UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by CritterFan1 on Wed Dec 23, 2009 4:38 pm

WTF Instead of his parents supporting him financially they should have used that money to have him locked away and receive help, no kidding. Not support a grown man, he should have been under a dr's care.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:13 pm

Exactly, Critter. This man should not have been able to walk the streets.

There are some people that are unfortunately mentally ill to the point they are incapable of fending for themselves. Michael Merihige is one of those people, and I blame his parents for not stepping up to the plate. Now, they have lost their twin daughters and their grandchild. Unreal!!!!

I pray that AMW brings this man from undercover and behind bars. I will def be tuning in on the 26th. Setting up the dvr now.

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Normal Massacre Suspect's Voice Heard On Video Feds Hope Public Will Recognize Suspect's Voice

Post by Wrapitup on Wed Dec 23, 2009 7:44 pm

Massacre Suspect's Voice Heard On Video
Feds Hope Public Will Recognize Suspect's Voice

POSTED: 7:51 pm EST December 23, 2009
UPDATED: 8:08 pm EST December 23, 2009

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Federal officials released Wednesday a video of the suspected gunman in the gruesome Thanksgiving Day massacre in Jupiter.



U.S. Marshals released a football recruiting demo video from earlier days, upon which one can hear the voice of Paul Michael Merhige -- the 35-year-old man wanted on four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
He is accused of fatally shooting four of his relatives -- including his 6-year-old cousin, Makayla Sitton -- and injuring two others after Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter.

"My name is Paul Merhige, a senior at Gulliver Prep in Miami, Florida," Merhige says in the video.

It is a voice from many years ago of a young man few imagined could be behind killings that have hurt so many, and it's a voice to which U.S. Marshals said they want the public to pay attention.

"It's a younger Paul Merhige, and he's skinnier, but it has his voice -- a very distinct voice -- and we want people to recognize that voice in case they see him or encounter him in a disguise," said Manny Puri, of the U.S. Marshal Service. "It's deep. Once you hear the voice and you put the voice to a face, it will make him more recognizable."

The voice comes from a football video, featuring a younger, more athletic Merhige as a star high school kicker. It's not just a voice, but a face, one that investigators are trying to sear into the memory banks of Americans everywhere, holding out hope for that one tip that leads to his capture.

"We are trying to display Paul Merhige's face in posters, on TV and on Web sites, hoping that someone out there will see him and report that," Puri said.

On Tuesday, Jim Sitton and his wife, Muriel, met with John Walsh, host of "America's Most Wanted." The show has already featured Merhige and is scheduled to air another segment about him the day after Christmas.

"We have profiled this coward twice on 'America's Most Wanted,' and I've come down here to make sure that this guy is featured this week on 'America's Most Wanted' and to meet Jim and Muriel and their beautiful family," Walsh said.

Investigators said every tip counts in trying to find Merhige, but they fear he has a passport and money after thousands of dollars were withdrawn just before the crime.

"We will continue our search to include our back yard, to include our state, nationwide and, obviously, worldwide," Jupiter police Officer Sally Collins-Ortiz said.

Though there is great speculation as to whether or not Merhige is dead, or whether he may be in another country, investigators said they are focusing on the facts and on the tips that have been coming in and that they hope will continue to come in.

"If he's watching any of these newscasts, let me tell you, 'You're in big trouble,'" Walsh warned Merhige. "'Think about this, Paul Merhige. You could go down. Somebody could surround you and you could be killed. The right thing to do is turn yourself in now.'"

A $100,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Merhige's arrest.

Meanwhile, two friends of the Sittons are volunteering their time to help catch Merhige.

Mothers Volunteer To Help Catch Massacre Suspect

The two mothers, Mary and Mandy, who asked that their last names not be used for their safety, are close friends of the Sittons. They are organizing volunteers to hand out "wanted" fliers of Merhige.

Anyone wishing to volunteer to help distribute flyers can e-mail [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.].

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Dec 27, 2009 4:26 pm

I watched AMW and saw nothing about this crime even though it was advertised it would be on the 26th.

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Normal America's Most Wanted

Post by Nama on Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:11 pm

by Wrapitup on Sun Dec 27, 2009 5:26 pm I watched AMW and saw nothing about this crime even though it was advertised it would be on the 26th.



Updated: 12:59 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 31, 2009
The manhunt for Paul Michael Merhige, who gunned down four members of his family on Thanksgiving day, will be featured on America's Most Wanted on Saturday, according to Jupiter Police.

The show, and its host John Walsh, have been previewing the 10-minute segment since early December. And authorities hope that it will provide a boost in national exposure for one of the biggest manhunts in Palm Beach County history.

Merhige, 35, shot six family members on Nov. 26, killing four. Among the dead were his twin sisters, a 6-year-old girl and her 76-year-old grandmother. The reward for information leading to his capture has been increased to $100,000

"Saturday's show will now provide the nation with detailed information concerning this case," Jupiter Police said in a release today. "and through their cooperation we are confident that we will receive a tip that will bring ... Merhige to justice."

Meanwhile, friends of Jim and Muriel Sitton — whose daughter, Makayla was the 6-year-old killed by Merhige — are attempting to organize a massive "flyer handout" on Saturday, where volunteers will pass out flyers with Paul Merhige's information on them.

They are asking that people throughout South Florida both print and pass out the flyers.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Nama on Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:15 pm

Accused killer Paul Merhige remains on the run, and he's now on the U.S. Marshals Service 15 Most Wanted List.

Wednesday authorities released new video of Merhige, that for the first time, gives the public a chance to hear what his voice sounds like.

Merhige, 35, made the tape in high school when he was 17 or 18, in hopes of sending it out to coaches to get a college football scholarship.

Merhige is accused of gunning down four relatives at a house in Jupiter on Thanksgiving.

Investigators say he bought several guns and withdrew a large amount of cash, more than $12,000, in the days before the shooting rampage on Thanksgiving.

"Do you worry that he could hide for a long time on that kind of money? As far as the Marshals Service is concerned, this is what we do. We're used to this game. It could be a short capture, it could be a long capture. So we plan accordingly, we're in it for the long haul," said Manny Puri, supervisory deputy, U.S. Marshals Service.

"It's a heinous crime and this monster needs to be brought in," Puri added.

The reward in the Merhige case stands at $100,000.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Jan 01, 2010 12:40 am

Thanks, BJ. If you look upthread, they had advertised it for the 26th of December.

I just pray that the AMW coverage brings awareness to someone who has seen him and can lead the feds to him!!

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Normal Clifford Gebara, Grazed By Merhige's Bullet Speaks

Post by Nama on Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:12 pm

Clifford Gebara survived the Thanksgiving Day shooting that killed his 6-year-old cousin, older aunt, and twin sisters and Saturday he did more than just break his silence. He spent the day pounding the pavement searching for justice by desperately asking person after person to help find Paul Michael Merhige.

