In a series of rare interviews with the Portland Press Herald, accused killer Joseph Keaton confessed to killing his parents and family friends before shooting at cars on a Yarmouth highway.
While the interviews reveal some details about the case, even Eaton was not able to fully explain why he killed his family.
The crimes: On the morning of Tuesday, April 18 police were called to a home on Augusta Road in Bowdoin where four people — Cynthia R. Eaton, 63, David Lee Eaton, 66, Robert C. Eger Jr., 72, and Patricia Deraps Eger, 62 — had been found shot to death. Just an hour later, police responded to a report of multiple people shot and injured while driving on I-295 in Yarmouth.
Joseph Eaton, 34, was arrested and charged with murder. He faces up to life in prison if convicted. He is yet to issue a plea.
Those indicted on serious crimes rarely give interviews to the press awaiting trial. But Eaton agreed to speak to The Portland Press Herald, telling them that “his legal defense no longer matters to him.”
The story is worth the read, but here are a few highlights:
Eaton killed his mother first. Eaton told the Portland Press Herald that he took his mother’s gun from her purse and shot her while she was sitting on the couch. He then turned the gun on Patti Eger before shooting her husband as he walked in through the front door. He then walked outside and shot his father.
“These people were my family. This was all my family,” Eaton told the Press Herald. “Sometimes there are no answers.”
Troubled past: Eaton had been released from Maine State Prison just a week before the killings after serving a five-year sentence. His criminal record includes more than 15 other crimes dating back to 2013.
But Eaton’s problems began much earlier. In interviews with the Portland Press Herald, Eaton’s grandmother said Eeaton had “a bad temper,” and his brother says Eaton bullied him throughout childhood and manipulated those around him.
“He never did anything out of the goodness of his heart,” John Eaton told the Portland Press Herald. “I don’t think there was a goodness in his heart.”
Brook Miller, who grew up with Eaton, described him as emotionally unstable and known for flying into a rage. Eaton began drinking at age 11 and using drugs in high school. Eaton also claims to have been molested multiple times as a child.
Both of Eaton’s marriages ended after he assaulted his partners, the Press Herald reported.
Solitary confinement: Although Eaton’s prison records were not immediately available, Eaton told the Portland Press Herald he believes he spent up to two of the last five years in solitary confinement. During that period, he would only spend about two hours a day outside of his cell. Committing prisoners to solitary confinement has come under the fire of some mental health experts who say it can be harmful to inmates and further exaggerate mental health problems.
After getting out of prison, Eaton told the Press Herald, he felt “like a ghost.”
“The sensory deprivation followed by overwhelming sensory stimulation – it’s hard to tolerate,” Eaton told the Press Herald.
Day of the killings: On Sunday, April 16, Eaton’s parents helped him get a rental car. Eaton used the vehicle to buy and smoke $20 worth of crack cocaine, he told the Press Herald.
The next morning, Eaton had breakfast with the Egers and spent a few hours at Bob Eger’s work learning about construction. He told the Press Herald he was “frustrated” not everyone was willing to give him another chance after his release from prison, including his two former wives, both of whom declined interviews with the paper.
Eaton’s second wife had filed an order of protection from Eaton that expired less than a month earlier. Hoping for the chance to reconnect with his family, Eaton called his father-in-law but was told to stay away. He then recorded a tearful video on Facebook.
“You can’t forgive somebody or understand what they go through, you can’t give somebody a second chance, but you say you’re Christian. How does that make sense?” Eaton can be heard saying in the video.“Why can’t you just try to take it slow, try to get to know the person again? I just wish somebody would forgive me.”
Eaton then drove back to Eger’s home and “minutes later, four people were dead,” according to the Portland Press Herald. Eaton told the paper he believes he may have had a “psychotic break.”
“My good days far outnumber my bad days,” Eaton told the Press Herald. “But my bad days – they’re horrible. People get hurt.”
Eaton shot his mother and Patti Eger as they all sat on the couch. Eaton also killed Eger’s dog, a goldendoodle. Eaton told the Press Herald he closed the eyes of the deceased and covered them with blankets, “to show respect for what happened.” Eaton left a note stating he had been molested but told the Press Herald that is not why he shot his parents.
Yarmouth shootings: On Monday, Eaton stole several weapons from the home and drove to Lewiston, where he picked up friends and “enough drugs to kill himself.” The next day, he drove south “until he escaped the police or they killed him in a shootout,” the Press Herald reports.
During his drive south, Eaton thought he was being followed by police. He opened fire on I-295, striking several cars and injuring three people. Eaton then retreated into the woods and was prepared to die in a shootout, he told the Press Herald. But he had a change of heart and turned himself in.
Although drugs were found on his person, he insists that was not the reason he committed the killings. The motive may not even be known to Eaton.
“People are no longer walking this earth because of me,” he told the Press Herald.“Whatever the punishment is, I deserve it.”