TOWNSHIP NILLS, MICHIGAN (WOOD) – For the first time, a woman shares her story by saying she helped solve the Roxana Wood murder case.

On February 20, 1987, Wood was found murdered in her home in the town of Niles. She had her throat cut and beaten on the head with a frying pan. She was 30 years old.

Wood and her husband Terry went out to a bar and then to a bowling alley in Niles on the eve of the murder. Police said she left the bowling alley around midnight and her husband followed him about 45 minutes later.

When Terry Wood returned to their home, he found Roxana Wood dead on the kitchen floor. At 1:18 a.m. he called 911

Photo of Roxana Wood’s family without date.

It’s been a cold affair for decades. That all changed last month when he was 67 years old Patrick Gilham South Bend, Indiana arrested for the murders of Wood.

Gabriela Vargas, who lives in Northern California, is an investigative genealogist DNA identifier. Until Saturday, she had never told a public story about how she helped solve the case.

Last April, she worked as a consultant at Identifinder International, a group joined by law enforcement after two previous genealogical companies dropped the case, Vargas said.

Decades after Wood’s death, Vargas said several genealogists called the case “unsolvable.” After reviewing the data, she felt differently.

“I thought it was a case I could solve,” Vargas told News 8. “I decided to solve it.”

When she participated, she said she received quick answers.

“Literally, the investigation, which took 34 years to investigate, took me four days,” Vargas said.

Vargas obtained the DNA of an unknown suspect and began the process of matching the DNA.

“I used relatives of his family to build their family tree and find out who was the common ancestor among these coincidences,” she said. “Ultimately, this has led to where the suspect will fall into this family tree.”

As soon as she found the right family, the process narrowed to three brothers, two of whom had no criminal record and were not in the area at the time of the crime. The third brother was Patrick Gilham.

“Patrick Gilham has never been a suspect in this case,” she said. “He was never on the radar. He was not the one they interviewed and did not cross paths with Roxana.

“Looking at the third child, Patrick, I found that he was not only four miles from the crime scene, but also had a very broad criminal background,” Vargas said.

She told investigators who had begun building their case. Ten months later, on February 17 this year, Gilham was taken into custody. The arrest took place a few days before the 35thth anniversary of the murder.

Photo of Patrick Gilham’s reservation from St. Joseph County, Indiana, February 17, 2022.

On Friday, March 18, Gilham did not state the absence of a competition to a second-degree murder charge. Prosecutors said he agreed to a minimum of 23 years in prison.

“It’s a very strong feeling that you’ve closed this family,” she said. “You have brought these answers that they have been waiting for so long.”

Gilham’s arrest has released Roxana’s widower, Terry Wood, who has long been considered a person interested in the case. It is reported that he still lives in the Nils area.

“You have publicly condemned her husband, who was wrongly accused for 35 years,” Vargas said. “He was the subject of an investigation. He was their subject. And it devastated the family, tore them apart, ruined his life. “

She said the technology was used to help adoptees find their biological parents, and now it applies to colds.

«In fact, we understand why we cannot do this to identify suspected and unidentified remains, ”she said.

She called it a change of game in cold cases. However, she said many agencies do not have sufficient funding for these services, and fees for labs can be quite expensive.

Vargas said the family inspired her to look for answers.

“We’ve always been told not to get emotionally involved, but it was extremely difficult not to,” she said. “Family was my motivation.”

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