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Accused Bowdoin shooting suspect to be held without bail as grim details from scene emerge

Joseph Eaton, the suspect in a shooting spree in Maine, appears in court in West Bath, Maine, Thursday, April 20, 2023. Eaton, who police say confessed to killing four people in a home and then shot three others randomly on a busy highway Tuesday, had been released days earlier from prison.
Patrick Whittle
/
AP
Joseph Eaton, the suspect in a shooting spree in Maine, appears in court in West Bath, Maine, Thursday, April 20, 2023. Eaton, who police say confessed to killing four people in a home and then shot three others randomly on a busy highway Tuesday, had been released days earlier from prison.

A relative who had been staying with Patricia and Robert Eger just days before they were killed returned to their home Tuesday to find blood, broken glass and several firearms strewn about.

She had left last Friday because friends of the Egers, Cynthia and Dave Eaton, needed a place to stay while they waited for their son, Joseph Eaton, to be released from prison, according to a police affidavit released Thursday in Sagadahoc County Superior Court. But when she texted her sister on Tuesday letting her know she would be swinging by to pick up a sweatshirt, she never got an answer.

The relative, Patricia Eger's sister, called police after finding a body laid out under a towel in the kitchen. Police later determined the homeowners, as well as Cynthia and Dave Eaton, along with the Egers' dog, had been killed by Joseph Eaton.

Those details emerged as Eaton was making his first appearance in court Thursday. They still leave many questions unanswered about the crime that shook Maine.

Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin told reporters investigators are still trying to learn about how Eaton got the guns as a convicted felon. She declined to comment about a possible motive.

Police say a note was left on the kitchen table saying the writer has been sexually abused and wanted a new life. It was not signed or addressed to anyone.

At the hearing, Eaton said he understood the four counts of murder charges against him. He agreed to be held without bail. His defense team has ordered a forensic psychological evaluation.

Family members of the Egers present at the hearing sat quietly in the back of the courtroom. They declined to comment.

"The victims' family is facing unimaginable loss and they are coping the best they can and they have so many questions about what happened to their loved ones in the time before the investigators appeared on the scene," Robbin said.

Andrew Wright, Eaton's attorney, said late Thursday evening that he will be focused on making sure Eaton's rights are protected. He urged the public to not prejudge him, saying he is presumed innocent.

"No one doubts or questions that the events that happened that day are tragic and many are saddened by it," he said. "Right now we do not know everything that happened that day and over the next few weeks and months, we will be working on that."

Eaton had been released from state prison on Friday after serving a two year sentence related to an assault charge. He has had a long, complicated history with the criminal justice system. He confessed to police that he shot his parents and the Egers after he was taken into custody on Tuesday, police say.

Robbin said Eaton will face future charges related to the shooting of three people on Interstate 295 near Yarmouth that occurred on the same day.

Eaton's next court date is June 28.

Reporter Caitlin Andrews came to Maine Public in 2023 after nearly eight years in print journalism. She hails from New Hampshire originally.