A man charged with killing his parents and their friends a few days after being released from prison was indicted Friday by the Cumberland County grand jury on 11 charges related to a random shooting spree on an Interstate 295 exit ramp the day after the slayings.
Joseph Eaton, 34, is being held without bail. His attorney has asked that he get a psychological evaluation to determine if he is competent to assist in his own defense, setting up a possible insanity defense.
Police received scores of calls on the chaotic morning of April 18 from drivers in the area of the Yarmouth ramp off I-295 on the southbound side reporting that they and their vehicles had been shot at.
A Bowdoinham family, Sean Halsey, 51, and his two children, Justin Halsey, 29, and Paige Halsey, 25, were wounded in the shooting spree and taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. The men suffered injuries not considered life-threatening. Paige Halsey was critically injured, but her condition has improved and she is expected to survive.
Eaton is charged with 10 Class A crimes, most of which are punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, a Class C crime, punishable by up to five years in prison.
The Class A crimes are: one count of aggravated attempted murder, six counts of attempted murder with the use of a firearm and three counts of elevated aggravated assault with a firearm.
The punishment for aggravated attempted murder is up to life in prison.
All but three counts of the 10 Class A charges are related to the injuries suffered by the Halsey family. Three individuals who were shot at but had not been named previously are included in three counts of attempted murder.
Eaton has been charged with murder in the deaths April 17 of his parents, Cynthia R. Eaton, 63, and David Lee Eaton, 66, both of Ocala, Florida, and Kansas and the friends they were staying with, Robert C. Eger Jr., 72, and Patricia Deraps Eger, 62, who owned the home on Augusta Road in Bowdoin. A dog inside the home was also shot and killed.
He allegedly confessed to shooting his parents and their friends as well as shooting at vehicles on I-295.
Eaton is expected to be indicted on murder and other possible charges later this month by the Sagadahoc County grand jury.
The case stemming from the shooting spree is being prosecuted by the Maine attorney general’s office rather than the Cumberland County District Attorney’s office. The attorney general’s office prosecutes all homicide cases in Maine, and the Yarmouth case is expected to be consolidated with the homicide case in Sagadahoc County.
According to police, Cynthia Eaton picked her son up Friday from the Maine Correctional Center in Windham and took him to the Egers’ home where they were staying. Joseph Eaton had completed a sentence on an assault charge but was not ordered to serve probation.
Patricia Deraps Eger’s sister, who discovered the bodies and called 911, told police she had texted her sister at about 8:30 a.m. letting her know she’d be by the house at about 9 a.m. but didn’t hear back, the affidavit said.
The woman saw two drops of blood on the front steps as she approached the house, according to the affidavit. She opened the front door and called out, but no one answered.
She told police that she saw broken glass and blood on the floor as well as a body in the kitchen that was covered with a towel but couldn’t tell if it was Robert Eger or David Eaton.
A note allegedly found by investigators on the kitchen island said someone had been molested and no one did anything about it, but it wasn’t signed or addressed to anyone. Eaton said in a video posted April 17 that he had been molested as a child.
Neither police nor the attorney general’s office have said what the motive for Joseph Eaton’s alleged crimes might have been. Information about how he obtained the guns used in the alleged slaying and the Yarmouth incident has not been made public.
Eaton’s long and violent criminal history in Maine, Florida and Kansas prevented him from legally possessing firearms. He requested to move to Florida in 2014 to complete his probation for a Maine crime but his father refused to give up his guns, according to court documents. A condition of his probation included not having guns where he lived.
If convicted of murder, Eaton faces 25 years to life in prison. Maine law allows a life sentence to be imposed when there are multiple victims. Sentences in the Yarmouth shooting spree most likely would be served concurrently to a possible murder sentence if Eaton is convicted of charges in that case.