• Sports News
  • POP Culture News
  • How was Roxanne Wood's cold case solved after three decades? Details explore ahead of 48 Hours on ID
Roxanne Wood's killer was arrested a few days before her 35th death anniversary (Image via NBC)

How was Roxanne Wood's cold case solved after three decades? Details explore ahead of 48 Hours on ID

The 1987 cold case of Roxanne Wood, who was found beated, r*ped, and with her throat slit in her Niles, Michigan, home, was once considered "unsolveable" until more than three decades later, when detectives used ground-breaking DNA technology and the assistance of a genetic genealogist to find the killer. A scant amount of DNA from the crime scene linked Patrick Gilham of South Bend, Indiana, to the murder.

Until Gilham's arrest in February 2022, the victim's then-husband, Terry Wood, remained a suspect in the violent murder for all those years. The accused was connected with the murder after detectives discretely collected a sample of his DNA from a used cigarette butt. In April of that same year, he pleaded no contest to the crime and was handed a minimum of 23 years in prison.


Roxanne Wood's killing is set to feature on an upcoming episode of 48 Hours on ID this Monday, May 15, 2023. The episode, titled The Unsolvable Murder of Roxanne Wood, will air on the channel at 8 pm ET.

The episode's synopsis reads:

"In 1987, Terry Wood comes home to find his wife, Roxanne Wood, dead; investigators preserve DNA, but technological limitations of the time turn the case cold, until now."


Students from Western Michigan University's cold case program worked on Roxanne Wood's case after it was reopened in 2020

The Michigan cold case of Roxanne Wood that dates back to 1987 was solved in early 2022, and Western Michigan University students played a major role in cracking the case along with a genetic genealogist, Gabriella Vargas, who helped crack the puzzle owing to her determination to find answers and using DNA evidence collected from the scene three decades ago.

On February 20, 1987, Wood was found brutally assaulted and r*ped with her throat slit open in her Niles Township home after returning home from a night out with her husband. Reports state that the 30-year-old was repeatedly hit over the head with a frying pan. That night, the couple returned home at different times, and the victim's husband was the first to arrive at the crime scene.


Due to a lack of leads and potential suspects, the case went cold, and was once reopened by Michigan State Police in 2001, but to no avail. They again started working on the murder case in 2020, following which students involved in Western Michigan University's cold case program got involved.


According to reports, the students worked with detectives to catalog the 3,000-page case over the course of eight months, putting in around 1,200 hours of effort. A never-ending supply of case files and digital Post-it notes were among the mountains of evidence that the students continued to gather and sift.

That same year, Identifinders International LLC and the MSP Forensic Laboratory in Grand Rapids conducted a forensic genetic genealogy analysis of the DNA evidence collected all those years ago.

Genetics specialist Gabriella Vargas used a scant amount of DNA from Roxanne Wood's murder scene to find her killer over three decades later


Gabriella Vargas, a genetics specialist, was able to identify Roxanne's killer using the scant DNA that was left at her home. She described how the tiny piece of information enabled her to create a DNA profile that revealed information about the attacker's race and ancestry.

Using the internet DNA database, Gabriella Vargas began compiling the suspect's family tree in April 2021, which pointed to Patrick Gilham, who was a resident of South Bend, Indiana, not far from the scene of Roxanne Wood's murder.

According to The US Sun, Gilham, 67, had a criminal background and had even served time in prison for unlawful conduct, but was released on parole a few months prior to the killing.


Police conducted a thorough surveillance investigation on the suspect before snagging a used cigarette butt for DNA testing. In February 2022, Gilham was arrested when the findings revealed that the DNA sample was an exact match to that found at the scene of the crime.

As per a CBS report, Patrick Gilham initially told investigators that he had no memory of committing such a brutal act, but later in April 2022, he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder in connection with the cold case. He was handed a minimum sentence of 23 years in prison.

Learn more about Roxanne Wood's murder case on 48 Hours on ID this Monday.


Quick Links

Edited by
See more
More from Sportskeeda