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Suspect admits to N.H. triple-slaying

Ex-convict says he warned officials

As Michael Woodbury was escorted into Oxford County District Court in South Paris, Maine, for a hearing yesterday, he told reporters he killed three people in a Conway, N.H. store on Monday because he 'needed the money.' Woodbury, 31, waived extradition to New Hampshire. The store manager and two customers from Massachusetts were killed.
As Michael Woodbury was escorted into Oxford County District Court in South Paris, Maine, for a hearing yesterday, he told reporters he killed three people in a Conway, N.H. store on Monday because he "needed the money." Woodbury, 31, waived extradition to New Hampshire. The store manager and two customers from Massachusetts were killed. (AP Photo)

SOUTH PARIS, Maine -- A man charged with killing three people at a New Hampshire outdoors equipment store told reporters outside court yesterday that he committed the slayings because he "needed the money." He also blamed prison officials for releasing him after an earlier theft sentence, saying he warned them that he was a danger.

Michael L. Woodbury spoke as he was being led across a parking lot from the Oxford County jail to the courthouse to be arraigned as a fugitive from justice.

They "busted the robbery," Woodbury, 31, said of the victims.

A reporter asked him, "Did you do it?"

"Unfortunately, I did," Woodbury answered.

Asked why, Woodbury replied: "Needed the money."

Woodbury is charged with fatally shooting James Walker, 34, of Denmark, Maine, the manager of the Army Barracks store in Conway, N.H., and two customers from Massachusetts, longtime friends William Jones, 25, of Walpole and Gary Jones, 23, of Halifax, who were returning from a weekend of hiking and biking in Maine.

"We're just hoping the judicial system will let him have it, but that's not up to me, " Stephen Jones, Gary Jones's father, said in a telephone interview yesterday. "I'm more interested in my son and his friend -- and that guy, he's going to get his."

He said his son's wake is being held today, with a private burial scheduled later.

"My son is one of my best friends," Stephen Jones said. "You don't ever want to go to your kid's funeral. That's the worst thing for a parent."

He said he was not surprised that Woodbury said his victims were responsible for a "busted robbery."

"I know the way they were," Stephen Jones said. "And I know they're not going to just stand there and watch something happen."

Shajn Raines, 24, a friend of the Joneses, said he was relieved that Woodbury acknowledged his role in the killings.

"I'm glad that it was that guy and that he admitted it and there's not someone else out there wandering around that could hurt someone else or do something again," Raines said.

Woodbury said he had warned officials at the Maine State Prison that he would be a danger when he was released without probation in May after serving five years for robbery and theft.

"I reached out, asking for help," Woodbury said. "I reached out and told them I need medication. I reached out and told them I shouldn't be out in society. I told numerous cops, numerous guards."

He singled out a therapist at the state prison in Warren. "I wrote her a four-page manifesto about how this [expletive] was going to crack like this," he said. "To make a long story short, they told me, 'Maybe you need some vitamins.' "

Denise Lord, Maine's associate corrections commissioner, said state prisoners like Woodbury have access to a wide variety of mental health and psychiatric services, as well as planning services for when they're released.

But there was no probation in Woodbury's case, "so our responsibility for him ended the day he left the Maine State Prison," she said.

Authorities say Woodbury left Maine about a month after being released from prison, heading south with a teenage girl and her sister in a car allegedly stolen from their mother.

While on the road, police said, Woodbury eluded police in Kentucky and again in Tennessee during an alleged crime spree that included a bank robbery in South Carolina, burglary and arson in Georgia, car theft in Kentucky, and armed robbery in Tennessee.

After agreeing to extradition during a brief court hearing yesterday, Woodbury was whisked away in an unmarked New Hampshire patrol car. He was scheduled to be arraigned today in Conway, N.H., on three counts of first- degree murder.

Edward Woodbury, Michael's adoptive father, said Michael Woodbury was mentally ill and didn't get adequate treatment in the prison system.

But he said that he was not attempting to diminish Michael's actions.

"There's three people dead, and we're sick to our stomachs about that," he said, adding that "Michael is a major criminal and belongs in jail for the rest of his life."

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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