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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rachel Sharp and Gustaf Kilander

Who is Joseph Eaton? Everything we know about Maine shooting spree suspect


Two communities in Maine were rocked by gun violence when suspected gunman Joseph Eaton suddenly embarked on a shooting rampage – first at a home and then along an interstate.

Maine State Police said that officers were called to a house in the town of Bowdoin on 18 April morning to find four victims dead from gunshot wounds.

Not long after the grim discovery was made, an assailant randomly opened fire on cars driving along Interstate 295 in nearby Yarmouth.

Three people were shot in the second attack. The alleged gunman was taken into custody on the scene.

Here’s what we know so far about Joseph Eaton:

Who is Joseph Eaton?

Joseph Eaton, 34, was arrested over the two incidents. He was charged with four counts of murder over the victims in the home and is being held at Two Bridges Regional Jail.

He has not yet been charged over the highway shootings. He appeared in court on Thursday for the first time since the shootings.

The suspect has been charged with four counts of murder after reportedly shooting and killing his father David Eaton, 66; his mother Cynthia Eaton, 62; and their friends Robert Eger, 72; and Patricia Eger, 62.

The suspect left the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Friday when he was picked up by his mother, according to the state authorities.

A hearse leaves the scene of the shooting at the home in Bowdoin, Maine (AP)

The shooting took place at the home of the Egers. Three of the bodies were found inside the home, while Mr Eaton’s father was found at the property in a barn.

Not long after the grim discovery was made, an assailant randomly opened fire on cars driving along Interstate 295 in nearby Yarmouth.

Col Bill Ross of Maine State Police identified the three people injured on the highway as 51-year-old Shawn Halsey, 29-year-old Justin Halsey, and 25-year-old Paige Halsey. Ms Halsey remains in critical condition at Maine Medical Center.

Col Ross said there appears to be no connection between the Halsey family and Mr Eaton. Mr Eaton began shooting on the highway because he thought he was being hunted by the police, Col Ross added.

Speaking about the deceased, Col Ross said that “the office of the chief medical examiner determined that all died of gunshot wounds and were determined to be homicides”.

Court records made public on Thursday revealed the grisly crime scene discovered by police called to the residence.

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

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.

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 the three members of the Halsey family had 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 ahold 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 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.

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

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, Thursday, April 20, 2023 (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.

Eaton’s lengthy criminal record

Mr Eaton has a lengthy rap sheet going back more than a decade before the shooting spree.

Past convictions include burglary, felony aggravated assault, domestic violence, and violence against a law enforcement officer, as well as possessing a weapon as a felon.

Joseph Eaton was released from prison four days before shooting spree (Supplied)

Most recently, he was sentenced to eight months in prison for assault in March 2022. He was then returned to prison for violating his probation.

Based on his felony convictions, he also could not legally own a firearm.

The suspect had spent the last two years in jail, the colonel said.

“Mr Eaton was 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 – he admitted to killing his parents David and Cynthia and their friends Robert and Patricia in the residence at 1459 Augusta Road,” he said.

“He had also admitted that he shot vehicles on Interstate 295 because he thought he [was] being followed by police officers,” Col Ross said.

He added that “a few days ago, he was released from Windham Correctional Center, where he was serving 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 in Bowdoin where the murders occurred”.

When asked about the suspect’s living arrangements, Col Ross said, “He’s been in jail for two years and [on] April 14 of this year his mother picked him up at the Wyndham Correctional Facility”.

He added that “his parents were involved in his accommodations”.

Mr Eaton was sentenced in March 2021, according to the director of governmental affairs for the Maine Department of Corrections, Anna Black. He had been serving a sentence after a probation violation, the state official said on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.

State records reveal that Mr Eaton has a criminal history which meant that he couldn’t legally own a firearm.

Mr Eaton’s criminal past begins in 2008 in Kansas when he was charged with burglary. He was sentenced in 2009 and released in 2010.

He was sentenced to three years behind bars in May 2018 after being charged with three counts of aggravated assault of a first responder in Nassau County, Florida.

Within a month of being released on 15 February 2021, he was sentenced on 1 March for an assault in Maine.

Chilling video shared on Facebook

The suspect appears to have posted a sobbing Facebook video speaking about his “trauma” and “being molested” on Monday, The Independent can reveal.

Mr Eaton shared an emotional video of himself online on Monday where he said that people think he is “just another f*** up” and complained about people who “claim to be Christian”.

In the footage, he is seen sitting in a car filming himself as he chokes up with tears and goes on a confusing ramble.

“I’m probably going to get emotional just talking about it,” he said. “But a lot of people look at you and think ‘oh well there’s just another f*** up, another guy that can’t get his stuff together, treats people like s***’ and then they turn around and claim to be Christian. And 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. How does that make sense? Why can’t you just try to get to know the person again? What good’s it do to hate somebody? It destroys you. It’s not the way things were supposed to be done, the way things were made.”

Joseph Eaton posted a sobbing video online hours before the shooting (Facebook)

Mr Eaton then went on to say he wants forgiveness for “the things I did” as he said he has had “trauma for a long time”.

“Just need to try to 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. “I know I’m good for my kids. I just wish somebody would forgive me. Some people, I don’t get it.”

Suspect’s grandmother speaks out

Betty Fagan lost her daughter Cynthia Eaton in the shooting, who was the mother of the suspect. Police have not yet commented on a motive for the killings, after which Mr Eaton allegedly opened fire on an interstate.

Ms Eaton had picked up her son from prison on 14 April when he was released after serving a term for aggravated assault.

Ms Fagan said the suspect’s his parents had returned to Maine but that they were planning to move to Kansas, where they had previously lived.

“I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe he would do something like that,” she told the AP.

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