MADISON — Carroll Tuttle Jr. went on a shooting rampage Wednesday morning that claimed the lives of his partner, their son and a neighbor over the false belief that his partner was having an affair, a family member of the neighbor said.

Michael J. Spaulding, 21, of Gorham, said by phone Thursday that there was no way his father — Mike R. Spaulding — was doing anything improper with neighbor Lori Hayden. He said Hayden was in an abusive relationship with Tuttle Jr., and his father was trying to help her get out of that situation.

Michael J. Spaulding said Tuttle Jr. might have believed the affair was real, but it wasn’t. The elder Spaulding’s girlfriend, Sherry, was there when the shooting took place. He said Sherry called him a few minutes later, saying Tuttle Jr. had just shot his father.

“Sherry came out and she said, ‘What’s your problem?’ and he looked down and said, ‘That’s what you get’ … and he left. He just walked away,” Spaulding said. “Those allegations weren’t true because what was happening was Carroll was abusive and my dad was helping (Hayden) move out of the house and get away from that.”

Carroll Tuttle Jr., 51, shot and killed his partner and their son — 53-year-old Hayden and 26-year-old Dustin Tuttle — at their home at 316 Russell Road, according to police.

Police said Tuttle Jr. then shot and killed Mike R. Spaulding, 57, at his home at 299 Russell Road up the road, before returning to the area of his home and shooting and wounding Harvey Austin, 57, of Skowhegan. Deputies from the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office who had gone to the area then shot and killed Tuttle Jr. in his driveway.

An eyewitness on Thursday described the chaotic conclusion of the shooting, saying that deputies spotted Tuttle Jr.’s pickup truck and confronted him just after he had shot Austin in the face. Tuttle Jr. reportedly shot at the deputies, who quickly returned fire and killed the gunman, according to the eyewitness, Donald Curtis.

“Really tragic — messed me up,” said Curtis, who was not injured after a deputy helped him take cover. “It messed me up a little bit.”

Somerset County Sheriff Dale Lancaster revealed for the first time Thursday that Dustin Tuttle’s girlfriend, who was at the home and witnessed the shootings, made the initial 911 call. He said authorities aren’t identifying the girlfriend because she is a witness to the crimes. Lancaster said the difference between the young woman being alive and being shot to death was “5 ounces of pressure” — the time it takes to squeeze the trigger of a gun — “or our witness would have been a victim.”

“The girlfriend fled the residence and when she got to where she felt safe, she called,” Lancaster said.

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in a news release Thursday that police still were investigating the triple homicide after completing examinations at the crime scenes around 7 p.m. Wednesday. Autopsies of the three victims’ bodies were expected to be completed Thursday by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta, according to McCausland, and the autopsy of the body of Tuttle Jr., the gunman, was expected to happen Friday.

Police detectives “will continue to conduct interviews, consult with the medical examiner and attempt to determine the motive for Tuttle’s violence,” McCausland said.

The man wounded in the violence, Austin, continues to be treated at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and is expected to survive his wounds, McCausland said.

Both of Mike Spaulding’s sons — Michael Spaulding and Cory Miller — were at their father’s Russell Road home Thursday, beginning to sort through their father’s affairs. They said their father was in pajamas Wednesday morning when he probably heard Tuttle Jr. drive up his gravel driveway.

“My dad hears everything in the driveway, and he came out to see who it was, and the guy (Tuttle Jr.) shot him from his truck three times,” Spaulding said. “It was planned.”

Mike Spaulding’s girlfriend, Sherry, placed the second 911 call that brought the deputies to Mike Spaulding’s house. She had been in town for less than a week, having come from her home in North Carolina, when she witnessed her boyfriend’s killing, according to Spaulding. She was supposed to leave Maine on Sunday, but she departed early after the violence.

Harvey Austin, who is married to Trisha Austin, Hayden’s sister, was taken to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor for treatment of gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening, according to police. McCausland said just before noon Thursday that Austin still was being treated at the Bangor hospital and is “expected to survive his wounds.”

