The man arrested for killing his parents and their two friends at a home in Bowdoin, Maine, before opening fire on random vehicles on a busy highway had been released from prison just days earlier, police said.
Joseph Eaton, 34, had just completed a roughly two-year prison sentence for aggravated assault on Friday ahead of the cold-blooded slayings discovered on Tuesday, Maine State Police Colonel Bill Ross told reporters at a press conference.
His mother, Cynthia Eaton, picked him up from the Windham Correctional Center and drove him to the home in Bowdoin.
Around 9:21 a.m. on Tuesday, the Sagadahoc County Sheriffs received a 911 call from a family friend who had walked into the home at 1459 Augusta Road and found a dead body, Ross said.
When officers arrived, a total of four bodies were discovered on the premises.
Three were found inside the residence: homeowners Robert Eger, 72 and Patricia Eger, 62 as well as Eaton’s 62-year-old mother Cynthia.
Eaton’s father, 66-year-old David Eaton, was found dead in a barn near the house.
All four died of gunshot wounds, and their deaths have been ruled a homicide by the Maine Office of Chief Medical Examiner, Ross told reporters.
It’s unclear if the four had been killed on Tuesday morning or if they had been killed sometime earlier.
The scene took a dramatic turn around 10:30 a.m. when police in Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cumberland responded to gunfire on I-295 southbound between mile marker 17 near the Route 1 underpass — about 25 miles south of Bowdoin, Ross said.
Eaton opened fire on three southbound vehicles and struck another vehicle going northbound “because he thought he was being followed by police,” Ross said.
Three people were struck: Shawn Halsley, 51, Justin Halsey, 29 — who had non-life-threatening injuries — and Paige Halsey, 25, who still remains in critical condition at Maine Medical Center.
Eaton was located in a wooded area around 10:50 a.m. not far from the shooting scene and taken into custody. He was also taken to Maine Medical Center where he received treatment before his release.
Police continued to search the area to confirm there were no others involved.
“Mr. Eaton was then taken by major crimes detectives and Portland Police officers to the Portland Police Department where he gave a confession and admitted to killing his parents and his parents’ friends,” Ross said.
Portland, Maine’s largest city, is about 12 miles south of Yarmouth.
Police did not release a possible motive for the slayings.
Eaton was charged with four counts of murder and was booked at the Two Bridges Regional Jail, where he remained Wednesday, police said.
He is a convicted felon in Maine, Florida and Kansas and was barred from owning firearms, according to WGME.
Police confirmed they recovered guns at the scenes but it’s unclear who they belonged to.
In a chilling video posted to Facebook on Monday, just a day before the shootings, Eaton, through tears, begs for forgiveness, claiming he’s had to deal with trauma in the past — including being molested.
“Going to try to go through this, but I’m going to get emotional just talking about it, but a lot of people looking a [me] like There’s just another fuck up, another guy that can’t get his stuff right…” he said in a Facebook live post.
“They claim to be Christian, but you can’t forgive somebody or understand what they go through. You can’t give someone a second chance but you say you’re Christian. Now does that make sense?” he continued, without saying who exactly he was talking about.
“Why can’t you try to take it slow, try to get the know the person? What good’s it do to hate somebody? It destroys you. It’s not the way things were supposed to be done it’s not the way we were made,” he says choking up.
“Just need to try and forgive me for the things I did. I’ve been dealing with trauma for a long time on things I don’t talk to people about — being molested and stuff, it destroys somebody,” he said.
Mike Sauschuck, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, called the crimes “an attack on the soul of our state” that shook neighbors, law enforcement officers and the state at large.
“It’s a shock to everybody,” he said. “You want to naturally say, ‘That can’t be happening here in Maine.’ But the reality is these senseless acts can and do happen everywhere.”
Police said this appears to be an isolated incident and remains under investigation.
Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said that the town of Bowdoin, a tight-knit rural community of about 3,000 people, has been left heartbroken.
“Everybody does know everybody else’s business, but in a good way,” he told reporters, adding, “It’s going to take some time to heal.”
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