On Thanksgiving night, police say Merhige killed his 6-year-old Makayla Joy Sitton and his 76-year-old aunt Raymonde Francois and twin sisters Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige.

"They were just the most special people that you could ever encounter. These four women were angels that he took," Gebara told CBS4's Gio Benitez.

Gebara remembers that night all too well because he says Paul Michael Merhige, his cousin, was aiming a gun right at his head.

"I said to him, 'Paul, what are you doing?' I don't know -- maybe that's what took him aback and caused the two bullets to miss my head, because he was aiming straight at my head," Gebara said.

One bullet grazed his arm, but that's just a scar. What Gebara says he will never forget is looking into the eyes of a killer.

"His eyes were like a man who had no heart whatsoever," said Gebara.

They are the eyes of a man who police say turned a family's Thanksgiving celebration into a massacre.

"We realized afterwards that he was just observing to see how to kill us all," he said.

The reward for information leading to Paul Merhige's capture and conviction is up to $100,000. He was last seen driving a royal blue 2007 Toyota Camry sedan with a rear factory spoiler.

If anyone has information about Merhige, contact the Jupiter Police Department at (561) 746-6201, their local law enforcement agency or Crime Stoppers' anonymous "TIP" phone number, 1-800-458-TIPS (8477).

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Normal Breaking News!!! Florida police nab man, Paul Merhige, 35, in Thanksgiving killings of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:19 am

3:11 a.m. Sunday, January 3, 2010

By CURT ANDERSON

The Associated Press

WESTON, Fla. — A weekslong manhunt ended with the arrest of a Florida man accused of the carefully planned slayings of four relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner.

Paul Merhige, 35, was arrested without a struggle Saturday night at a motel in the Florida Keys, Jupiter Police Sgt. Scott Pascarella said. Pascarella credited the TV show "America's Most Wanted" for the tip that led to Merhige's capture on Long Key.

Merhige has been the subject of a massive manhunt that included billboards and flyers with his image and a $100,000 reward for information leading to his capture. He is accused of gunning down his twin sisters, a 79-year-old aunt and 6-year-old cousin on Thanksgiving Day at a family gathering in Jupiter.

Authorities said Merhige checked into the motel in Dec. 2, using the name "John Baca" and a false Homestead address. He had the same blue 2007 Toyota Camry that had been a key part of the manhunt, but police said it was hidden with a covering at the Keys motel.

U.S. Marshals said Merhige, who had withdrawn $12,000 from bank accounts before the killings, paid for his room in advance in cash. It turned out that the license tag on his car had been registered to a Lexus he owned in 2006. Merhige was on his computer when U.S. Marshals and local deputies entered his motel room, according to a Marshals statement.

There was no indication Saturday that Merhige had an attorney. Authorities said he was being taken to the Palm Beach County jail.

Police say Merhige opened fire at a home where 16 relatives had gathered for the holiday in Jupiter, an affluent community about 90 miles north of Miami. He faces four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shootings, which also injured two other people.

Police say Merhige shot and killed his 33-year-old twin sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, both of Miami, along with two other relatives: his aunt Raymonde Joseph, 76, and his young cousin, Makayla Sitton. Police said Knight was pregnant.

Authorities have said Merhige carefully planned the killings. A family member said Merhige was heard saying after the shootings that he had waited 20 years to kill the relatives.

Merhige sat through three hours of dinner and sing-a-longs around the piano before the shootings, his cousin-in-law Jim Sitton has said. There were no arguments, warnings or red flags before the rampage, said Sitton, who hosted the dinner and is Makayla's father.

Police said Merhige was taking numerous medications, including Ativan, used to treat anxiety disorders.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:36 am

Police apprehend Paul Merhige — Thanksgiving Day murder suspect — in Keys

Jan 3, 2010 World

The man who police say shot and killed four relatives in Palm Beach County on Thanksgiving Day was apprehended at a Keys motel late Saturday night after authorities said they received a tip just minutes after the quadruple murder story aired on America’s Most Wanted.

Jupiter Police said they found Paul Michael Merhige, 35, at the Edge Water Lodge Motel, 6565.1 Overseas Hwy, Mile Marker 65.5, on Long Key.

The tipster told authorities that a man strongly resembling Merhige had checked into the motel on December 2, and had been operating a blue Toyota. The caller said the man had checked into the hotel under the name of John Baca and provided an address in Homestead, Florida, Jupiter police said.

The U.S. Marshals Service positively identified Merhige at the motel and took him into custody without incident shortly before 11 p.m., according to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.

Merhige was wanted on four counts of murder and two counts of attempted murder.

“I’m elated the monster is in the cage. We don’t have to worry about him killing my wife or coming back for my father-in-law. It doesn’t bring my daughter back but at least this chapter is over,” Jim Sitton, the father of 6-year-old Makalya Sitton, one of the murder victims, told The Palm Beach Post on Saturday night.

Police say Merhige fatally shot his 33-year-old twin sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, both of Miami, along with two other relatives — his aunt Raymonde Joseph, 76, and his cousin, Makayla Sitton. Authorities said Knight was pregnant. The shooter also injured two others, including Patrick Knight, Lisa Knight’s husband, police said.

Police say Paul Merhige had been at the home in Jupiter, where more than a dozen relatives were celebrating the holiday. Makayla — Merhige’s cousin — had recited Psalms 100 from memory and the twins had sung Via De La Rosa. At the end of the night, while the family said their goodbyes, he left and returned about 10 p.m. and began shooting.

In recounting the incident to the media at the time, Jim Sitton, said the evening was coming to an end and the family was saying their goodbyes. Then, Sitton said, Merhige left through the front door, went to his car, returned through the back door and opened fire.

Sitton heard gunshots and saw Carla Merhige — who was at the front of the house — drop to the floor. Sitton ran out the back door, thinking the shots were coming from the front of the house and that he was being chased by an unseen gunman.

After exiting, Sitton heard gunshots from inside the house. From outside, he heard shots fired from inside a room where his daughter was in bed.

“I came in the front door and he was gone, and she was dead,” he said.

Sitton — a South Florida photo and video journalist — added that while he was aware that Merhige had past problems,” when he was told Merhige would be at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner he assumed he “was getting better.”

“I sat two seats down from him [during dinner],” Sitton said. He told The Palm Beach Post that his daughter’s alleged killer was “evil” and “deranged,” but that during the evening he had kept mostly quiet.

It’s unclear what happened to send Paul Merhige on the rampage, but he and Carla Merhige had previously gone to court in connection with charges of domestic violence, records show.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Nama on Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:49 am

AMW does it again!! AMW you rock !!

