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Benefit for victim comes as killer gets life

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Posted: Friday, August 24, 2007 1:00 am

While trying to put the memory of the murderer behind them, friends and family of a Denmark man killed July 2 will honor the memory of the victim with a benefit Saturday, Aug. 25.

On Aug. 17, Michael Woodbury, 31, pleaded guilty in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, N.H., to the July 2 killings of James E. Walker, 34, of Denmark, William J. Jones, 25, of Walpole, Mass., and Gary Jones, 23, of Plymouth, Mass.

Woodbury told investigators he walked into the Army Barracks store in Conway, N.H., at around 9:30 a.m. July 2 with the intent of stealing a car owned by James Walker, the store manager.

Worried Walker recognized him as a fugitive, Woodbury shot and killed Walker, then the Joneses, who were two close friends who had stopped into the store before heading back to Massachusetts after bicycling in the White Mountains.

The Army Barracks company is co-sponsoring the benefit for Walker's family with American Legion Post 46 in Conway, N.H. It begins at noon at the post on Tasker Hill Road and will last until midnight.

"It's a positive way to bring acknowledgement by those who care," said Steve LoPilato, president of the six-store chain, about the benefit featuring five bands, food, auctions, children's games and substantial support from local businesses. Tickets for the benefit are $10 with children under 13 admitted for free and are available at all Army Barracks stores and at the door.

The killings at the Army Barracks store in Conway, N.H. culminated a six-week crime spree spreading over much of the East Coast that began shortly after Woodbury, 31, had been released from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham in May.

From the time of his arrest July 3 in Fryeburg, Woodbury has been a visible and vocal presence as he admitted his guilt. Although he apologized to the families as he was sentenced, his actions and comments since his arrest have angered the families and friends of the victims.

"I want it all to be laid to rest," said Kristi Riley, Walker's ex-wife and mother of their 8-year-old daughter, Alexandra.

Like Walker's widow, Tessa, Riley decided not to attend Woodbury's sentencing.

"There was no point in going," said Riley. "Nothing will bring him back."

Though divorced, Walker and Riley remained amicable, and Walker took particular joy in coaching his daughter or just watching her play soccer and softball.

"A part of her life will not be there that is supposed to be there," Riley said. "I always had his support and backing, now I don't."

LoPilato said the sentencing "spares the families some anguish and ends the platform for Woodbury. He is an evil person who should not be afforded acknowledgement."

Those mourning his victims will not miss Woodbury, who has been behind bars for almost half his life. A Windham neighbor who watched him grow up after being adopted by Ed Woodbury expressed her sorrow about his life.

"I feel bad for his family, especially his (adopted) father," said Patty Paige, 74.

"I know that (Ed Woodbury) is carrying a burden," she said. Paige said children who are brought up in foster care are more likely to become criminals than other children.

"That's what happened to Mike," she said.

Ed Woodbury would not comment for this story.

LoPilato praised his company and customers for pulling together to support Walker. The company established a fund in Walker's memory to support his family, but the notes left by customers in the six stores have touched LoPilato and company staff as much as the money that has been raised.

"The benefit says a lot. I appreciate everyone coming together as they have," Riley said.

Those unable to attend the benefit who would like to help can contribute to the Jim Walker Memorial Fund, c/o Army Barracks, 16 Proctor St., Salem, MA 01970 (please make checks payable to Jim Walker Memorial Fund), or by sending donations in Walker's name to Norway Savings Bank, 557 Main St., Suite A, Fryeburg, Maine, 04037.

Staff Writer Michael Hartwell contributed to this story.

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