Lancaster said the three deputies involved in shooting Carroll Tuttle Jr. were Chief Deputy James Ross; his son, Detective Michael Ross; and Deputy Joseph Jackson.

The Office of the Maine Attorney General is investigating the officer-involved shooting, as is protocol in Maine, and the deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave in the meantime.

SHOOTING WITNESS

Donald Curtis, a next-door neighbor of Lori Hayden on Russell Road in Madison, on Thursday recounts seeing gunman Carroll Tuttle Jr. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

Police said the Wednesday morning shootings happened just before 7:30 a.m. at two homes along Russell Road, about 4 miles from the center of town in Madison. The locations are about 2.5 miles from downtown Skowhegan.

Donald Curtis, who lives at 294 Russell Road, next door to Hayden, said Thursday that he knew Tuttle well but was in total shock that he would do something like what happened Wednesday, right next door to his mobile home.

Curtis said he went out into his yard when he saw all the police and emergency vehicles going to Spaulding’s home. Spaulding’s girlfriend identified Tuttle Jr.’s pickup, he said. He said Hayden and her son worked for Harvey Austin, who runs a construction business.

Curtis saw Tuttle Jr. shoot Harvey Austin in the face, followed by what sounded like fireworks going off as sheriff’s deputies exchanged gunfire with Tuttle Jr.

“I was standing here with a sheriff, and one of them went down to Carroll’s to confront him and he just started to open fire,” Curtis said. “Apparently he went into the house and came out the back of the house and come around to the side and shot Harvey Austin right in the face — it was gunfire worse than fireworks. I see Harvey drop in the road. The sheriffs threw me under that truck over there when they started shooting.

“I didn’t see Carroll until it was all said and done. He was dead. It blew my mind.”

Deputies literally threw Curtis under his late father’s 1980 pickup truck to get him out of the line of fire, he said. He said he heard 20 or 30 gunshot rounds fired.

The Ford F-250 under which Curtis took cover has sentimental value to him.

“My father died seven years ago and left me that truck. It protected me yesterday,” he said.

Curtis also said he was told Tuttle Jr. had killed Spaulding because he believed Spaulding was involved in a relationship with Hayden.

“I knew Carroll. I grew up with him, went to school with him,” Curtis said. “He was crazy. … To do something like that, it ain’t right. Man’s got to be messed up somewhere.”

‘HE HAD A TEMPER’

Wayne Parlin, 63, who lives across from Tuttle Jr., said he went to his mailbox at the end of his wooded driveway about 10 a.m. to find his road closed off by police. In front of him, Parlin said, he saw Tuttle Jr. face down, his body jutting out into the road.

A Maine State Police trooper turns vehicles around Wednesday on Russell Road at the town line separating Skowhegan and Madison as investigators work at the scene of four fatal shootings. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

“He had one arm underneath of him and one arm on his back like they were going to handcuff him,” Parlin said.

Parlin said he’s lived across from Carroll Tuttle Jr. for 17 years and used to party with the family, drinking coffee brandy together. Parlin said Hayden and Tuttle Jr. were heavy drinkers, and that he would encounter Tuttle Jr. drunk, slurring his speech and not making a lot of sense.

While Parlin had seen Tuttle Jr.’s temper before, he believed that Hayden and Tuttle Jr. loved each other. But Tuttle Jr.’s anger was sometimes difficult to deal with.

“He could be a nice guy, but he had a temper,” Parlin said.

A few years ago, Parlin said, he took Tuttle Jr. and Tuttle Jr.’s son, Dustin, on a fishing trip. After hours of not catching anything, Parlin said Tuttle Jr. got angry.

“He stood up in the middle of the boat and talking to me, (he said) ‘I knew you’d do this, take me fishing and not show me where you catch your fish.'”

Dustin stayed quiet and didn’t take sides, Parlin said.

Tuttle Jr. also thought of himself as a mechanic and would buy, sell and trade cars, snowmobiles and other vehicles.