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:52 am

Did you all watch it? I didn't. This is GREAT news!! I have felt so sorry for that family and the couple who lost their little girl.

John Walsh and his staff should be very, very proud!!! :cheers:

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Nama on Sun Jan 03, 2010 2:54 am


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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Nama on Sun Jan 03, 2010 5:57 am

Merhige was taken to the Jupiter Police Department, arriving around 1:30 a.m. He has now arrived at the Palm Beach County Jail to be booked, and is expected to have his first appearance in court Sunday or Monday morning.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by CritterFan1 on Sun Jan 03, 2010 6:37 am

Fantastic news, the rest of his family can rest easily now that this evil monster is behind bars.
What an idiot to think he could just cover his car with a cover, why did he not steal a car? In his room calmly on his computer? The computer makes it seem all the more pre meditated. Like he took his along on Thanksgiving day because he knew that he would not be going back home.
Go John Walsh and AMW!! huge waste
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by artgal16 on Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:47 am

Its nearly impossible to get someone committed now days. This is a terrible problem for many parents who live in fear of their grown and sometimes even juvenile children who are mentally ill, but not enough to be committed. If they dont want help, you cant do anything.
They either support him or he ends up on the streets
and they also fear retribution for not helping him. In any
case we know the outcome here but I doubt that there is much anyone can do to stop it from happening again.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by CritterFan1 on Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:49 am

art, there was a child here that tried to kill his mother while setting a fire under her bed while she was sleeping. He is back in the home according to news reports. I cannot imagine living in fear of my own child.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Guest on Sun Jan 03, 2010 12:56 pm

This is great news. He was a dangerous Man who is now going to pay for what he did to his own family.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by TerryRose on Sun Jan 03, 2010 1:01 pm

Hurrah! It just goes to show you that, when there is national tv exposure to a wanted criminal like there was last night on AMW, the tips just flow right in. This arrest was made within a few hours after I viewed the story on AMW last night.
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Normal Merhige held without bond

Post by Nama on Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:04 pm

The man accused of fatally shooting four relatives after a Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter has been ordered held without bond.

Paul Michael Merhige made his first appearance in court Sunday morning, just hours after he was caught Saturday night at a motel in the Florida Keys.
Merhige, 35, was surrounded by deputies as his arraignment was scheduled for Feb. 1.
The Thanksgiving massacre suspect had eluded authorities for 38 days until he was finally arrested at the Edgewater Lodge in Long Key at about 10 p.m. Saturday. Merhige had apparently been staying there since Dec. 2.

Merhige is charged with four counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of four relatives, including a 6-year-old girl, on Thanksgiving night.
Jim Sitton, whose daughter, Makayla Sitton, was shot and killed while she slept in her bed, said he was relieved that Merhige was in custody.
"This does not bring my daughter back, so I'm not jumping up and down in jubilation, but at least now I'll be able to sleep knowing the monster's not outside my door hoping to finish what he started on Thanksgiving," Sitton said.
According to a news release, U.S. marshals were able to verify a tip from "America's Most Wanted," surround the motel and take Merhige into custody.
A person at the Edgewater recognized Merhige from "America's Most Wanted" and gave the description of Merhige's 2007 blue Toyota Camry.
U.S. marshals said the tag on the vehicle at the motel was previously registered to one of Merhige's old cars. Marshals said Merhige paid in cash at least two weeks in advance and tried to hide his vehicle with a car cover.
The tipster told authorities that Merhige checked into the motel under the name of John Baca and gave a home address of Homestead.
Marshals said Merhige was on his computer when they burst into his motel room and took him into custody.
At a midnight news conference, Jupiter Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said authorities had been waiting for that one phone call that would help them catch Merhige.

Jim Sitton said he was hoping for a different outcome than Paul Michael Merhige's arrest. "I was hoping it would be over."
"Obviously, we have mixed emotions," Kitzerow said. "We're all very grateful that we could bring this case to a close in terms of making the apprehension. We know that we have a long road ahead of us for prosecution, but, again, we also feel for the Sitton family in their loss."
Sitton said he was hoping his daughter was still alive and implied that he hoped Merhige would be the one dead.
"I'm looking at it as the beginning of an awful year of trial," Sitton said. "I was hoping it would be over."

News of the arrest couldn't come soon enough for Jim and Muriel Sitton.
Their Jupiter home was the scene of the Thanksgiving killings, and their 6-year-old daughter was the youngest victim.
Although this chapter has ended with Merhige in custody, the next chapter will likely begin in a South Florida courtroom. Jim Sitton said he was finally able to get a restful sleep after more than a month of living in fear, but he said he never had a doubt that the day would come when Merhige would be caught.
"Now that Paul's been caught, I know that he will get justice," Sitton said. "I don't care what happens in the court case. Justice will be served; if not on Earth, (in) eternity."
Sitton said that, although the fear is over, he wishes the outcome would've been different.
"I was patrolling my house -- the inside of my house -- with my shotgun, going from window to window, listening, looking for shadows, listening for sounds, hoping that I would see him so that we could finish it right there," he said.
Sitton said he and his wife are now preparing for the court phase, something he said he had no idea how it works or how difficult it's going to be.

Jim Sitton says his daughter's room has a feeling of emptiness that didn't dissipate after Paul Michael Merhige was caught.

Speaking from the same room where Makayla was tucked into bed for the last time, Sitton said there's a sense of justice but still a feeling of emptiness.
"It went from waking up in the morning looking forward to a kiss from your baby, and now it's just emptiness (that) just sweeps over you like a tidal wave," he said while choking back tears. "I mean, look at this room. It's empty. She's gone, and nothing is going to change that."
Sitton said that life after the tragedy has not gotten easier for him and his wife, but he is confident that his daughter's death had a purpose and he looks forward to the day that he can join her in heaven.

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Normal Every night since "the monster" struck, Jim Sitton has spent the wee hours patrolling the halls of his home with a loaded shotgun.

Post by Nama on Sun Jan 03, 2010 10:07 pm

Every night since "the monster" struck, Jim Sitton has spent the wee hours patrolling the halls of his home with a loaded shotgun.

"We've had police protection every day and every minute since they let us back in our home," he said. "But even with that, I figured if Paul came in kamikaze ready to kill us, he'd get to us before the cops were out of their cars."

That is not to speak badly of the police, Sitton said. It speaks to the ferocity of his wife's cousin, Paul Michael Merhige — or, as Sitton calls him, "the monster."

Sitton said he watched Merhige open fire on the family's Thanksgiving dinner, killing Sitton's daughter and mother-in-law and Merhige's two sisters.

Police told the public that Merhige had tapped his bank account and probably fled the state.

Sitton wasn't so sure.

"I thought he was within 10 miles of this house," he said Sunday.

