Maine man who confessed to killing parents, 2 others will enter pleas to settle case, lawyer says

WEST BATH, Maine (AP) — A man who confessed to killing both his parents and two of their friends before shooting at motorists on a highway plans to enter pleas Monday that will resolve his criminal case, his lawyer said.

Joseph Eaton withdrew his insanity defense late last year and his defense attorney told The Associated Press that they anticipate “resolving” the indictments for four counts of murder and other charges during a change-of-plea hearing.

Prosecutors declined comment on any plea agreement ahead of the court hearing.

Law enforcement officials say Eaton confessed to the killings on a property in rural Bowdoin, and to wounding three more people while shooting at vehicles on Interstate 295 in Yarmouth. The shootings came days after Eaton was released from prison for unrelated crimes. Eaton has been jailed again since his arrest in April 2023 near the tumultuous scene along the highway, where traffic came to a halt as heavily armed police searched for the gunman.

Those killed were Eaton’s parents, Cynthia Eaton, 62, and David Eaton, 66, along with longtime friends Robert Eger, 72, and Patti Eger, 62, the couple who owned the Bowdoin home where they all were staying. Also killed was the family dog, resulting in an animal cruelty charge.

Soon after the bodies were discovered on April 18, 2023, three people were injured when shots were fired wildly on I-295 in Yarmouth, about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside Portland, Maine’s biggest city. Eaton faced separate indictments because the two shootings at the Bowdoin home and on the highway happened in different counties.

Maine Public Safety Commissioner Michael Sauschuck called the shootings “an attack on the soul of our state.” But the heavy toll of the crime was surpassed months later when an Army reservist, who also lived in Bowdoin, killed 18 people at two locations in Lewiston, in what would become the state’s deadliest mass shooting.

Police still don’t know Eaton’s motive for the slayings.

An unsigned note found at the scene of the killings mentioned “someone being freed of pain and that the writer of the note wanted a new life,” according to a criminal affidavit. Eaton told the Portland Press Herald newspaper in jailhouse interviews that he was not in control of his actions at the time of the shootings and didn’t understand why he did it.

Eaton, 35, had a criminal history in Maine, Kansas and Florida, and had just completed a prison stint in Maine triggered by an aggravated assault case. Eaton’s parents were staying with their friends in Bowdoin after Cynthia Eaton picked up Joseph Eaton at a Maine prison on April 14.

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