WEST BATH, Maine (AP) — A sister who discovered a crime scene in which four people were shot to death arrived to broken glass, bullet holes, blood and guns strewn about the home, and the suspect was later arrested at the scene of a highway shooting with what appeared to be blood on him, according to state police.
Police found multiple cartridge casings of varying calibers in the vehicle driven by the suspect after shots were fired at vehicles along Interstate 295, wounding three people, state police said.
A state police affidavit released Thursday as the suspect, Joseph Eaton, made his first court appearance contained grisly details, a note found at the scene and a timeline for the events. Eaton showed no emotion during the brief hearing other than to acknowledge to the judge that he understood the charges.
One of his court-appointed attorneys, James Mason, acknowledged after the hearing that the shootings shook the state.
“What happened in Bowdoin is undeniably tragic. But I ask everybody to please reserve judgement,” he said.
Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said the next step for law enforcement is to complete the investigation and present the case to a grand jury while victim advocates provide support to family and friends of the victims. “This is a horrible crime, unimaginable loss being faced by the victims, and our hearts go out to the victims,” Robbin said.
Police have yet to discuss what might have been a motive behind the shootings on a rural property in Bowdoin and then along a busy interstate highway about 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Maine’s largest city, Portland. Police also have not discussed what gun or guns were used, or how Eaton obtained them.
Eaton, 34, has been jailed since his arrest Tuesday at a chaotic scene along Interstate 295, where traffic backed up as heavily armed law enforcement searched the area.
Police say Eaton confessed to killing four people, including his parents, in Bowdoin and wounding three people while shooting at vehicles. Eaton is charged with four counts of murder for the killings in Bowdoin but has not yet been charged in the highway shootings, officials said.
He had been released four days before the shootings from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham. Police say his mother picked him up from prison April 14 after he completed a sentence for aggravated assault.
The latest in a string of mass shootings in the U.S. began in the small town of Bowdoin, where four people were killed Tuesday, with three bodies discovered in a home and one in a barn, police said. The victims were identified as Joseph Eaton’s parents, Cynthia Eaton, 62, and David Eaton, 66, along with homeowners Robert Eger, 72, and Patricia Eger, 62, police said. The two couples were described as best friends.
Police previously said Eaton told them he began firing on several cars along I-295 soon after that because he thought he was being followed by police. Bullets struck a family in one of the vehicles, wounding Sean Halsey, 51; Justin Halsey, 29; and Paige Halsey, 25, police said. Paige Halsey was critically wounded, police said.
The crimes left the victims’ families and friends stunned.
Friends who knew Patricia Eger through her work as a dedicated volunteer and board member of Lisbon Area Christian Outreach, which operates a food pantry, described her as the deeply religious daughter of a lighthouse keeper, passionate about charity work and tirelessly helping others.
“She knew, automatically, what anybody needed,” said Carol Day, a fellow volunteer and one of several who gathered to remember their friend Thursday evening. “I think our community has lost a good person who cares so much about them.”
A state police affidavit indicated the discovery of the deaths in Bowdoin was made by Patricia Eger’s sister, who first noticed something was amiss when she saw blood on the steps leading into the home and then saw the carnage and a body. The affidavit noted all bodies were covered and that the family dog had been killed as well.
Investigators who arrived on the scene discovered an unsigned note on an island in the kitchen that referenced that someone had been molested, nothing was done about it and the writer wanted to be freed of pain.
The day before the shooting, a man believed to be Joseph Eaton posted an anguished live video on social media that referenced trauma including molestation. “Being molested and stuff, you know, it destroys somebody,” the man said. He also criticized people who call themselves Christians but are unwilling to forgive.
This story has been corrected with the correct spelling of Leanne Robbin’s name.