Merhige, it turns out, wasn't that close. But he wasn't out of state, either.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:27 am

Jupiter Thanksgiving killings suspect: The man in room No. 14
Motel owner recounts Paul Merhige's stay in Long Key

The man in room No. 14 did not come out much. He washed his own sheets and towels, kept his car covered in the parking lot, and even Edgewater Lodge owner Melinda Pfaff and her daughter Megan, who lived next door in No. 13, could not figure out where he got his food.

Still, as Pfaff said Sunday, "After 15 years in the motel business, I've seen unusual. He was not unusual."

But Paul Michael Merhige is unusual, police say. They say he is a killer who carried out a point-blank massacre of four family members, including his twin sisters, on Thanksgiving Day before fleeing from Jupiter to the Florida Keys with a wad of cash and a plan to live as quietly as possible.

That plan came to an explosive climax Saturday night when a squad of heavily armed federal and local law officers blew off the sliding-glass door of No. 14, shocked Merhige with a stun gun and took him into custody without a struggle. He was reportedly on his computer when police burst into the room.

"This does not bring my daughter back, so I'm not jumping up and down in jubilation," Jim Sitton, whose 6-year-old child Makayla was the youngest of the four victims, said at a news conference. "At least I will be able to sleep knowing that the monster is not right outside my door to finish what he started on Thanksgiving."

Held without bail in Palm Beach County, Merhige, 35, faces four counts of premeditated murder and attempted first-degree murder. At his first court appearance Sunday morning, he wore a blue jumpsuit and a blank expression. When Palm Beach Circuit Court Judge Reginald Corlew asked whether he wanted to comment, he declined.

Merhige's next court appearance will be Feb. 1.

The capture of one of the nation's most-wanted fugitives happened at 10 p.m. Saturday, about four hours after Melinda Pfaff's husband, Paul, 56, saw a promotional spot for Fox's America's Most Wanted television show, coming up that evening.

Recognizing the similarity between Merhige's face on the wanted poster and that of the reclusive guest who called himself John Baca and had been paying cash for the room since Dec. 2, Paul Pfaff asked his wife to check the TV show's website. "He came in and saw the picture, and said, 'That's him. I'm freaking out.' "

The couple called Megan, 21, down from her room, and began advising motel guests to lock their doors and stay inside. Melinda Pfaff, 53, said she phoned the program's hot line. "They asked me, 'On a scale of 10, how sure are you?' I said, 'Ten.' "

Within the hour officers from the U.S. Marshals Service arrived and quietly surrounded Merhige's room, no more than 150 feet from busy U.S. 1, the Overseas Highway.

As officers prepared to storm the room, the Pfaffs, along with a family of guests staying in another adjacent unit, gathered in the couple's residence. They all watched the 9 p.m. airing of the America's Most Wanted episode about the suspected killer who was just a few yards away.

"I'm just shocked that I am staying in the same motel as this guy," said Richard Frahm, 66, from Detroit. "But the police did a great job."

Former residents of Lighthouse Point, Paul and Melinda Pfaff bought the 16-unit Edgewater Lodge 15 years ago. At this time of year, rooms with small kitchens rent for about $100 a night.

Melinda Pfaff said she, her husband and Megan knew the man who checked in as Baca was not the normal Keys visitor. He did not go fishing; he was rarely, if ever, seen outside during the day; and he interacted with the Pfaffs only when seeking change for the washer and dryer or when he paid for his room a week in advance.

Still, they saw no reason to fear him. "The curtains were always drawn, and we were concerned that he was still alive in there," said Megan Pfaff, who works for a veterinary clinic in Key Largo. "But I felt safe. But looking back on it, it freaks me out."

According to Melinda Pfaff, Merhige was paid up through Jan. 15 and had recently inquired about staying into February. She said she was noncommittal about whether the room was available. "I was starting to feel, 'Do I want him here?' " she said.

The subject of a massive hunt that got national attention, Merhige was known to be driving a blue Toyota Camry. That car was found under a tarp in the motel parking lot, bearing tags registered to a 1991 Lexus once owned by a relative, officials said.

Stacks of canned goods were found in Merhige's room, said Paul Pfaff. "Spaghetti, macaroni, beans — provisions, like he was hunkering down."

Also found in the room were tanks of helium, a plastic bag, a hose and, on the kitchen table, a hangman's noose, according to Paul Pfaff, who said the objects were removed by police. He said he doubted that the rope, which was about a quarter-inch thick, would have supported Merhige's weight.

Paul Pfaff said the man he knew as Baca never discussed a personal life; nor did the innkeepers ask. In fact, said Paul Pfaff, he asked only for a license plate number, not a personal ID, when Merhige checked in.

"We normally don't ask for IDs when they pay cash," Pfaff said.

The U.S. Marshals Service Florida Regional Task Force offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to Merhige's arrest, and Paul Pfaff said late Sunday he and his wife may be eligible. "They said they would discuss it with us," Pfaff said.

Merhige is accused of fatally shooting his twin sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, 33; his cousin Makayla Sitton, 6; and his aunt Raymonde Joseph, 76. Merhige was placed among the Marshals Service's top 15 fugitives after the shooting, and despite national attention, he eluded capture for 38 days.

"It was a complex case, and Mr. Merhige was a difficult capture," said Glen Wilner of the Marshals Service. "I'm glad that we have him in custody today."

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by CritterFan1 on Mon Jan 04, 2010 2:44 am

one hundred dollars a night and he was paid up thru Jan 15th? Where was he getting all of that cash??
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Jan 04, 2010 3:11 am

Upthread it says he took of with about 20 grand or so that he got out of the bank. There's even a pic of him withdrawing his money. He had this all planned out.

And, he was willing to hang himself if he were caught, but the feds were like white on rice. Good for them and AMW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Marica on Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:44 am

Florida has what is called the "BAKER ACT". One is supposed to be able to get treatment for a person who may pose a threat to themselves or others because of emotional, drug or alcohol problems. Let me tell you how this works. It DOESN"T! When I had grave concern for a friend I tried it. I was told, as is stated above somewhere, "You can't get help for someone unless they want help". Six months later, as my friend lay in Tampa, St. Joseph's Hospital ER, as ER staff attempted to resuscitated him, Tampa PD told me.. "IF HE SURVIES THIS WE WILL BAKER ACT HIM". I told the cop I had tried to Baker Act him, and no one would listen to me. He didn't survive. Forty three years old. Ten years ago, Oct. 12th, I lost my best friend. Thanks to the idea that you cannot help someone unless they want to be helped. Maybe not, but then again, maybe some would still be alive, if the Baker Act worked like it was designed to.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Jan 04, 2010 4:54 am

I know that family members can Baker Act an individual in Florida if they are deemed a threat to themselves or others. There is also the Marchmant Act for alcoholics or drug abusers.

