Joseph Eaton walks into a courtroom at West Bath District Court for his arraignment in July. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

The man who admitted to fatally shooting his parents and another couple in Bowdoin before opening fire on Interstate 295 in April has withdrawn his insanity plea.

Joseph Eaton, who told the Press Herald in June that he was not in control of his actions when he killed Cynthia and David Eaton and their friends Bob and Patti Eger, had entered pleas of not guilty and not criminally responsible to each of the 27 charges read at his arraignment in July. According to court documents dated Dec. 8, Eaton has withdrawn his pleas of not criminally responsible but is maintaining his not guilty pleas “at this time.”

David and Cynthia Eaton Photo from Cynthia Eaton’s Facebook

As a result of the change, the state will not be able to view a forensic report detailing Eaton’s mental health evaluations.

Eaton’s attorneys could not be reached Tuesday to discuss the reversal and what it might mean for their client.

The morning after shooting his parents and their friends in Bowdoin, Eaton opened fire on several cars while driving south on Interstate 295. He eventually surrendered in Yarmouth to police officers who responded to the highway shootings. Eaton later said he was still feeling the effects of several drugs he had taken after killing his parents and had mistaken the civilian cars for pursuing police officers.

The highway shootings resulted in serious but non-fatal injuries to Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 26, and minor wounds to their father, Sean Halsey, 51. Eaton was charged with five counts of attempted murder for the Yarmouth shootings.


Following his arrest, Eaton agreed to participate in an unusual series of interviews with the Press Herald from his cell at Two Bridges Regional Jail. Over the course of more than 10 hours, he detailed many of the factors that he says led to a “psychotic break” on April 17, including a history of childhood sexual abuse, addiction to drugs and a brutal incarceration system. Again and again, he said that he loved his parents and that he did not understand why he would hurt them just days after finishing a five-year prison term.

“I had everything anybody could possibly want when they got out of prison,” he said. “Look at where I am. I mean, how do you explain that? You can’t. There’s no explanation.”

Eaton told the Press Herald before his arraignment that he wanted to take responsibility for his actions. But he also said he was considering moving forward with a trial so he could go through psychological testing and discover the root of his violent tendencies.

Patti and Robert Eger Courtesy of Linda Walker

After Eaton’s arraignment in July, Assistant Attorney General Bud Ellis said that he was not surprised that Eaton had pleaded not guilty and not criminally responsible. Andrew Wright, one of Eaton’s lawyers, said the team was considering an insanity defense but had not yet committed to that tactic.

But even though they knew Eaton would likely plead not guilty, as defendants usually do at the outset of criminal proceedings, some highway victims and family members of the dead struggled at the time to contain their emotions when they learned of his plea.

“My victim’s advocate told me that he’s going to plead not guilty,” Angie Kensell, whose car was riddled with bullets after the highway shooting, said in July. “But knowing it and hearing it is a totally different thing.”

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