CONWAY, N.H. (AP) – A man accused of gunning down three people during a robbery was nearly captured at least twice during a monthlong, multistate crime spree that ended with his arrest Tuesday in the Maine woods.
Authorities say Michael Woodbury, 31, released from prison two months ago, 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.
On Tuesday, he was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of three men at an Army Barracks store in Conway. William Jones, 25, of Walpole, Mass., and Gary Jones, 23, of Plymouth, Mass., had been hiking and had stopped at the outdoors gear shop on their way home. Also killed was store manager James Walker, 34.
The store’s Web site said the deaths occurred during an apparent robbery attempt Monday, and a teenager who traveled with Woodbury for several days last month said he spoke of a desire to kill.
“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,” Renee Gagne, 17, told the New Hampshire Union Leader. Gagne could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
It wasn’t immediately known if Woodbury has a lawyer. Attempts to contact his family were unsuccessful.
Woodbury, of Windham, Maine, was released May 4 from the Maine State Prison after serving five years for robbery and theft. Authorities say he left the state a month later, heading south with Gagne and her sister in a car allegedly stolen from their mother.
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. Authorities say he did so by committing petty thefts along the way.
Woodbury is accused of robbing a bank in Florence, S.C., on June 6. Renee Gagne returned to Maine a few days later, but her sister continued on with Woodbury to St. Simons Island, Ga., where they are accused of breaking into a million-dollar home and then setting it on fire June 12. Reeves then broke away from Woodbury, hiding from him in a gas station restroom in Franklin, Ky., on June 18.
Woodbury fled when he saw police arrive. Police searched with a K-9 team, but didn’t find him. Woodbury allegedly stole a car and drove to Chattanooga, Tenn., where he is accused of holding up a clothing store June 19 and wielding a knife in a scuffle with the shop owner’s son before fleeing. Police spotted the stolen vehicle and chased it, but it got away. A SWAT team went searching for Woodbury after they believed he may have been living in the woods west of the city.
Monday’s shooting happened shortly before 10 a.m. Woodbury was arrested Tuesday morning after someone spotted him walking on railroad tracks in Fryeburg, Maine, about 10 miles east of Conway.
The Joneses were not related, bu initially Conway police thought that they were brothers, and they asked Plymouth police to notify the family.
Kenny Jones, the brother of William Jones, said that left his family unaware of the tragedy, until the family of Gary Jones called.
“My father was, like, ‘I have no idea, let me call New Hampshire.’ So, he called State Police in New Hampshire to ask what’s going on and they said: ‘Well, your son has been shot and he’s dead.’ That’s how we found out,” Kenny Jones said.