I could be wrong, but once a person is put under either of these acts, they are locked up in Circles of Care in Florida (the State mental and alcohold/drug facility) for 72 hours. Then, they are on their own. IMO, it's worthless.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:13 am

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by CritterFan1 on Mon Jan 04, 2010 8:12 am

I don't know how I missed the part about the money, I heard this morning on HLN it was $12, 000. Too bad the family felt like mending fences and let him in when he showed up uninvited for Thanksgiving. Revenge feeds on planning, sounds like he had been planning for a long time to get back at his sister. He was down to fig newtons and peanut butter. He would have had to come back out of that room eventually.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by adelacruz on Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:10 pm

i'm SOOOO happy he was finally caught! :D
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:26 pm

Thanksgiving massacre suspect held without bond, isolated in mental health unit
January 4th, 2010 by Staff

[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] – While a manhunt swirled around him, Florida’s most wanted fugitive lived like a hermit in a tiny Florida Keys hotel, eating Snickers bars and canned beans and clicking around on the Internet. He left his room so rarely that the owners sometimes wondered if he was still alive.

For a full month authorities say Paul Michael Merhige hunkered down in Room 14 at the Edgewater Lodge on Long Key, steps from the Gulf of Mexico, while a fake name and an expired license plate cloaked his past.

But on Saturday night a phone tip brought U.S. Marshals crashing into his room, ending his weeks on the lam and sending him back to Palm Beach County to face charges of murdering four relatives in Jupiter on Thanksgiving Day.

Dazed-looking and barefoot, Merhige was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail early Sunday morning and ordered to be held without bond at a court hearing hours later.

The 35-year-old, who has a reported history of mental health issues and suicide attempts, was being kept in isolation in the jail’s mental health unit.

His arrest capped a furious manhunt that extended across the country and lasted 38 days, ending only after Merhige was recognized Saturday night on TV by the owner of the Edgewater Lodge. The owner’s call to investigators came hours before a new episode of ‘America’s Most Wanted’ featuring his case was preparing to air.

“My husband asked me, ‘Isn’t that the guy staying up in 14?’” said Melinda Pfaff, co-owner of the Edgewater Lodge on Long Key. “I looked and said, ‘Yes, it is. Let’s call America’s Most Wanted.’”

At about 10 p.m. U.S. Marshals shattered a sliding glass door and stormed into Merhige’s room. An official involved in the operation said Mehrige was apprehended after running into the bathroom and being stunned with a Taser stun gun.

The Miami man had been living in Room 14 since Dec. 2, calling himself John Baca and paying in cash.

His room was stocked for a long stay — packed with cans of beans, jars of peanut butter, bread, an empty box of Snickers bars and a half eaten pack of Fig Newtons. In the refrigerator, he had stored away canned fruit and bottled water.

Also in his room were a bottle of “color retention conditioner,” gas tanks and an unused pair of sunglasses.

With his photos all over the TV and newspapers, Merhige laid low, telling the hotel owners he would clean his room himself but insisting he needed Internet access. Reportedly suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder, he washed his clothes often in the hotel’s laundry room, virtually the only time he was seen.

“He never came out of his room,” Paul Pfaff said. “I didn’t know if the guy was alive.”

Since the Pfaff’s didn’t have many other guests in early December they were glad to have him — until Saturday night.

Paul Pfaff had been watching the Fox channel around 6:30 or 7 p.m., when the news came on and he saw a report on Merhige, including a photograph of the fugitive.

Pfaff recognized the photo as the man who was staying right above them on the second floor.

Authorities regularly received tips regarding Merhige’s whereabouts, and most of them prove to be unfounded. But this one stood out.

Not only did Pfaff claim to have seen Merhige, he described seeing his blue Toyota Camry in the parking lot — hidden under a car cover — and read out the car’s license plate number.

When investigators ran it, it came back as an expired tag — for a Lexus that Merhige’s father used to own.

“With that information it was like ‘boom,’ that was it,” Deputy U.S. Marshal Barry Golden said.

A team of about 30 deputy marshals and members of the U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force stealthily surrounded the hotel, mindful that Merhige was reported to have a high-powered sniper rifle.

They smashed his room’s sliding glass door and set off a loud device in his room to stun and distract him, said Manny Puri, a supervising inspector for the U.S. Marshals Office. Then they stormed in.

When they burst into his upstairs room, he was alone, using his computer.

Merhige ran into the bathroom and stuck out his hands, crying “Please don’t shoot me!” and begging for them not to hurt him, Puri said.

When he ignored orders to walk out of the bathroom and surrender they stunned him with a Taser stun gun.

In court this morning Merhige stood silently in jail blues and glasses, his hands cuffed in front of him. The court room was heavily guarded by a dozen sheriff’s deputies, including members from the SWAT team.

He murmured a question to a public defender representing him in the hearing but otherwise did not speak. County Court Judge Reginald Corlew ordered him held without bond on four charges of first-degree murder and two charges of attempted first-degree murder.

An arraignment hearing was set for Merhige for Feb. 1 and the county Public Defender’s office was appointed to represent him.

On a court form he signed today, Merhige claimed he had no income besides $900 a month in federal benefits. (His mother told The Palm Beach Post in November that he had never worked and that his parents supported him financially.)

Merhige, who nursed a long-brewing grudge against his family for more than a decade, is accused of slaying his cousin’s daughter, Makayla Sitton, 6; her grandmother Raymonde Joseph, 76; and his twin sisters, Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige, 33.

His capture brings an element of closure for those who survived the Thanksgiving Day shooting. Family members had been under police guard since that night for fear that he might return to slay more relatives.

“I’m elated that the monster is in the cage,” Jim Sitton, Makayla’s father, said Saturday night. “We don’t have to worry about him killing my wife or coming back for my father-in-law.

“It doesn’t bring my daughter back,” he added, “but at least this chapter is over.”

Sitton allowed himself one guilty pleasure Saturday night. Moments before Merhige was apprehended, Sitton was tipped off by Jupiter’s police chief that U.S. Marshals believed they had him in their sights.

Later, the chief called with confirmation. The hotel owner had identified Merhige in a photo and confirmed he was driving the blue Toyota. An arrest would be imminent.

The news came minutes before ‘America’s Most Wanted’ was scheduled to air an in-depth report on Merhige, including an interview with the Sittons.

“I enjoyed the irony,” Sitton said. “I knew Paul would be watching, but I knew something he didn’t: As we watched, he was being surrounded.”

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Normal Insanity Defense?

Post by Nama on Mon Jan 04, 2010 11:21 pm

-Local legal experts say they expect lawyers for Paul Michael Merhige to explore an insanity defense. Merhige-- accused of the killings of four family members Thanksgiving night at a home in Jupiter-- has a mental health history, has taken medication, and has experienced conflict with his family, according to police and family members.

