Ex-fugitive pleads guilty to shooting New York troopers
MAYVILLE, N.Y. – An escaped convict who vowed never to be taken alive before he was captured in the biggest manhunt in New York history swaggered into court Wednesday and pleaded guilty to murdering one state trooper and wounding two others.Asked by a judge if he knew the rifle he used was capable of killing, 44-year-old career criminal Ralph “Bucky” Phillips said: “Indeed I did.”Phillips broke out of a Buffalo-area jail in April by using an industrial can opener to cut a hole in kitchen ceiling, then became something of a folk hero as he led police along a trail of stolen cars, burglaries, sightings and shootings.He pleaded guilty to murder for killing Joseph Longobardo and attempted murder for wounding Donald Baker Jr. as the troopers staked out his ex-girlfriend’s home while searching for him Aug. 31. Longobardo’s leg had to be amputated, and he died three days later.Phillips also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Sean Brown, who was shot during a traffic stop near Elmira on June 10.He is expected to get life in prison without parole when he is sentenced Dec. 20.Phillips entered his pleas in back-to-back court appearances in Elmira and then Mayville.He appeared upbeat as he entered the courtroom in Mayville, waving to relatives and mugging for the cameras.”We love you Bucky!” supporters shouted when he arrived at court. “I love you, too!” he shouted back.Mitty Cornelius, Phillips’ sister, said she was not surprised by his bravado: “That’s him. That’s his sense of humor and a way to get a little jab in, probably.””It was very disturbing to me to watch his mannerisms,” State Police Maj. Steven White said. “My perception is that he was indifferent, demonstrated no remorse whatsoever and almost couldn’t be bothered with today’s proceedings.”Authorities finally closed in on Phillips near the New York-Pennsylvania line Sept. 8. He emerged from a field with his hands up, clearly worn down by the long chase.Phillips also is expected to plead guilty on Thursday to escape.—Ben Dobbin contributed to this report from Elmira.