Joseph Eaton, 34, enters the West Bath District Court for his first appearance Thursday as he faces four counts of murder in the death of his parents and family friends. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

When Lisa Shea arrived at her sister’s house on Augusta Road in Bowdoin around 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, she found drops of blood near the front door. When she stepped inside, she saw broken glass, more blood, “bullet holes everywhere” and a body covered by a towel.

She stepped outside to call 911 – setting off the events that would soon lead to the arrest of Joseph Eaton, 34.

Eaton is charged with murder in the fatal shooting of his parents, Cynthia Eaton, 62, and David Eaton, 66, of Ocala, Florida, and their friends, Robert Eger, 72, and Patti Eger, 62, Shea’s sister. Police say Eaton confessed to also shooting three people on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth, but has yet to be charged in those cases.

Police arrived within 20 minutes of Shea’s call and found the other three bodies. Within the next hour, authorities started getting calls about people being shot on Interstate 295. A state trooper took Eaton into custody near the interstate at 10:49 a.m.

Eaton confessed to the shootings shortly after he was taken into custody, police said Wednesday.

His parents had flown from Florida to be there when he was released from prison in Maine – and his mother had picked him up from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham on Friday and brought him to the Bowdoin home of the Egers, who were longtime family friends.


In his brief initial appearance at West Bath District Court Thursday morning, Eaton was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and ankle chains just after 10:30 a.m. He was wearing a bulletproof vest over his orange prison garb. He mostly kept his head down except for one glance at a small group gathered in the back of the courtroom.

Robert Eger, the son of the Bowdoin victims, was in the group, according to a companion who declined to answer any more questions.

The proceeding lasted only three minutes. Eaton agreed to delay his bail hearing and will continue to be held without bail at Two Bridges Regional Jail in Wiscasset. He did not have to enter a plea because he has not yet been indicted, and spoke only to acknowledge the four murder charges against him.

Each charge carries a sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment.

James Mason, standing in for Eaton’s court-appointed defense attorney, Andrew Wright of Brunswick, called the shootings “undeniably tragic,” but asked the public to reserve judgment while the defense team gathers information.

Wright did not return a message Thursday.


Eaton is scheduled to return to court on June 28.


An affidavit filed by Maine State Police Detective Hugh Landry describes the gruesome crime scene in Bowdoin.

Shea had come to the Augusta Road home to pick up a sweatshirt she had left during a recent visit. She had been staying with her sister for Easter but had left to make room for the Eatons.

As she approached the door, Shea saw two drops of blood on the front steps. She opened the door and yelled, but got no response, the affidavit states.

Investigators walk around the scene in Bowdoin where four bodies were found Tuesday morning. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

As she entered the home, she saw the broken glass and blood smeared on the floor, and the body covered by the towel.


She lifted the towel and thought it was Robert Eger because the shirt looked familiar, but told police that she could not be certain because he so closely resembled David Eaton.

Shea started to follow drag marks into the house, observing several guns and bullet holes, but turned around to go outside and call 911, the affidavit states.

The document did not say how many or what kind of firearms were found inside the home in Bowdoin, and police have refused to answer questions about the weapons or how Eaton, a felon prohibited from owning a firearm, had gotten access to one.

A deputy from the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office arrived at the home at about 10:40 a.m. and found the other victims. The bodies of Patti Eger and Cynthia Eaton were inside the house, while David Eaton was found in a barn. Police also found a dog that had been shot at the Bowdoin home. A friend of the family has identified the dog as Max, a goldendoodle the Egers adopted last year.

In the kitchen, a detective found an unsigned note that stated the writer had been molested “and that there was nothing done about it.” It went on to say that the writer was “being freed of pain” and “wanted a new life,” the affidavit states. The note was not signed or addressed to anyone, police said.

The day before the shootings, Joseph Eaton had posted a video on Facebook saying he was “scared to death about what people would say” about it. In the video, he is sitting in a car and tears up as he talks about how people “claim to be Christian and can’t forgive somebody or understand what they go through.” He goes on to ask for forgiveness and says he’s been dealing with trauma.