Prominent West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer Michael Salnick says the accused has the burden of proving insanity, and it can be a difficult sell to jurors.

In the Merhige case, prosecutors can also point to the suspect's alleged actions before and after the murders.

"Did he change his name?," Salnick posed. "Did he take money out of the bank? Are those things indicative of someone who is legally insane, or are those things indicative of someone who pre-meditated and knew what they were doing?"

So far Merhige is represented by the public defender's office.

Merhige's mental state could also have an impact in whether prosecutors seek the death penalty. Monday the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office said it will send the Merhige case to its death penalty review committee. State Attorney Michael McAuliffe will make the final decision on seeking death.

Under state law, the list of "aggravating" factors jurors consider in death penalty cases includes a victim being less than 12 years old, or vulnerable. 6-year old Makayla Sitton was one of those killed at her parent's home Thanksgiving night.

But jurors can also consider "mitigating" factors, like Merhige's mental problems.

"It's ultimately going to come back to the issue of mental health," said attorney Salnick. "In phase one, mental health as to whether he was insane at the time of the crime. If there is a phase two, whether or not he deserves capitol punishment based upon the fact he still had the same mental disability."

Salnick says he expects prosecutors to seek the death penalty against Merhige.

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Normal Merhige case shows troubles parents face dealing with mentally ill adult

Post by Nama on Wed Jan 06, 2010 5:55 pm

The Thanksgiving Day massacre of four family members in Jupiter, which Paul Michael Merhige is accused of, elicits more than one kind of nightmare.

Merhige, whose alleged history of mental illness was first brought to light by his mother just days after the tragedy, is also the worst nightmare of every parent whose mentally ill child has grown into a mentally ill adult.

"When anything like this breaks open, I always think of the family first," said Liz Downey, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Palm Beach County. "Oh my God, those poor parents, they have that guilt. ... 'What could we have done?' "

When mentally ill children turn 18, the programs and laws available to make sure they get the care they need — even if they don't want it — vanish.

Privacy laws prevent doctors and therapists from divulging any information to parents about their child's condition. Insurance plans that cover medications for children can deny coverage when they become adults. And parents cannot force their sons and daughters to take their medications or go to therapy.

"Once they get to 18, they're pretty much on their own," said Kathy Anderson Markley, manager of Peer Place, a drop-in center for mentally ill adults in West Palm Beach. "It's completely up to them."

Merhige, 35, had a 16-year history of mental illness that began with a breakdown while he was an honor student at the University of Miami. "Everything was perfect until he was 19," said his mother, Carole.

In 2006, he told his sister, Carla, "I'm going to slit your throat," according to her petition for a restraining order. "This time I'm not going to go by myself," he allegedly added, referring to an earlier suicide attempt.

Her brother's threat was just the latest of many that "occur on a regular basis since (Merhige) suffers from mental illness but refuses to take his medication," she said in the petition.

"What were we supposed to do?" Carole Merhige asked after her son allegedly killed Carla and her 33-year-old twin, Lisa; a 76-year-old aunt, Raymonde Joseph; and a 6-year-old cousin, Makayla Sitton, after the family's Thanksgiving dinner.

She is not the only mother of a mentally ill child to ask that question.

"If we could get the answer to that question, that would be the golden key," said Downey, whose 22-year-old son has schizo-affective disorder.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, based in Arlington, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of the mentally ill and their families. As a local support group leader, Downey has worked with many anguished and frustrated parents. "It's the most common question we get."

What is the answer?

"You're screwed," said Dr. Jerome Goodman, a retired psychologist who volunteers at Peer Place and has worked with anguished parents throughout his 50-year career. "There is a realization that if their adult child doesn't want to take their medications, you've lost all your power as a parent."

The situation becomes worse when the adult child refuses to believe he is mentally ill and blames his parents for his problems.

Paul Merhige had been living alone in a Coral Gables apartment. His father, Michael, said he and his wife and their twin daughters were not close to their only son because he was "always accusing them of not taking care of him," according to a police report.

Parents can go to court and have a child temporarily committed if they can prove the child is a danger to himself or others. Or they can take more drastic legal action and seek legal guardianship of an adult child, which is difficult, costly and demands rigorous care.

As a result, parents often use what little leverage they still have — food and shelter — to force their child to take medications and get treatment.

"There's a reward system," said Joseph Speicher, chief executive of the South County Mental Health Center in Delray Beach, which provides residential housing for 81 mentally ill adults. "If you don't take your meds or go to the doctor, you can't live here, and that's a very difficult thing for a family to do."

That often means putting the child on the street, which can lead to substance abuse and the possibility of being preyed upon by criminals.

Or the child leaves and the parents lose all contact. That happened to Pam Gionfriddo, president of the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County. Last weekend, she heard from her 23-year-old son, who has schizophrenia, for the first time in six months. "He is an adult and there is very little we can do," she said.

Some families hide and make excuses for the mentally ill family member. Some keep it a secret from everyone but the immediate family, Downey said. "The ones that do come out say they wish they hadn't."

Merhige's family rarely talked about Paul to others, according to a friend, Alan Harrylal .

"(He) was never really spoken about," Harrylal wrote in an e-mail. "But those who knew about him knew that he was suffering from mental unstableness but was supposed to be on medication.

"Some of their friends didn't even know that Lisa and Carla had a brother."

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Guest on Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:02 pm

Very good article BJ. I have been screaming about this for years. All those poor people in his family could have done is moved and not left a forwarding address. They did nothing wrong. Yet as a Parent we always feel responsible for what are kids do no matter how old they are. It is a no win situation after they turn 18 unless they want help.
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Normal Doctor Says Merhige Could Be Sociopathic, Not Psychiatric

Post by Nama on Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:08 pm

"In general, in situations like this, it's rage," Dr. Johnathan Greenfield said of what might have provoked Merhige to fatally shoot his relatives after Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter.
Questions surround Merhige's mental health and his ability to stand trial.
"He had the ability to make his own decisions, which is a major criteria in the judge determining competency," Greenfield said, adding that Merhige was cognizant enough to change his appearance, leave the area and be hiding out to evade law enforcement.
Greenfield, of Columbia Hospital, speculates that Merhige could suffer from an anti-social personality disorder, meaning the violent rage was sociopathic and not psychiatric.
"The anti-social personality disorder is well adept at making you feel guilty and masquerading as a psychiatric patient, saying all the right things when the genuine psychiatric patient is then stigmatized because of it," Greenfield said.
Early signs of such a disorder, Greenfield said, would include loss of temper, cruelty to animals and bedwetting.
"That's a triad that we typically look for in children that may indicate a future sociopathy," Greenfield said.
Merhige will likely undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is fit for trial.
As for the mental health of Jim and Muriel Sitton, whose daughter, Makayla Sitton, was among the victims, the scars of that night will likely last a lifetime.
"The loss of a child, particularly in such a heinous way, unfortunately, will be with him the rest of his life," Greenfield said. "That's not something you recover from."

