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After more than three decades, the family of a slain Michigan woman got justice in court.
For his part, defendant Patrick Wayne Gilham, 67, pleaded no contest last month to second-degree murder for killing Roxanne Leigh Wood, 30, with a plea deal of 23 to 50 years in prison. Though he stopped short of admitting guilt under the law, and though his attorney says he does not remember what happened, Gilham apologized at the hearing on Monday.
“I’m very sorry for what I did,” he said, according to Leader Publications. “I’m so sorry. I hope sometime in the future with God’s help that you can forgive me.”
What Gilham did, prosecutors said, was attack Wood in her kitchen in Niles, Michigan, after she arrived home from a bowling alley on Feb. 20, 1987. He is the person who beat her with a frying pan in the head and slit her throat, authorities said.
Roxanne’s husband Terry Wood followed her home minutes later, only to find her dead. He called her death in to police, but official suspicion publicly landed right on his shoulders. A sticking point in the case, however, was DNA–not his–found on the murdered Roxanne, according to WSBT in a 2013 profile of the slaying.
The break in the case reportedly arrived after Gilham landed on law enforcement radar, and investigators obtained his DNA from a cigarette butt he threw away. Authorities ultimately arrested him about 10 miles south of Niles at his home in South Bend, Indiana.
Terry, who always maintained his innocence, is completely cleared of his wife’s murder, but not after years of facing painful speculation.
“His life was irreparably damaged,” his sister-in-law Janet Wood said in court Monday. She said that Roxanne and she had married two brothers, and she had to deal with “horrible rumors” that Terry was the killer.
Janet called the murder a “life sentence” for the family.
She said she was 23 when the murder happened, and it left her “completely lost.”
“[Roxanne] was our bright light on earth and one of the kindest people you would ever meet,” she said.
Gilham’s attorney expressed regret on behalf of his client.
“He can’t recall the events which is no excuse, but he is genuinely remorseful,” lawyer Scott Sanford said.
Gilham will serve a virtual life sentence under the plea deal, prosecutors have suggested.
He may have asked for the family to forgive him with “God’s help,” but in his own religious-themed statement, Roxanne’s brother Brad called the 67-year-old defendant a “monster” and predator.
“People like him seem to find Jesus in prison, but the devil will be the one who greets him when he dies,” Brad said. “He is a disgrace to God, country, his family and our family.”
[Booking photo via Michigan State Police]
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