A 34-year-old Maine man who had recently been released from prison killed his parents and two of their friends on Tuesday, then began shooting at cars on a nearby highway, injuring three other people, police said.
Joseph Eaton has been charged with four counts of murder in connection to the fatal shootings of his parents, 66-year-old David Eaton and 62-year-old Cynthia Eaton, inside the home of their friends Robert Eger, 72, and Patricia Eger, 62, who were found dead in the barn on the property, Maine State Police said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Police said Cynthia had picked up her son from the Maine Correctional Center on April 14 after he served a two-year sentence for aggravated assault, and he had been staying with the Egers in Bowdoin.
The bodies were found on Tuesday at around 9:21 a.m. by a neighbor, who then called the authorities. Shortly after the bodies were found, at around 10:30 a.m., police responded to a shooting on a highway in Yarmouth, 25 miles south of Bowdoin.
Police said Sean Halsey, 51, and his two children, Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 25, were injured in the shooting and taken to Maine Medical Center. Paige is still in critical condition.
Joseph Eaton was found in a wooded area close to that shooting scene. He was taken into custody, where police said he confessed to killing his parents and his parents' friends. He also allegedly admitted to shooting at the Halseys’ car because he suspected them of being police officers who were following him.
In a tweet, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said she was “shocked and deeply saddened” by Tuesday’s events.
“My thoughts are with the families, friends and loved ones of those impacted by this tragedy, and I am praying for the quick recovery of those who are hospitalized,” Mills said.
No motive has been released by authorities. In a video that was posted by Eaton on Facebook less than 24 hours before the shootings, he cries as he says he deserves a second chance and forgiveness for his past wrongs.
It's unclear what type of firearm was used in the shootings or how Eaton would have obtained it. Maine law prohibits someone with his criminal history from possessing a gun; the state also doesn’t require background checks for private sales.
Gun violence in the US is a public health crisis, according to the American Public Health Association. It is a leading cause of premature death in the country, responsible for more than 38,000 deaths annually. As of April 19, at least 5,414 people have died from gun violence this year, and another 7,194 have died by suicide, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.