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Guest on Wed Jan 06, 2010 6:10 pm

crying No it is not something any of them will recover from.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:13 am

I have always said. Enjoy your children especially when they are small because after they turn 18, you have no say so in what they do or where they go.

To this day, I can honestly say that I worry more about my adult boys than I did when they were small.
It sucks, by the way!!!!!!!!!

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Nama on Sat Jan 09, 2010 12:34 am

Lisa and Patrick Knight's wedding photo


Carla


Makayla Sitton

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Normal Merhige says he tried to surrender

Post by Nama on Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:44 am



The man accused of killing four relatives, including his 6-year-old cousin, after a Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter said he had tried to surrender to authorities.
Paul Michael Merhige was a fugitive at large for more than a month before a Florida Keys motel manager recognized him in a preview for an episode of "America's Most Wanted" and called in the tip that led to the Thanksgiving massacre suspect's arrest.
"I've had chronic medical problems, mental problems," Merhige in an interview with "America's Most Wanted" shortly after he was apprehended. "It's been a nightmare. I didn't even know what I was doing."
Merhige said he tried to turn himself in several times before U.S. marshals took him into custody at the Edgewater Lodge on Long Key.
"I went several times to turn myself in," Merhige said. "And I didn't….I was waiting for my parents to maybe make a statement and tell me to…. I didn't know what to do."


Muriel Sitton, sitting with her husband, Jim, tells "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh that Paul Michael Merhige came to Thanksgiving dinner "very confident, very quiet and shot everybody in cold blood."
Muriel Sitton, the mother of the massacre's youngest victim, disagreed and told "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh that Merhige acted with confidence and purpose when he pulled the gun on his family members.
"Anybody who would have seen him that night on Thanksgiving would have seen a stark contrast from the pictures that are now being portrayed in the media of a frightened, helpless man," she said. "I mean, he came here very confident, very quiet and shot everybody in cold blood. And then he walked methodically down that hall at the very end to finish what he had started, and curved around into my daughter's room, opened her door and shot her three times and then left. And I was able to see him when I was in the house and we were calling 911. I saw a figure walking from the door like this. Not running, but just very methodically. It's a haunting image that stays in my mind. So that's the man that was here that night."
Sitton said the silence of her daughter Makayla's absence is "deafening."
Merhige is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. He is being held without bond and is scheduled to appear in court again Feb. 1.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Nama on Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:45 am

"I can't believe I've done all this. I can't believe it."

Those were the words of accused killer Paul Merhige after he was captured earlier this month in the Florida Keys. Merhige was on the run for more than a month after police say he shot and killed four relatives at a Thanksgiving dinner in Jupiter.

While he's still considered the "accused" killer, there were a number of witnesses to the crime. If he's convicted the bigger issues are whether he'll face the death penalty and whether he was mentally ill at the time.

Attorney Christopher Haddad said if he were defending Merhige, he'd first order a mental evaluation.

"A trained psychologist or psychiatrist will have the tools to make discernments whether there are genuine issues or whether someone was feigning," said Haddad.

The night of his capture, Merhige said he had chronic mental problems.

Haddad said Merhige's comments to the cameras shouldn't come back to haunt him. "It's a natural tendency to want to say something in defense of situation so I wouldn't see fault in that," said Haddad.

Haddad, who has used the insanity defense before, said it has become tougher to use since the burden of proof has shifted.

After John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, Congress passed a law that shifted the burden of proof in insanity cases from the prosecution to the defense.

Still, Haddad considers it a vital part of the criminal justice system to make sure the client gets the best possible defense.

"As an attorney, we take an oath to zealously represent the client to make sure you do everything in your power to make sure all persons' rights are protected in court."

Even someone accused of committing one of the most heinous crimes in recent memory.

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Normal Merhige's lawyer seeks to prevent release of evidence in case to public, media

Post by Nama on Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:56 am

Paul Michael Merhige's defense attorney is asking a judge to prevent all evidence against him from being released to the public and media until the first-degree murder case against him is concluded.

Public Defender Carey Haughwout — noting the extensive publicity the Thanksigving Day murders has already garnered — made the extraordinary request in a written motion before Circuit Judge John Hoy. Haughwout also asked Hoy to order all attorneys, police and witnesses involved not to comment on the case publicly.

Haughwout cited Merhige's right to fair trial and what she deems the prejudicial nature all the Merhige publicity.

"Witnesses have been quoted calling for the death penalty as well as referring to the defendant as a 'monster',' Haughwout wrote.

The request may well set a showdown between the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and the Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. Media outlets, including The Palm Beach Post, can be expected to oppose the request.

Hoy will hear arguments at a specially set hearing on Jan. 29.

Normally, nearly all evidence in a criminal case becomes a public record once it has been provided to the accused's defense attorney. And the media routinely are allowed to inspect and obtain copies of those public records.

Haughwout detailed in her motion Merige's extensive exposure already — his arrest broadcast on television, intense publicity surrounding the manhunt, and articles about his troubled mental history and the heartbreak of the shooting victims' families.

Merhige has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the killing and wounding of six members of his family in Jupiter on Thanskgiving Day.

Haughwout, who has defended many high-profile killers and rapists, called media attention on Merhige "unprecedented."

"The defendant's medical information has been widely disseminated and published. The problem is compounded by the fact that at least one witness/family member has been a treating doctor of the defendant and one witness/family member is employed at a local television station."

Jim Sitton, father of the six-year-old victim, Makayla Sitton, is a photojournalist at WPTV-Channel 5.

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Normal Merhige Massacre Case Spotlights The Mentally Ill

Post by Nama on Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:58 am

. Mehrige's parents told police their son, who is now in jail, has a history of mental illness.

This case has put the spotlight on the pain and frustration the families of mentally ill children face.

CBS4's Shannon Hori spoke with six women who all have one thing in common: Their children have been diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder, but their children have never committed violent crimes.

Elizabeth Torres, who's 26-year old son has been diagnosed with a mental illness, says "Sometimes I look into my son's eyes and say, where are you?"

"You can't see a brain disorder," says Marilyn Lieberman. "So people don't know that your loved ones need help."

Tilky, who doesn't want to give her last name, has a daughter who has been in and out of the hospital because of her mental illness. Tilky says she feels frustration with the system and pain for families going through a similar situation.

Carla Neufeld, who's 35-year old son is schizophrenic, says she was told more than once that she should Baker Act her child. "That means you send a sick person to jail," Neufeld says.

