SOUTH PARIS, Maine — A man suspected in the deaths of three people at a New Hampshire outdoors equipment store told reporters outside court Thursday that he did it because he “needed the money.” He also blamed prison officials for releasing him after an earlier theft sentence, saying he warned them he would re-offend.
Michael Woodbury spoke to reporters 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.”
In court, Woodbury waived extradition to New Hampshire. He tried to plead guilty to a firearms charge, but that charge was dropped. New Hampshire authorities immediately transported Woodbury back to the state, where he is scheduled to be arraigned on three counts of first-degree murder on Friday.
Woodbury was arrested in Maine on Tuesday, the day after three men were shot at the store in Conway, N.H. The shooting prompted a manhunt involving officers from several agencies, a helicopters and search dogs. Woodbury was found walking along railroad tracks in Fryeburg, Maine, about five miles away. He is from Windham, Maine.
'I warned them'
The shooting victims were James Walker, 34, manager of the Army Barracks store; William Jones, 25, of Walpole, Mass.; and Gary Jones, 23, of Plymouth, Mass. The Massachusetts men were not related, but relatives said the two friends were as close as brothers. They had been hiking and had stopped at the outdoors gear shop on their way home.
On his way out of court, Woodbury spoke out again, criticizing Maine prison officials and saying he had told them he was a threat to re-offend. He had been released from the Maine State Prison in May after serving five years for robbery and theft.
“I warned them this (expletive) would happen,” Woodbury said.
He said Maine prison officials did not give him the medication or psychiatric help he needed. He father has described him as mentally ill.
“I reached out, asking for help. 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,” Woodbury said.
He said he wrote a four-page letter to a psychiatric counselor at the state prison in Warren about “how this (expletive) was going to crack like this. To make a long story short, they told me, ‘Maybe you need some vitamins.”’
New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Karen Huntress declined to comment on Woodbury’s remarks or the case.
'Sick to our stomachs'
Denise Lord, Maine’s associate corrections commissioner, said state prisoners have access to a wide variety of mental health and psychiatric services. There was no probation in Woodbury’s case, “so our responsibility for him ended the day he left the Maine State Prison,” she said.
Woodbury’s stepfather said previously that his son was mentally ill and had spent 13 of his 31 years behind bars. Edward Woodbury also said his son was not treated for his mental illness while in prison. But he said Thursday he was not attempting to diminish his son’s actions.
“There’s three people dead, and we’re sick to our stomachs about that,” he said. “Michael is a major criminal and belongs in jail for the rest of his life.”
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.
Renee Gagne said she and her sister, Megan Reeves, 18, were planning to drive to Arizona when Woodbury asked if they could drop him off in Florida in exchange for helping pay for gas.
“He said he wants to rob this big safe someplace and he wants to kill some people. He said he wants to kill all the people he hated,” Gagne, 17, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. Gagne returned to Maine a few days later.
Mental health issues?
Michael Woodbury’s biological father, Larry Secord, agreed that there were mental health issues at play, and he offered his condolences.
“Our family is torn apart, and so are three or four other families. It’s a true-life tragedy, and we’re having trouble just carrying on,” Secord said from his home in Naples, Maine. “We’re sorry for everyone that’s involved.”
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