CONWAY —Convicted murderer Michael Woodbury said his intent was to steal a car the morning of July 2, 2007, when he shot and killed three people at the Army Barracks store in Conway, and the reason he pleaded to three life sentences without going to trial was to avoid the death penalty for carjacking.
Although Woodbury never said so at the time of his arrest, prosecutors and the public assumed he committed three counts of first-degree murder in the commission of a robbery. Those crimes carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
At the end of June, The Conway Daily Sun published a story marking the fifth anniversary of the shooting and sent a letter to Woodbury asking him to comment on the shooting and his life in prison. The only way to contact Woodbury, who is in Union Correctional Institution in Raiford, Fla., was U.S. Mail. The newspaper received his response on July 6, a few days after the anniversary story was published.
The day of the shooting, Woodbury, then 31, of Windham, Maine, walked into the Army Barracks and shot store manager James Walker, 34, and two customers from Massachusetts — William Jones, 25, and Gary Jones, 23. Walker and William Jones were dead at the scene and Gary Jones died at Maine Medical Center. William Jones and Gary Jones were not related but they were close friends who had been camping in Maine. Walker left a widow and two young children.
The two campers walked in on Woodbury and apparently tried to stop him.
In his letter, Woodbury stated his perspective on the killings has changed. He now believes killing for money is “100 percent evil.” Then he describes his original motivation for going into the store that fateful day.
“I went into that place with the plan of carjacking that man’s vehicle,” wrote Woodbury. “This is the true reason I pled out to three life sentences so fast. My lawyer and I was worried if I did not plead out, ASAP, the Feds was going to try and give me the death penalty for capital murder in the commission of a carjacking. Besides my lawyer and I, you are the first to know this. I don’t care now, the Feds missed their shot.”
According to New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, which prosecuted Woodbury in 2007, it would be up to New Hampshire’s U.S. Attorney to bring the carjacking charge against Woodbury.
The U.S. Attorney isn’t inclined to recharge Woodbury, according to Theresa A. Leppard, executive assistant to the U.S. Attorney and public information officer/training officer.
“The state handled the homicide charges with life sentences so the United States Attorney’s office would not waste resources prosecuting the case,” said Leppard.
During the court proceedings, public defender Caroline Smith said she was aware that Woodbury had “several” diagnoses, including bipolar disorder and atypical psychosis. He has shown at times, “bizarre, delusional, and grandiose behaviors.” But she said she felt Woodbury made a rational decision to plead guilty.
Those diagnoses came through in Woodbury’s letter, but so did intelligence. His two-page letter is well organized. His handwriting is very legible with uppercase letters, and there is only one cross-out.
He also has an attitude as expressed in his introduction to the answers. “Let us be frank. No matter what i say to your questions, I do realize you will (A) portray me as a demon (B) twist my words to sell papers. So f--- you. Ok? Ok...”
Woodbury says he now spends his days working out, meditating on the mind of Satan and studying astrophysics. He’s renounced violence for the most part.
“I may still be a ‘Satan-worshiping-predator,’ but I will never again bring violence into the equation,” Woodbury stated. “The exception being those who rape children.”
During a jailhouse interview not long after the murders, Woodbury referred to himself as a predator and during the same interview he also admitted to burning down a mansion in Georgia because he discovered a cache of child porn while committing a burglary there.
Along with his letter to The Conway Daily Sun, Woodbury sent a copy of a report from the Florida prison alleging that Woodbury bloodied and strangled an inmate Woodbury believed to be a child molester. The report was dated May 11, 2009.
“I observed inmate Elliot lying on the floor in what appeared to be blood,” wrote a Florida corrections official. “Inmate Woodbury was standing beside inmate Elliot also covered in what appeared to be blood. When I questioned inmate Woodbury as to what happened he stated, ‘he was a child molester.’”
Woodbury says prison life “sucks” but at least he’s in Florida, where the weather’s warm. Woodbury claimed credit for manipulating New Hampshire authorities into shipping him to Florida in 2009. He says authorities moved him because New Hampshire was “too afraid” to incarcerate him in its prison population and didn’t want him in its “protective custody palace.” Woodbury said he was already familiar with Florida’s prison system because he served time there on a bank robbery charge from 1996 to 2002.
Woodbury also reacted to the news that the mother of one of his victims is suing his grandfather in federal court. Gary Jones’ mother, Gail Jones, of Halifax, Mass., is pursuing legal action against Woodbury’s grandfather, Lawrence Secord, in United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. Woodbury stole the murder weapon, a .22-caliber revolver, from Secord’s hunting cabin in Wentworth Location. Jones says Secord should have taken more care to secure the weapon — she is awaiting the ruling.
“I was unaware of the lawsuit against my grandfather,” said Woodbury. “All I can say is when I’m on the street wandering around howling at the moon, no gun is secure anywhere. If they want to tax my grandfather in this life, I will tax them in the next life. However, I still have some tricks left in this life if they want to play the game.”
When asked if he had anything to say to the victims’ families or society, Woodbury advocated for reform of the corrections system.
“The only thing I’d like to say to society today is this: Prisons need money to rehabilitate convicts,” said Woodbury. “When you continually cut funding to them, they become warehouses of hate and you will reap the whirlwind when the gate opens on a man that enters society with nothing but anger and apathy on his shoulders.”
Woodbury ends his letter with “Good Luck!” and his signature. The “O’s” in the word “good” were made into the eyes of a smiley face.
And then he adds this postscript. “If you elect to run your piece...send me a photocopy, or I’ll never speak to you again.”