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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Gustaf Kilander

Maine shooting suspect Joseph Eaton left note about being ‘free’ after killing parents, two others and a dog


Court records in the Maine shooting spree revealed the grisly crime scene discovered by police called to the scene after suspect Joseph Eaton allegedly shot and killed four people, including his parents and their two friends.

Mr Eaton has reportedly confessed to the killings in Bowdoin, Maine. He was detained on Tuesday after allegedly opening fire while driving down a highway 20 miles away in Yarmouth, injuring three people.

The suspect appeared in court in West Bath on Thursday, his first appearance since the killings.

He was only released from prison on Friday after serving a term for separate offences and has now been charged with four counts of intentional or knowing murder.

The victims, who all died of gunshot wounds, include his parents Cynthia Eaton, 62 and David Eaton, 66, and their friends Robert Eger, 72 and Patricia Eger, 62.

The court records outline the scene that police encountered on Augusta Road on Tuesday morning.

The documents state that Ms Eger’s sister visited the home at about 9am, finding drops of blood near the door, WABI reported.

Inside, she discovered a number of guns and bullet holes. She exited the home and called 911.

Joseph Eaton, the suspect in a shooting spree in Maine, appears in court in West Bath, Maine, Thursday, April 20, 2023 (AP)

Police said on Wednesday that they found one victim in a barn and three others in the home. Court documents reveal that a dog was also shot at the scene.

Detectives searching the area also discovered a note stating that someone had been molested and that “there was nothing done about it”.

The note also stated that someone had been freed of pain and that the author of the note wanted “a new life”.

Not much later on Tuesday morning, police responded to the highway shooting where Sean Halsey, 51, and his two children, Justin, 29, and Paige, 25, had all been shot.

They were transported to Maine Medical Center.

The father and son suffered injuries not considered life-threatening while Ms Halsey was in critical condition. Mr Halsey said on Wednesday afternoon that his daughter’s breathing tube had been removed and that she was on the road to recovery.

The car the suspect had been driving was rented by his parents at Portland Jetport when they arrived in the state on 13 April to collect their son upon his release from prison.

The affidavit states that police found small and large calibre casings in the passenger side of the vehicle.

Mr Eaton was detained shortly before 11am in the woods close to exit 15 on I-295 in Yarmouth.

The calls from the highway shooting came in as police were investigating the scene at the home where the bodies were found.

One of the highway witnesses told the emergency services that a man had been standing in the middle of exit 15 waving his hands in the air and appearing to have blood on him. Court filings state the man was Mr Eaton.

While police have said that Mr Eaton has confessed to the shootings, they haven’t revealed when the victims were killed. It’s also unclear how the suspect got hold of the weapon or weapons used.

Following felony convictions in Maine and in Florida, where his parents were living, Mr Eaton was unable to legally own firearms.

Police have said that Ms Eaton picked up her son at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Friday where he had just finished serving a sentence after being convicted of assault. The mother reportedly took him to the home of the Egers where they had been staying, according to the Bangor Daily News.

The Thursday release of the affidavit revealed that Ms Eger’s sister told the authorities that she texted Ms Eger at about 8.30am on Tuesday to say that she would be at their house at about 9am that morning but she never got a response.

The sister had been staying at the home but had left to allow the Eatons to stay there while they collected their son from prison. She said she was going back to get some clothing she had left behind, according to WMTW.

When she arrived at the house, Ms Eger’s sister saw two drops of blood on the front steps of the house.

She opened the front door and called out but didn’t get a reply. She then spotted broken glass and blood on the floor in addition to a body covered by a towel on the kitchen floor.

The sister said she couldn’t tell if it was Mr Eger or David Eaton as they had similar appearances, but going off his clothing, she guessed it was Mr Eger.

She said she saw “bullet holes everywhere,” according to the legal filing.

She left when she saw drag marks throughout the home, waiting outside until police arrived.

The note was found on the kitchen island, but it wasn’t addressed to anyone or signed by the author, the affidavit states. The legal document said that the note “said someone had been molested there and there was nothing done about it. The note mentioned someone being freed from pain and the writer wanted a new life”.

In a video shared on Facebook on Monday, Joseph Eaton said he had been molested as a child.

The other two bodies in the home, likely those of Ms Eaton and Ms Eger had also been covered. The fourth body, reportedly that of Mr Eaton, was found in a barn on the property.

The court filing states that police found several firearms in the home.

When he appeared in court on Thursday, the suspect was dressed in orange inmate clothing as well as a bulletproof vest.

Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings asked the suspect if he understood the charges he’s facing, which he said he did. The suspect wasn’t requested to enter a plea since he hasn’t yet been indicted by a grand jury in Sagadahoc County.

The justice ordered that Mr Eaton be held without bail. Maine law states that bail isn’t available to those facing charges of murder, the Bangor Daily News noted.

Justice Billings added that the suspect must undergo a psychiatric evaluation to ascertain if he can be a part of his own defence. Mr Eaton is set to appear in court again on 28 June.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbins and Assistant Attorney General Robert Ellis are prosecuting the case.

Ms Robbins said following the hearing on Thursday that her office would be filing charges against the suspect in connection to the highway shooting in Yarmouth and that local police are still investigating that case.

She added that Maine State Police is investigating who owned the guns used in the shootings. She didn’t comment on how many weapons had been found and how many had been used, the Daily News reported.

“As a public safety measure, we want to know where he got the firearms,” Mr Robbins said.

Next, evidence will be presented to a grand jury for them to decide on possible indictments.

Attorney Andrew Wright of Brunswick has been appointed to defend Mr Eaton. Mr Wright was unable to attend Thursday’s court session – he was temporarily replaced by lawyer James Mason, also of Brunswick.

James Mason, the court appointed attorney for Joseph Eaton, the suspect in a shooting spree in Maine, speaks outside court in West Bath, Maine (AP)

Outside the court, Mr Mason said that he hoped that people would wait to dole out judgement regarding the allegations against Mr Eaton and allow the defence to prepare.

If Mr Eaton is convicted of murder, he could be sentenced to between 25 years and life in prison. Maine law allows judges to hand out life sentences to those convicted of several murders.

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