my God.” And we’re walkin’ and walkin’ and walkin’ and just laughin’.
Janet Wood: And all of a sudden, I look up and it’s dead silent. And we’re at the gates of the cemetery. And I said — um, I said, “Oh.” I said, “Do you have to go back?” And she goes, “Yes.” She goes, “But it’s fine.” She goes, “I’m good. I’m really good.” (Claps her hands) That was it.
Patrick Gilham will be eligible for release in 2040 with good behavior.
He will be 86 years old.
Produced by Susan Mallie and Jennifer Terker. Stephen McCain is the development producer. Lauren Turner Dunn and Emily Wichick are the field producers. Ken Blum and Mike Baluzy are the editors. Lourdes Aguiar is the senior producer. Nancy Kramer is the executive story editor. Judy Tygard is the executive producer.
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