CONWAY, N.H. – 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. 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.
Michelle Roberge, mother of the two teenage girls, said both of her daughters were kept against their will and threatened by Woodbury. She said Reeves took two of Woodbury's knives to defend herself when she escaped.
"She figured she wasn't ready to die and knew he would hill her if he got to her. He had been threatening the whole time and told her she knew too much," Roberge told The Brunswick (Ga.) News last month. "He said if they got caught that they would both go to jail, but she didn't care, she wanted to get away from him."
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 shooting victims were James Walker, 34, the store manager; 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.
Walker, who lived in Denmark, Maine, left a wife, a 1-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
"We've got a sad little girl without a daddy, that's for sure," his ex-wife, Kristi Riley, of Fryeburg, Maine, told the Portland Press Herald. "He's got a son who's a year and a half who he's not going to be able to see grow up just because of some foolish act."