Man Sentenced to Life for Shooting Dead Parents and 2 of Their Friends: 'I Deserve Worse'

In April 2023, Joseph M. Eaton killed his parents and their friends as they prepared to welcome him home from prison

<p>Facebook (2)</p> David and Cynthia Eaton, left, and Patricia and Robert Eger, right.

Facebook (2)

David and Cynthia Eaton, left, and Patricia and Robert Eger, right.

The woman returned to her sister’s house for a forgotten sweatshirt and spotted two drops of blood on the front steps.

She opened the door to the Bowdoin, Maine, house and yelled, but no one answered that April 18, 2023 day, according to a later probable cause affidavit reviewed by PEOPLE.

Pushing into the door, Lisa Shea saw shattered glass and more blood. Walking into the kitchen, she found a man’s body covered with a towel, who she believed to be her brother-in-law.

There were also “several firearms laying out inside the home” and “bullet holes everywhere,” according to the affidavit.

She also noticed “drag marks” leading to another part of the home, per the affidavit, but Shea stopped following them and called 911.

When authorities arrived on the scene, Shea told detectives that her sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Robert Eger, and their friends Cynthia and David Eaton had been awaiting the arrival of the couple’s adult son, Joseph M. Eaton, from prison.

Both couples were found dead at the home.

Less than two hours after Shea's 911 call, a trooper arrested Joseph on Interstate 295, following multiple 911 calls regarding a separate shooting on the highway, per the affidavit. He had blood on his hands, and authorities quickly named him as the prime suspect in the quadruple homicide.

Maine State Police Joseph M. Eaton in mugshot.
Maine State Police Joseph M. Eaton in mugshot.

On Monday, July 1, Joseph — who ultimately pleaded guilty to a string of more than a dozen charges including murder, aggravated attempted murder and elevated aggravated assault — was sentenced to life in prison, according to a court document obtained by PEOPLE outlining the terms of his plea.

“I wake up every day regretting what I did,” Joseph told the judge at his sentencing hearing reported by The Associated Press.

“I honestly think I deserve worse,” he added of his life sentence, which was the maximum allowable. “All I can say is: I’m sorry.”

Kristina DeRaps, Patricia Eger’s relative, testified at the sentencing hearing.

“He killed the only four people in this world who actually loved and cared for him,” she said per the AP, calling Joseph “a selfish little boy.”

Joseph’s lawyer, Andrew Wright, says he pleaded to 17 of the original 26 charges, agreeing to five life sentences. In Maine, a sentence of life imprisonment is not a term of years and there is no parole “so life is life,” Wright says, noting that his client “agreed to a maximum punishment allowed by law.”

In addition to the quadruple homicide, Joseph admitted to shooting at cars on Interstate 295 and injuring three more people, per The AP.

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At 10:48 a.m. on April 18, a man called emergency services, saying that there was “a suspicious male” who was “standing in the middle of the road waving his hands with what appeared to be blood on them,” per the affidavit.

Joseph has never provided a reason for the killings. (In December, he withdrew his claim that he was not criminally responsible.)

“He still does not understand his actions nor why he did them,” Wright tells PEOPLE. “The case is one with no winners, no lessons, just sorrow and loss for all involved, including Joseph.”

Wright says that they had originally been planning a defense by reason of insanity, but that the mental health defense in the state is “extremely focused” and that “many people suffering from serious mental health issues do not meet the legal criteria.”

He said that Joseph had made “the morally correct decision to take responsibility and end the court case so that everyone, including himself, can begin to process the fallout.”

At the crime scene, authorities found an unsigned note, which was not addressed to anyone, on the kitchen island. Per the affidavit, the writer claimed they “wanted a new life” and “mentioned someone being freed of pain.”

In the days before the shootings, Joseph posted several messages on Facebook, in which he wrote: “Life as a whole is suffering.”

In a Facebook Live, previously reported by PEOPLE, and since taken down, he discussed forgiveness and mentioned his mother in the caption, writing in part: “Thanks for never giving up on me I love u.”

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