PORTLAND, Maine—A frantic 911 call to report at least one person had been fatally shot led law enforcement to discover four bodies at a home in Maine and eventually to arrest a man who fired at vehicles on a nearby highway before confessing to police that he was behind the killings.
According to heavily redacted transcripts from 30 emergency calls that the Maine Department of Public Safety provided to The Associated Press on Friday, the first sign of trouble on April 18 came with a call at 9:18 a.m. The dispatcher tells one of the voices on the phone not go back inside the property in rural Bowdoin, but to return to a vehicle and wait for police to arrive. Dispatch asks about a bullet hole in a vehicle and how many people live at the house.
“And who do you think is the deceased?” the dispatch asks the caller. The caller’s response is redacted.
Authorities identified those killed as the parents of the shooting suspect, Cynthia Eaton, 62, and 66-year-old David Eaton; along with their longtime friends, Robert Eger, 72, and 62-year-old Patti Eger.
The agency removed many details from the calls as well as the identities of the callers in the documents requested under Maine’s Freedom of Access Act but the volume of calls points to chaos and the time stamps indicate a quickly evolving situation. Shannon Moss, state police spokesperson, said the redactions were necessary because the investigation is ongoing.
A little more than an hour after that first call, a flood of 911 calls in rapid succession indicated a gunman was firing wildly at vehicles about 20 miles away on I-295 in Yarmouth. State police quickly connected the dots between the two crime scenes, even as calls were made to police dispatchers in Augusta, Brunswick, Houlton, Westbrook and Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties.
The I-295 shootings left three people injured.
After his arrest in Yarmouth, 34-year-old Joseph Eaton confessed to the killings in Bowdoin as well as the highway gunfire, police said. He had been released from prison just days earlier after completing a sentence in Maine for a probation violation following a sentence in Florida for aggravated assault, part of a long criminal history in Maine, Kansas and Florida.
Eaton has been charged with four counts of murder but has not yet been charged in the highway shootings.
By David Sharp