Western Michigan University students help crack 1987 Berrien County cold case murder

Man charged 35 years after Roxanne Wood found dead in her Niles Township home

Students at Western Michigan University worked with investigators to help solve the 1987 murder of a Western Michigan woman who was killed inside her Berrien County home. The believed killer recently plead no contest to the crime.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – A murder out of Southwestern Michigan had gone unsolved for decades -- that is, until a group of Western Michigan University students got involved.

Students partaking in the university’s cold case program helped solve the 1987 murder of 30-year-old Roxanne Wood, who was killed inside her Berrien County home. Wood was found dead by her husband in their Niles Township home one night after the couple had driven separately to go bowling, and Wood returned home first.

The husband found that the woman’s throat had been cut.

Students at WMU reportedly cataloged the 3,000 page case and logged about 1,200 hours of work over eight months, working alongside investigators to solve the mystery.

Then, on Feb. 20, 2022, Indiana man Patrick Gilham, 67, was arrested in connection with the crime nearly 35 years later. He pleaded no contest to the murder, and in March was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

Michigan State Police had previously reopened the case in 2001, and then again in 2020.

It is currently unclear what, if any, connection exists between Gilham and Roxanne Wood. The 67-year-old man, from South Bend, Indiana, was charged in February with open murder and breaking and entering of an occupied dwelling. He was extradited to and arraigned in Berrien County in connection with the Michigan crime.

Investigators did not divulge many details following the arrest of Gilham in February. Police said then that new technology helped link Gilham to the crime.

Patrick Gilham has been sentenced to at least 23 years in prison in connection with a 1987 murder in Niles Township, effectively closing what was once a cold case.

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Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.