Serial killer pleads guilty to prison cell murder

Convicted serial killer Michael Wayne McGray pleaded guilty Monday to the first-degree murder of his cellmate at Mountain Institution.

Convicted serial killer Michael Wayne McGray pleaded guilty Monday to the first-degree murder of his cellmate at Mountain Institution last November.

McGray coolly admitted in court that the killing of 33-year-old Jeremy Michael Phillips by strangling him to death in their cell on Nov. 21, 2010 would mark his seventh conviction.

“I’m 100 percent guilty of planning and committing this murder,” he said, via a video link to a special handling unit in Quebec where he is being held.

The court was reluctant to accept McGray’s guilty plea via video, especially without legal counsel, but the 45-year-old convict was adamant he did not want to return to B.C. – and he was well aware of the legal consequences, given his six earlier life sentences.

“I just want to wrap this up,” he said. “I don’t need to talk to a lawyer. In fact, I refuse. I don’t want to talk to a lawyer.”

After repeatedly asking McGray if he was aware of the what he was doing, and after ensuring his plea was made voluntarily, BC Supreme Court Justice Brian Joyce sentenced McGray to life in prison without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Although McGray had said in an earlier court hearing that he was paid $20,000 to kill Phillips, he did not object to a summary by Crown counsel Grant Lindsey Monday that the murder started as a fake hostage-taking plan cooked up by the two convicts.

Lindsey said McGray told police after his arrest that Phillips wanted to stage a hostage-taking in which he would be tied up so that he could go to the prison infirmary and McGray could go back to Kent prison.

But McGray said he became angry with Phillips and decided to end his “bullshit” and kill him.

With a razor and nail clippers, McGray told police he cut up bedsheets to tie up Phillips.

He said Phillips “gave him a hug” and then lay face down on the cot just after the 10:15 p.m. cell count so McGray could tie him up.

But instead of the hostage-taking plan, McGray said he strangled Phillips for five minutes, and then punched him in the head to make sure he wasn’t faking death.

He told police he had to kill Phillips “very quietly” because a guard was only 23 feet away.

He didn’t report Phillips’ death until the next morning.

Outside court, Lindsey said Phillips is no longer around to tell his side of the story, so it’s unclear whether there ever was a hostage-taking plan or whether it was a contract killing.

Correction officials have to date refused to disclose why McGray was transferred from the Kent maximum-security prison to the medium-security Mountain Institution.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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