A sister who discovered a crime scene in which four people were shot to death arrived to broken glass, bullet holes, blood and guns strewn about the home, and the suspect was later arrested at the scene of a highway shooting with what appeared to be blood on him, according to state police.
Police found multiple cartridge casings of varying calibers in the vehicle driven by the suspect after shots were fired at vehicles along Interstate 295, wounding three people, state police said.
A state police affidavit released Thursday as the suspect, Joseph Eaton, made his first court appearance contained grisly details, a note found at the scene and a timeline for the events. Eaton showed no emotion during the brief hearing other than to acknowledge to the judge that he understood the charges.
One of his court-appointed attorneys, James Mason, acknowledged after the hearing that the shootings shook the state.
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“What happened in Bowdoin is undeniably tragic. But I ask everybody to please reserve judgement,” he said.
Police have yet to discuss what might have been a motive behind the shootings on a rural property in Bowdoin and then along a busy interstate highway in Yarmouth, about 12 miles from Maine’s largest city, Portland.
Eaton, 34, has been jailed since his arrest Tuesday at a chaotic scene along Interstate 295, where traffic backed up as heavily armed law enforcement searched the area.
Police say Eaton confessed to killing four people, including his parents, in Bowdoin and wounding three people while shooting at vehicles. Eaton is charged with four counts of murder for the killings in Bowdoin but has not yet been charged in the highway shootings, officials said.
He had been released four days before the shootings from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Police said his mother picked up from prison April 14 after he completed a sentence for aggravated assault.
Betty Fagan, Joseph Eaton’s grandmother and the mother of victim Cynthia Eaton, said her grandson had been dropped off at a beach and spent the weekend alone after being retrieved from prison. The parents had come back to Maine but were planning to move to Kansas, where they’d lived previously, Fagan said.
She said she doesn’t understand what went wrong. “I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe he would do something like that,” Fagan said from her home in Ocala, Florida.
The latest in a string of mass shootings in the United States began in the small town of Bowdoin, where four people were killed Tuesday, with three bodies discovered in a home and one in a barn, police said. The victims were identified as Joseph Eaton’s parents, Cynthia Eaton, 62, and David Eaton, 66, along with homeowners Robert Eger, 72, and Patricia Eger, 62, police said. The two couples were described as best friends.
Police previously said Eaton told them he began firing on several cars along I-295 soon thereafter because he thought he was being followed by police. Bullets struck a family in one of the vehicles, wounding Sean Halsey, 51; Justin Halsey, 29; and Paige Halsey, 25, police said. Paige Halsey was critically wounded, police said.
A state police affidavit indicated the discovery of the deaths in Bowdoin was made by Patricia Eger’s sister, who first noticed something was amiss when she saw blood on the steps leading into the home and then saw the carnage and a body. The affidavit noted all bodies were covered and that the family dog had been killed as well.
Investigators who arrived on the scene discovered an unsigned note on an island in the kitchen that referenced that someone had been molested, nothing was done about it and the writer wanted to be freed of pain.
The day before the shooting, a man believed to be Joseph Eaton posted an anguished live video on social media that referenced trauma including molestation. “Being molested and stuff, you know, it destroys somebody,” the man said. He also criticized people who call themselves Christians but are unwilling to forgive.
“What good does it do to hate somebody?” he said, choking back tears on the video. “You know, it destroys you.”
State police have confirmed they are aware of the video and said it is part of their investigation.