A man who police say fatally shot his parents and their two friends at a home in Maine and wounded three drivers on a highway because he thought police were following him had been released days earlier from prison, authorities said Wednesday.
Joseph Eaton, 34, was charged with four counts of murder in the deaths of his parents, Cynthia Eaton, 62, and David Eaton, 66, and their friends Robert Eger, 72, and Patricia Eger, 62, at their home in Bowdoin, Maine, police said in a news conference on Wednesday. He was booked into jail and was set to make an initial appearance in court later in the week, authorities said.
The shootings shocked the quiet community.
“This is very difficult for the community,” said Maine State Police Col. Bill Ross in a news conference. “This stuff doesn’t happen in Maine.”
Mike Sauschuck, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, said it was “an attack on the soul of our state.”
“It’s a shock to everybody,” he said. “You want to naturally say, ‘Well, it can’t be happening here in Maine. It happens everywhere else, but it doesn’t happen here.’ But the reality is that these senseless acts can and do happen anywhere at any time.”
Eaton had been released from the Maine Correctional Center on Friday, where he had been serving time for aggravated assault, Ross said. His mother picked him up, and they drove to the home where the murders occurred, Ross added.
A man believed to be the suspect posted on Facebook the same day Eaton was released from prison saying that he was feeling thankful, The Associated Press reported.
“It’s finally over,” the man says in the video. “There are so many people I can’t wait to see.”
The AP also reported that a man believed to be Eaton posted a video “criticizing people who he said are Christian and don’t give people a second chance.”
“What good does it do to hate somebody?” he said, choking back tears, the AP said. “You know, it destroys you.”
The Independent reported he posted a video sobbing about “trauma” and “being molested” before the incident.
The suspect was prohibited from possessing a gun in Maine, the AP reported. He had also been charged with more than a half-dozen crimes over the past decade, according to records reviewed by AP.
Ross laid out the timeline of events that started Tuesday before 9:21 a.m. when a friend made the grim discovery on Augusta Road and called 911.
Deputies found the Egers and Cynthia Eaton dead inside the home, authorities said. David Eaton was found dead in a barn on the property. They all died from gunshot wounds.
The AP, citing a neighbor, reported that one of the victims was known for delivering baked goods to neighbors on holidays.
“They were very kind people,” Denise Pride said, according to the AP. “The neighbors were texting, shocked that it happened, and to them.”
As police were investigating the homicides at the home, multiple police agencies responded to shots fired at multiple vehicles on a highway about 20 miles away.
Four vehicles were hit by gunfire, officials said. Three family members in the same car were hospitalized. Sean Halsey, 51, and Justin Halsey, 29, suffered non-life-threatening wounds. Paige Halsey, 25, was listed in critical condition, Ross said.
Ian Halsey told the AP that two of his cousins were shot on the highway, and his uncle suffered shrapnel injuries.
“They were just passersby in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said of his family, adding they did not know the alleged shooter. “It’s horrible what happened.”
Police said they found the suspect in a wooded area near a vehicle believed to be his off a highway ramp.
Ross said the suspect admitted to killing his parents and their friends and shooting at the vehicles on the highway because he thought police officers were following him.
Details about a weapon, a motive and the status of the charges in the highway shootings were unclear on Wednesday. It was unclear if the suspect had an attorney, the AP reported.
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Joseph Eaton released from prison days before killings: Cops
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