“Being molested and stuff you know, it destroys somebody,” he said. “I know I’m good for my kids, and I just wish someone would forgive me.”

Shea told detectives she expected the Egers and Cynthia, David and Joseph Eaton to be at the house.

She did not know if any vehicles were missing from the property, affidavit states.

Sate police inspect at a vehicle with bullet holes in the windshield in Yarmouth on Tuesday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


At 10:28 a.m., about an hour after the bodies were found, a woman called 911 saying she was passing a car on I-295 when a man started shooting at her car. One minute later, another call came in that three people had been shot on the interstate.

Sean Halsey, 51, of Bowdoinham and his children, Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 25, had been shot. Paige Halsey remained in critical condition at Maine Medical Center on Thursday night, but her condition is improving, a state police spokesperson said in an email.


Another caller told dispatch at 10:48 a.m. that there was a “suspicious male” standing in the middle of the roadway at Exit 15 and waving his hands, and that he appeared to have blood on him, the affidavit states.

Colby College junior Rose Clayton was driving on I-295 Tuesday when a man driving the car in front of her abruptly pulled over, got out and pointed a gun at her. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Later in the day, after Eaton was in custody, Rose Clayton, 21, told a detective that she had been traveling to an appointment in Falmouth that morning when she had seen four vehicles stopped on the shoulder of the interstate, which “she thought was weird,” according to the affidavit.

As she began to take Exit 15, a small gray car stopped abruptly and a stocky man with short or no hair got out of the driver’s side and pointed a handgun at her, the affidavit states.

“I went into complete fight-or-flight mode,” Clayton said.

When officers arrived on the interstate that morning, they found an abandoned vehicle on the off-ramp that they believed the shooter had been driving.

Police said Wednesday that Eaton told them that he shot at cars because he thought he was being followed by police.


The gray car he had been driving, which had several bullet holes in the front windshield and small-caliber and large-caliber cartridge casings in the passenger seat, was later identified by police as the Buick Encore David Eaton had rented on April 14 when the Eatons arrived at the Portland International Jetport. The rental car was due to be returned on April 22, the affidavit says.

Joseph Eaton has not yet been charged in the shooting of the Halseys, but police have said there is no evidence of a connection between him and that family.


After the shootings, friends remembered Patti and Bob Eger as the type of people who would do anything for anyone.

Patti and Robert Eger Photo courtesy of Linda Walker

She always had a smile on her face and loved to feed friends when they came to visit. He was a good guy who “would give you the shirt off his back,” Linda Walker, a longtime friend of Patti Eger, said on Wednesday. They had one son, who lives in Texas, and attended the West Bowdoin Baptist Church.

“These were very good people,” Walker said. “They didn’t deserve to die. This has left their son and daughter-in-law without parents.”


Cynthia Eaton’s mother and stepfather, Betty and Kenneth Fagan, said the couple had been married for 38 years and shared a love of motorcycles. Cynthia Eaton was excited to buy one brand-new for the first time in 2003, the same year as the 100th anniversary of Harley Davidson. She and her husband traveled across the country on their bikes.

David and Cynthia Eaton  Facebook photo

“Her and Dave, they hit every state except Alaska and, I believe, Washington,” Betty Fagan said. “When we were in Hawaii, they even rented motorcycles to go up to the volcano.”

The couple moved around the country, including to Maine, while David Eaton was in the Navy. That’s where the Eatons became friends with the Egers, and they had remained close for years, Betty Fagan said.

The Eatons later moved near her parents in Missouri and then followed them back to Florida.

“She always wanted to be close to us,” Betty Fagan said.

Cynthia was “a go-getter,” Kenneth Fagan said. She worked over the years as a waitress and also drove a school bus for disabled children in Florida.

“It anybody was going to get the most tips at the restaurant, she was,” he said. “She just had that type of personality – very outgoing, southern charm.”

Staff Writer Megan Gray contributed to this report. 

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