“Carroll, he was always dickering,” Parlin said.

Parlin knew Tuttle Jr. owned more than one gun, including a .22-caliber rifle and a hunting rifle, but he didn’t know him to have owned handguns.

A Maine State Police trooper turns vehicles around Wednesday on Russell Road at the town line separating Skowhegan and Madison as investigators work at the scene of four fatal shootings. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

PUBLIC, ADVOCATES REACT

Meanwhile, the fatal shootings have Madison and Skowhegan area townspeople in shock.

“People are devastated,” Dominique Doane, a server at the Madison Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street, said Thursday morning. “People are upset because they’re gone. They will be missed. The family was well known.”

Over at Buzzy’s Barber Shop on Main Street in Madison, Freeman “Buzzy” Buzzell, who has operated a barber shop since 1963, said Thursday that the shootings are all anyone is talking about.

“They’re saying just how sad it is and unfortunate,” Buzzell, 76, said, putting the finishing touches on a “high and tight” haircut. “It’s a whole different world, I think, now. I don’t know what the reason is for it, but it was a whole different world back when I was growing up. We never heard about any of the violence or anything, maybe occasionally, but …”

Brian Gordon, a Madison firefighter getting his hair cut Thursday, agreed.

“Everybody’s kind of in shock, I think. It’s a small community,” he said. “I don’t remember seeing anything like this. Everybody’s trying to picture who they were and how they knew them.”

Bob Thompson, also a Buzzy’s customer early Thursday morning, said he thought the shootings were an isolated domestic violence event.

“The whole world’s changing, but I still think Madison’s a pretty safe place to live,” he said. “That was just a family thing, that’s all. I don’t know what makes people do that, go off the deep end.”

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement that she spoke to Darla Pickett, a longtime Morning Sentinel reporter and mother of Lori Hayden, by phone on Thursday.

“I have known Darla for several years through her work as a reporter for the Morning Sentinel,” Collins said in a statement to the newspaper. “My heart breaks for her and her family, and I cannot imagine her grief. I hope that the love of her family and friends will help her get through this truly horrific tragedy.”

HELP WITH VIOLENCE

Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, speaks with reporters Wednesday about the deadly shootings on Russell Road at the town line separating Skowhegan and Madison. Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

The Madison killings also have underscored Maine’s long-standing problem of domestic violence, which is linked to about half of homicides in the state. Attorney General Janet Mills said that last year, 7 out of 16 homicide victims lost their lives as a result of domestic violence.

Skowhegan District Court on Thursday had no records of protection from abuse orders ever having been filed in connection with Tuttle Jr. or Hayden.

Melody Fitch, executive director at the Family Violence Project, said that while many of the facts of the Madison incident remain unclear, one is certain: Domestic violence affects everyone, including the victims, surviving victims, other family members and all members of the community.

“Abuse and violence, even lethal acts of violence, may occur in any neighborhood and in every community,” Fitch said via email Thursday. “While it is troubling to recognize, a quiet neighborhood in which everyone seems to know one another is as likely a scenario for inexcusable violence and abuse as any other.

“When we open our eyes and seek to understand, we will begin to break the isolation and silence that surrounds domestic violence and perpetuates its existence.”

Fitch said that if this tragedy has left someone feeling unsafe, worried or anxious, they can seek support by calling the Family Violence Project, serving Kennebec and Somerset counties, to speak with an advocate who can assist with confidential safety planning, information and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 877-890-7788.

Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Somerset and Kennebec counties, also weighed in on domestic violence, it having been one of her campaign themes when she ran for office.

“My heart aches for the victims,” she said in an email. “I hope victims of domestic violence and those trying to help them will call the police. We work very hard to keep victims safe with a highly skilled domestic violence investigator who has access to electronic monitoring and other tools.

“It can be too dangerous to try to leave without help. Domestic violence is a crime that needs to be reported.”

Portland Press Herald staff writer Matt Byrne contributed reporting.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow