Col. William Ross of the Maine State Police speaks during a news conference about a shooting that claimed four lives in Bowdoin on Tuesday. At left is Commissioner Michael Sauschuck, and at right is Yarmouth Police Chief Daniel Gallant.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Maine State Police say 34-year-old Joseph Eaton has confessed to killing his parents and two family friends in Bowdoin on Tuesday shortly before he shot and wounded three more people on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth.

The bodies of Cynthia Eaton, 62, and David Eaton, 66, of Florida, and Robert Eger, 72, and Patti Eger, 62, were found Tuesday morning in the Egers’ home on Augusta Road in Bowdoin, state police said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The media briefing became emotional at times, with state officials calling the shootings heinous.

“When you have a series of events like occurred yesterday, I look at that as an attack on the soul of our state,” Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Sauschuck said. “It’s a shock to everyone. … The reality is these senseless acts can and do happen anywhere at any time.”

Police said the Egers and Cynthia Eaton were found inside the home. David Eaton was found in a barn. All four died of gunshot wounds and their deaths were ruled homicides by the state medical examiner.

Joseph Eaton has been charged with murder in their deaths and will appear in West Bath District Court at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The Maine Office of the Attorney General will prosecute the case, according to a statement from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.


Eaton had just been released from prison on Friday and was brought to the house in Bowdoin by his mother, police said.

No charges have been filed yet in the I-295 shootings, though Eaton is considered the sole person of interest.

Police identified those shot on the interstate as Sean Halsey, 51, and his children, Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 25. All are from Bowdoinham and were taken to Maine Medical Center. Paige Halsey was in critical condition Wednesday. Sean and Justin Halsey had non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Eaton, who has a criminal history in Maine, Florida and Kansas that dates to 2008, is being held without bail at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset, Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said.

An investigator attaches a cable barrier on Wednesday at the driveway of a home on Augusta Road where four bodies were discovered on Tuesday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer


Aided by several local departments, state police have been leading investigations at three crime scenes: the Bowdoin house and two sites on the interstate between Exits 17 and 15.


Sagadahoc County Sheriff Joel Merry said Tuesday that the department was notified of a shooting inside the home at 1459 Augusta Road around 9:20 a.m. A relative who was unable to reach the victims went to the house, found one body and called 911. Deputies arrived at the home within 10 minutes and found the other victims, police said.

Police also found a dog that had been shot at the home. A friend of the family has identified the dog as Max, a goldendoodle the Egers adopted about nine months ago.

An hour later, officers from Yarmouth, Falmouth and Cumberland assisted state troopers in responding to several reported shootings on I-295 south near mile marker 17 and the Exit 15 off-ramp in Yarmouth, Maine State Police Col. William Ross said Wednesday. Three southbound vehicles and one northbound vehicle were struck by bullets.

While some officers aided Yarmouth fire and rescue in providing first aid to the three shooting victims, others searched the area near the Exit 15 off-ramp where they found an abandoned vehicle they believed Eaton had been driving.

Police found Eaton in a nearby wooded area at around 11:15. He told investigators he shot at the vehicles because he thought he was being followed by police.

Police at the scene of a shooting in Yarmouth on Tuesday.  Derek Davis/Staff Photographer



There is no evidence of a connection between Eaton and the Halseys.

Sauschuck said Wednesday that it was only by chance that the interstate shootings took place in Yarmouth rather than on some other stretch of highway.

“That community wasn’t the nexus of what occurred,” he said. “There wasn’t a natural connection, which I hope to a certain extent makes that community feel safer.”

A police officer hangs a rope blocking off the driveway to 1459 Augusta Road in Bowdoin Wednesday, a day after the bodies of Cynthia Eaton, David Eaton, Robert Eger and Patti Eger were found on the property. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Details on Paige Halsey’s condition were unknown Wednesday night.

“At this point we would like to thank all the first responders, law enforcement and medical staff that have provided such excellent care,” her father, Sean Halsey, said in a statement Wednesday. “Everyone is currently making progress towards healing and we are optimistic for full recovery.”

Maine Med said Wednesday that it did not have any information on the Halsey family.


At the news conference, Merry said he is heartsick over the tragedy and it will take time for the community to heal.

“Maine is a small state and it has often been referred to as a single community. I think Bowdoin epitomizes that very much,” he said. “There’s one country store in the town of Bowdoin. Everyone knows everyone’s business, but in a friendly way.”

Tuesday’s shootings are among the most deadly in Maine’s history. In 2014, Joel Smith shot and killed his wife, Heather, and their three children, Jason Montez, 12, Noah Montez, 7, and Lily Smith, 4, with a 12-gauge shotgun and then turned it on himself. A state police spokesperson at the time said it was the sixth time since 1941 that four people had been killed in a multiple homicide in Maine.


Sauschuck acknowledged the need for law enforcement to be as transparent with the public as possible, but he said that police would withhold some details, including Eaton’s suspected motive because disclosing it could impact prosecutors’ ability to try the case.

Both during and after Wednesday’s news conference, police declined to answer several questions about the gun or guns Eaton allegedly used, including what type of gun was used, and how, when and where he obtained it. Under federal law, Eaton is banned from buying or possessing a firearm because of a previous felony conviction.


According to an update from the Town of Yarmouth on Tuesday, police recovered a gun that was initially missing from the interstate crime scene.

Officials also declined to share more details about the highway shootings, including whether Eaton was shooting from his car as he drove or pulled off the road to fire at vehicles.

Police also refused to answer questions about where Eaton had been staying since his release from prison, except to say that his parents had been “involved in his accommodations.”

State police took the unusual step of asking Two Bridges Regional Jail not to release Eaton’s booking photo. They declined Wednesday to explain the reasoning behind the decision.

Joseph Eaton in a photo posted to his Facebook page on Friday, the day he was released from prison in Maine. Facebook photo


Eaton posted several messages on Facebook in the days before about his struggles and desire for forgiveness. He had just been released from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Friday after serving time for a probation violation, according to the Maine Department of Corrections.


Eaton’s criminal history in Maine and Florida dates to 2013 and includes convictions for felony aggravated assault, domestic violence and violence against a law enforcement officer, according to jail and court records in both states. He has served time in prison for possessing a concealed firearm as a convicted felon.

In 2017, at an evaluation for mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence, Eaton disclosed he had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder. The doctor’s report revealed “lifestyle instability and aggressive and violent behavior toward his ex-wife related to his consumption of alcohol and history of controlling behaviors,” according to court records.

The report said Eaton appeared to be preoccupied with his ex-wife and had outbursts and aggressive behavior.


State and local police leaders Wednesday would not comment on how the shootings in Bowdoin and Yarmouth fit into a national conversation on rising gun violence and gun control. They praised their departments for working together on what Maine State Police Col. William Ross called “one of the most dynamic … criminal investigations, crimes in progress, that we’ve seen in Maine.”

In a written statement, Cumberland County District Attorney Jacqueline Sartoris called Tuesday’s violence “entirely foreseeable” and pressed lawmakers and the public to fight for stricter gun control measures.

“America and Maine have a gun violence problem because our nation is saturated with guns,” the statement read. “No motive will adequately explain an end to four lives in Bowdoin. No understanding of motive will mend the trauma of violence committed on Maine’s most traveled highway, violence that only a gun could deliver. This is madness, and Maine people know it.”

Staff Writer Lana Cohen contributed to this report.

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