IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Maine suspect confessed to killing parents, friends days after prison release, police say

Joseph Eaton, 34, had been released Friday from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, where he had been serving two years for aggravated assault.
Image: A hearse leaves the scene of a shooting on April 18, 2023, in Bowdoin, Maine.
A hearse leaves the scene of a shooting Tuesday in Bowdoin, Maine. Robert F. Bukaty / AP
/ Source: Associated Press

A Maine man charged with killing four people in a home and accused of shooting three others randomly on a busy highway confessed to killing his parents and two of their friends before he fled and fired on the motorists, police said Wednesday.

Joseph Eaton, 34, has been charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of Cynthia and David Eaton, as well as those of Robert Eger and Patricia Eger, State Police Col. Bill Ross told reporters.

Authorities found their bodies in the Egers' home in the town of Bowdoin after a concerned friend called 911 at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday after multiple attempts to reach the couple.

Eaton confessed to killing his parents and their friends and admitted to shooting at vehicles on Interstate 295 because he thought he was being followed, Ross said.

Eaton shot three people traveling together — Sean Halsey, 51; Justin Halsey, 29; and Paige Halsey, 25 — as he fled, Ross said. Paige Halsey was in critical condition, and the others had non-life-threatening injuries.

Eaton was found and arrested in woods not far from where he had abandoned his vehicle at an exit ramp off the interstate.

He was charged with four counts of murder but was not immediately charged in the highway shootings.

Eaton had been released Friday from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, where he had served about two years for aggravated assault. 

“He was picked up, I believe, on April 14 at the Windham correctional facility by his mother, Cynthia, and they drove to the residence and Bowdoin where the murders occurred,” Ross said. 

Eaton was in police custody, and it was unclear whether he had an attorney. Messages left with people identified as relatives in public records were not returned Wednesday night.

Eaton was charged over the past decade with more than a half-dozen crimes and served an eight-month sentence last year for assault, according to state records. Past convictions included aggravated assault, a felony that would prevent him from legally having a firearm, according to state records.

The origins and ownership of the firearms used in Tuesday’s shootings were unclear. State police declined to comment on the weapon that was used.

The day before the killings, on a Facebook page that NBC News confirmed belonged to Eaton, he appeared to describe himself in a video as “just another guy that can’t, you know, get his stuff right.”

Eaton appeared to become emotional while addressing people who "claim to be Christian, but you can't forgive somebody or understand what they go through. You can't give someone a second chance. "

"It destroys you," he said. "It's not the way things were supposed to be done."

In the nearly two-minute video, which Eaton appeared to be filming inside a vehicle, he asked for forgiveness and said he had been "dealing with trauma for a long time on things I don't talk to people about."

In a post included with the video, Eaton appeared to address his mother and write: "I’m scared to death about what people will say about this. It’s opened my story. Thanks for never giving up on me I love u."

Ross said authorities were aware of the video but declined to comment, saying it's part of an ongoing investigation.

In Bowdoin, yellow crime tape hung where the shootings took place in a home flanked by woods at the end of a long gravel driveway. Detectives and evidence technicians remained in the home collecting evidence late Tuesday, long after hearses had left the driveway.

A woman spoke to police outside the house, then dropped to her knees and sobbed.

In Yarmouth on Wednesday, traffic flowed normally on Interstate 295, where a day before the three people were shot in cars and the gunman was apprehended.

Gov. Janet Mills tweeted her concern for the “families, friends and loved ones of those impacted by this tragedy.” She said she was praying for the injured.

“Like people across Maine, I am shocked and deeply saddened. Acts of violence like we experienced today shake our state and our communities to the core,” she said.

Mike Sauschuck, the commissioner of the state Public Safety Department, 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.”

The seven people shot Tuesday were the latest victims of mass shootings in the U.S., whose targets included a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee; a bank in Louisville, Kentucky; and a Sweet 16 party in a small city in Alabama.