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Serial killer Michael McGray's 10½-year murder rampage began in a fit of rage on a country road near his home in southwestern Nova Scotia when he couldn't rape a screaming 17-year-old hitchhiker.

Yesterday, under the angry glare of the girl's mother in a Halifax courtroom, Mr. McGray pleaded guilty to the murder of Elizabeth Gale Tucker in a wooded area near Weymouth, N.S., on May 1, 1985, when he was 19 years old.

Mr. McGray, who has pleaded guilty to six murders, including that of an 11-year-old Moncton girl and her mother, sat staring without expression as Crown prosecutor James Burrill read a horrifying account of the final hours of Ms. Tucker's life.

The brutal details left even Chief Justice Joseph Kennedy struggling to analyze the crime and the aftermath of fear and anguish felt by the girl's family 16 years later.

The judge, who added another life sentence to the five Mr. McGray is now serving and ordered him to give a DNA sample to the RCMP for future investigations, called the murderer "an evil mystery."

Ms. Tucker, a friendly, attractive teenager who liked caring for children, had left the Dartmouth home of her mother, Mary Lake, to take a job in a fish plant in Church Point on May 1. She hitchhiked and had received several rides, the last one taking her to the train station in the town of Weymouth in western Nova Scotia.

The next ride she received was her last. Mr. McGray and an unidentified male accomplice had been drinking rum and smoking marijuana when they picked up the girl.

Ms. Tucker refused marijuana and alcohol offered by Mr. McGray and his friend. She also spurned their sexual advances and began screaming to be let out of the truck when Mr. McGray offered her $50 for oral sex. The driver stopped the truck and Mr. McGray wrestled the girl to the ground, pinning her arms. When she continued to yell, he punched her and pulled off her jeans, shirt and jacket.

When he couldn't perform sexually, Mr. McGray became furious and pulled out a single-edged locked blade knife and began stabbing the girl in her side, stopping only to go to the truck for another drink of rum.

After the girl was clearly dead, he and a friend took the limp body, pulled the jeans over the lower torso and tossed it into the nearby bush, making no attempt to conceal it.

The body was found five months later by a hunter, but an RCMP investigation turned up little evidence. Then, in late 1999, a prisoner at a Moncton detention centre informed police that Mr. McGray had told him about killing Ms. Tucker.

At that time Mr. McGray was facing charges in the deaths Joan Hicks and her 11-year-old daughter, Nina. He has since been convicted of those murders, as well as those of two gay men in Montreal in 1991 and of a Saint John man in 1987.

In media interviews last year, Mr. McGray, a soft-spoken, heavy-set and bearded man of 35, told how a hunger to kill comes over him. In court yesterday he said very little, entering a guilty plea and declining to comment before Chief Justice Kennedy handed him his sixth life sentence.

Ms. Lake also passed up the opportunity to make a statement to the court and would not talk with reporters.

But in a victim-impact statement filed in the case, Ms. Lake struggled to find words to describe what her life has been like after her child's death.

She said she rarely leaves her home in a Dartmouth trailer park and has spent years fearing that her remaining son and daughter might also be killed.

"There's not a day goes by that I don't think about how life would [be]if Gale was here today. I would rather be writing a letter to my daughter than about her," Ms. Lake wrote. "These kind of feelings are hard to put into words. It's an experience no mother should have to go through.

"I hope to God some peace can come to me and my family. It's been a long time coming."

Ms. Tucker's aunt, Sharrol Lake, said in her statement that the family still marks the girl's birthday on June 24.

"How do you put on paper after 16 years that you will never see those big brown eyes, dark hair and pug nose -- that every time you look in the mirror you see her in you," she wrote.

Chief Justice Kennedy acknowledged that it is impossible to understand what he called "the evil puzzle" and to explain why people such as Mr. McGray kill.

He doubted that there can be any rehabilitation for Mr. McGray and said all that could be done was to lock him up to protect the public.

"That is the end of sentencing today, so that not again will an unlucky little girl on her way to work encounter Michael Wayne McGray . . ." Chief Justice Kennedy said.

Mr. McGray has told media interviewers that he has killed as many as 16 people across Canada.

His lawyer, Wendell Maxwell, told reporters yesterday that there is only one active case involving his client and that he will be talking to a prosecutor in Saint John about it soon.

Mr. Burrill, the prosecutor, said the conviction should provide some comfort to Ms. Tucker's family, who are now assured that the person who murdered Ms. Tucker is behind bars.