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Man admits to killing trooper

Escaped convict also wounded 2; faces life in prison

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 yesterday and pleaded guilty to murdering one state trooper and wounding two others.

Asked by a judge whether he knew that the rifle he used was capable of killing, Ralph "Bucky" Phillips said, "Indeed I did."

Phillips broke out of a Buffalo-area jail in April by using a can opener to cut a hole in a 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 to attempted murder for wounding Donald Baker Jr., as the troopers staked out his former girlfriend's home while searching for him on Aug. 31. Longobardo's leg had to be amputated, and he died three days later.

Phillips, 44 years old, 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 on Dec. 20.

Phillips entered his pleas in back-to-back court appearances in Elmira and then Mayville.

"We love you, Bucky!" supporters shouted when he arrived at court. "I love you, too!" he shouted back.

Mitty Cornelius, Phillips's 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," said Major Steven White of the State Police. "My perception is that he was indifferent, demonstrated no remorse whatsoever."

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