A police officer hangs a rope blocking off the driveway to 1459 Augusta Road in Bowdoin the day after four bodies were discovered at the home. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Joseph Eaton, who confessed this week to killing his parents and two family friends, had a lengthy history of violence toward those closest to him.

His court records show recurring patterns of explosions and remorse, substance use and treatment, and failed attempts at rehabilitation.

Now facing four counts of murder, the 34-year-old Eaton is accused of going on a shooting spree days after he was released from his latest prison term, killing Cynthia Eaton and David Eaton and Robert and Patti Eger.

Records found in courts in Maine, Kansas and Florida detail a pattern of repeated abuse and harassment that stretch back to his teens.

By the time Eaton returned to Maine, likely around 2010, he had already been in and out of the court system.

As a teenager and young adult in Kansas, he had faced numerous charges including criminal threatening, aggravated battery, burglary and violating a protection order.


Joseph Eaton Two Bridges Regional Jail

By spring 2013, Eaton had separated from his fiancee, who maintained custody of their 2-year-old son, according to documents filed in Androscoggin County Superior Court. She had filed a protection from abuse order against him.

On April 6, 2013, his fiancee took her son to meet his father, who got into her car and told her that he wanted to mend their relationship, according to an affidavit from a Lewiston police officer. When she resisted his attempts to kiss her, Eaton began asking whether she was seeing anyone else and demanded to see her phone.

According to the affidavit, Eaton told her, “I’m going to kill you,” pushed her against the door of the car and began choking her.

Eaton’s young son began crying and said, “No Dadda,” the document states.

She managed to press the horn and Eaton got out of the car. She then drove away, calling 911 as he followed her. 

Eaton pleaded guilty to aggravated assault, was sentenced to three years probation and was ordered to have limited contact with his fiancee and their son.


But a year later, he was back in front of a judge for the first of what would be several probation violations. In August 2014, his fiancee complained that Eaton continued to send her a slew of messages despite her repeated requests to stop.

“His emails continue to be excessive and show his obsessive behavioral patterns,” she wrote in a statement to Lisbon police. “It is progressing to the point where I fear for the safety of our son and myself.”


Eaton soon remarried and had a second child. The pattern of abuse continued.

In December 2015, he was arrested on domestic assault charges while living in a Waldoboro mobile home with his wife, her child from another relationship, and their newborn, according to court documents filed at Lincoln County Superior Court.

His wife, who had visible bruises and red marks on her neck and arms, told police that Eaton had thrown her down by the neck and slapped her in the face.


“You could see both her eyes starting to swell,” an affidavit states.

Eaton, described as a “stay-at-home father” in court documents, also was charged with domestic violence against his 2-year-old stepson, who hit his head during the struggle.

As officers brought him to jail, Eaton repeatedly kicked the door of the police cruiser and “banged” his head against the car window and the cage, according to the arresting officer.

He alternately threatened to attack police and promised that he was nonviolent.

“I would never hit anyone,” he told police.



His run-ins with the law began in Kansas, where he lived as a teen and young adult.

The Wichita Eagle reported that Eaton was sentenced to nine months of probation for burglary, theft and battery in the mid-2000s when he was still a juvenile.

On several occasions throughout his adult life, family and friends advocated for Eaton and his potential to reintegrate into society.

A year after he was convicted of robbery in 2009, more than a dozen people wrote letters supporting a motion to allow him to serve the rest of his probation in Maine with his fiancee, who was pregnant at the time, according to records shared by the Kansas newspaper.

Friends, teachers and members of the her family cited Eaton’s strong coursework at a local community college and volunteer work with a church youth group, according to court records.

The Egers, longtime family friends who lived in Bowdoin, were among those who vouched for Eaton.


“He’s becoming a fine young man,” Patti Eger wrote. “He’s doing his best to stay on the straight-and-narrow, and I see changes in him that will benefit him long term.”

David and Cynthia Eaton, left, and friends Patti and Bob Eger, were found dead in the Egar’s home in Bowdoin on Tuesday. The Eaton’s son Joseph Eaton was charged with the murder and shooting of 3 more people in Yarmouth on Tuesday. Contributed photos

In 2013, Eaton hoped to serve out his probation at his parents’ home in Florida. While he was granted probation, he was unable to move in with his parents because his father, David Eaton, refused to give up his firearms. Federal law prohibits a convicted felon from living in a home with a gun.

Eaton was back in prison in Maine in 2017 when his parents again lobbied for his transfer to Florida so that they could help him reintegrate into society. They cited their previous success helping their older son, a former Marine, overcome his post-traumatic stress syndrome, earn a degree and find a job.

“Our efforts helped him become a positive contributor to society and he now has a bright future with a great career,” David Eaton wrote in a letter to Lincoln County Superior Court. “Please allow us the opportunity to provide the same level of support and guidance for Joseph.

But less than a year after his release, Eaton was arrested in Florida after a violent encounter with police, according to a Nassau County police report.

In January 2018, deputies responded to a call from his aunt, Kimberly Castejon, who said Eaton was “having a mental breakdown” and had a gun. She told police she believed he was going to shoot himself or others.


Deputies arrived to find Eaton breaking household items with a wooden baseball bat. He charged at them with the bat, before a deputy used a Taser on him and wrestled the bat away. After deputies were able to restrain him, Eaton said that he was on methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.


Police have declined to answer questions about Eaton’s motive for shooting his parents, the Egers and their dog.

According to an affidavit, responding officers found a note at the Egers’ Bowdoin home saying the writer “had been molested,” had been freed from pain and wanted a new life. The note, which was not signed, echoed a video Eaton had posted on social media the day before the shootings in which he claimed that he had been molested and said he wanted a second chance.

Eaton’s mental health and substance use issues are frequently noted in the court files. Several records note a bipolar disorder diagnosis and on-and-off treatment, as well as court-mandated counseling sessions.

According to court records, Eaton was under the influence of alcohol or drugs when he assaulted his wife in 2015, when he attacked police officers in 2018 and when he violated his probation by driving drunk in 2015.

After his domestic violence arrest in 2015, an assessment of Eaton noted that he was in stable weekly counseling, which he said “appeared to be working well.”

Still, the document said Eaton posed “a concern to the community’s safety with a high probability.”

“Probationer Eaton is likely to reoffend.”

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