CONCORD, N.H. (AP) – An ex-convict accused of a multistate crime spree this summer pleaded guilty Friday to killing three men in a botched robbery, but infuriated the victims’ families with his explanations of the crimes and by blaming prison officials for letting him roam free.

Michael Woodbury, 31, apologized to each victim by name, and to their families, before being sentenced to consecutive terms of life in prison without parole. Then he gave his account of the July 2 killings at the Army Barracks outdoors store in Conway.

He said he shot store manager James Walker, 34, because he thought Walker might have identified him as a wanted man and was reaching for a gun.

“He started to reach under the counter and that’s when it really went bad,” Woodbury said during the Merrimack County Superior Court hearing.

The other victims – store customers William Jones, 25, of Walpole, Mass., and his close friend Gary Jones, 23, of Halifax, Mass. – “tried to tackle me as I went out the door,” he said.

Walker’s father, also named James, told Woodbury: “You are a coward, a thief and a cold-blooded murderer.”

William Jones’ father, Ken Jones, said: “He killed my son, yet this monster sits here with a smirk on his face as if he was the victim.”

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 two teenage sisters in a car allegedly stolen from their mother.

Woodbury is accused of robbing a bank in Florence, S.C., on June 6; breaking into a million-dollar home in St. Simons Island, Ga., and then setting it on fire June 12; and holding up a clothing store June 19 in Chattanooga, Tenn., wielding a knife in a scuffle with the shop owner’s son before escaping.

Both sisters eventually broke away from Woodbury, one of them hiding from him in a gas station restroom the day before the Chattanooga robbery.

After his arrest for the murders, Woodbury said he had warned prison officials this spring he would be a danger.

“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,” he told reporters outside a courthouse on July 5.

He added Friday in court: “I feared I was going to become a serial killer.”

Maine authorities said Woodbury had access to a wide variety of mental health services. They also said they had no jurisdiction over him because he was not on probation.

When the judge declined to let Woodbury speak at one point Friday, he scribbled a sign and pointed it toward the family members. “U have a lawsuit,” it said.

Early in the hearing, Fitzgerald and lawyer Caroline Smith reviewed Woodbury’s history of mental problems, including bipolar disease, and his understanding of the process and his options. Smith said she discussed defenses based on his mental illness with Woodbury, but he rejected them.

“He showed me very clearly he understood the consequences of his choice not to pursue those defenses,” she said. “I have to honor his choice.”

Life without parole is mandatory in New Hampshire for first-degree murder. Though it makes no practical difference, Fitzgerald made the sentences consecutive.

AP-ES-08-17-07 2116EDT

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