Four of the six mothers have Baker-acted their children, because they felt like they had no other option. But a person is only held for 72 hours after they're Baker-acted.

The women interviewed say there's no place in Miami-Dade County for mentally ill people to receive the long-term treatment they need to get better.

Drugs are prescribed, but often not taken. Because the child is an adult, privacy laws prevent the parents from getting information about their child's condition.

Pearl Ward, who's 30-year old son Jamal is currently in the hospital, says that makes it difficult to help her son. "If you can't talk to me and tell me which medication (he's on), then how is he going to get help?" Ward says.

Torres agrees it is frustrating: "It's like hitting your head against the wall."

Amy McClellan's daughter Emily was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder at 15--years-old. McClellan says she was constantly worried about her daughter committing suicide or becoming homeless. "All of us have had many, many sleepless nights, just trying to figure out what we could do next," McClellan said.

McClellan and her husband found a special program in North Carolina for Emily. There she worked on a farm every day, and McClellan said her daughter got better.

Emily is now 26-years-old and is McClellan's inspiration for bringing a similar program to Miami-Dade County. They have a vision for a place like Vincent House in Pinellas Park, near Tampa. It's what's called a clubhouse. There are 300 clubhouses around the world.

Her fellow board member Neufeld says that for mentally ill people to get stable, drugs might be a component, but more important is community support, counseling, and peer support.

At the clubhouse, those with mental illness work alongside staff members doing what needs to be done to run the clubhouse. The goal is to improve their lives, find work, and rejoin the world.

"With the right environment, right approach, they could be useful individuals. and that's what they want," Tilky said.

The clubhouse in Miami-Dade would be called The Key Clubhouse of South Florida. The group is now looking to hire an executive director and for a location for the clubhouse. McClellan's daughter Emily recently gave a contribution to it.

"We've been through years and years," McClellan said, "and now we're coming out on the other end and we can do something about this."

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Guest on Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:16 am

BJ thanks so much for that article. There are programs all over for mentally ill people. The poor economy has affected how much help a patient can get. Parents hands are tied once their mentally ill children becomes adults. Until insurance companies including state aid health coverage recognizes mental illness as an illness and cover it like they do any other illness things will not get better. Parents can work with their mentally ill adult children but asking the adult child to sign a release of information so the Parent is involved in helping to care for them. There is not cure. There is only treatment.
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Normal Evidence will be released in ten days to the public

Post by Nama on Mon Feb 08, 2010 3:55 pm

The South Florida man charged with killing four family members on Thanksgiving Day made an appearance in court Friday. It was a hearing to learn whether Paul Merhige's Public Defender Carey Haughwout would receive a gag order on the evidence. She originally asked for all records and evidence in the case to be sealed, however, a compromise was reached.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge John Hoy said Friday that once Haughwout receives the evidence from prosecutors, she has 10 days to review it and object to its public release. After that, it would be made public under Florida law.

Haughwout worries some of the evidence may taint the case if it were made public. Normally, once evidence is shared between lawyers, it becomes public.

"The defense lawyer was being very reasonable, recognizing there was no way the court could enter a gag order," said attorney Robert Rivas who represents CBS12, the CBS affiliate in West Palm Beach. "And as far as the compromise that was reached regarding the disclosure of the documents, it's just something that was sensible to everybody."

Merhige's father attended Friday's hearing but left without commenting.

Merhige faces four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. His attorney entered a written plea of not guilty earlier this week.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty if he is convicted.

Merhige is accused of shooting his twin sisters, a 79-year-old aunt and 6-year-old cousin after a Thanksgiving family dinner in Jupiter. He disappeared after the massacre, which prompted a month-long manhunt.

Merhige was taken into custody the night of Saturday January 2nd in the Florida Keys. The Pfaff family, owners of the Edgewater Resort on Long Key, saw Merhige's face on the local news and recognized him as one of their customers.

Merhige had been staying at the hotel since December 2nd under the name John Baca.

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Normal one of the victims is out of coma

Post by Nama on Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:53 am

One of the victims of accused Jupiter Thanksgiving Dinner killer Paul Merhige is out of his coma.
Patrick Knight, 37, is awake and communicating less than four months after the massacre that left four people dead, according to the Palm Beach Post.
Knight, an attorney from Miami, awoke to the terrible news that his pregnant wife Lisa, Merhige's sister, was killed in the shooting.
"He does recall the event and has been told about Lisa and the baby, along with the rest of the victims," sister-in-law Beth Knight wrote on a Facebook page last night.
According to police, Merhige, 35, calmly sat through the three hour holiday dinner gathering in Jupiter before going to his car and grabbing his handgun.
When he came back into the house, he opened fire and when the smoke had cleared, four people were dead, including his sisters, Lisa Merhige Knight and Carla Merhige, aunt Raymonde Joseph, and 6-year-old Makayla Sitton.
Merhige fled the scene, touching off an intense, 38-day nationwide manhunt until a profile of him on an episode of "America's Most Wanted" led to his capture on Jan. 2 in a Keys motel room.
Charged with four counts of first degree murder, Merhige has been sitting in the Palm Beach County jail since his capture.
Prosecutors announced they'll seek the death penalty for Merhige.

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Normal Tipsters receive reward for turning in Merhige

Post by Nama on Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:56 am

Without great fanfare, the owners of a Long Key motel have received the $100,000 reward for turning in the South Florida man who is charged with killing four family members on Thanksgiving Day.

Thanks to the tip from Melinda and Paul Pfaff, Paul Merhige is now behind bars.

When asked about the reward money, Melinda Pfaff said she wanted to keep it low-key.

"The circumstances surrounding the money is still very tragic – all those people murdered," Pfaff said.

She said that both she and her family were in danger the whole time Merhige was holed up in the motel room. She added that as a small business owner it offers her and her family "peace of mind." The couple doesn't have health insurance and said it will likely be put away to pay for any medical emergency.

Merhige faces four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder. His attorney has entered a written plea of not guilty.

Merhige is accused of shooting his twin sisters, a 79-year-old aunt and 6-year-old cousin after a Thanksgiving family dinner in Jupiter. He disappeared after the massacre, which prompted a month-long manhunt.

Merhige was taken into custody the night of Saturday January 2nd in the Florida Keys. The Pfaff family, owners of the Edgewater Resort on Long Key, saw Merhige's face on the local news and recognized him as one of their customers.

Merhige had been staying at the hotel since December 2nd under the name John Baca.

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Normal Judge to decide what will be made public in Thanksgiving Day shooting case

Post by Nama on Sat Apr 24, 2010 11:27 pm

A judge will now deliberate which items of evidence against Paul Michael Merhige — the man accused of gunning down family members last Thanksgiving Day — will be released to the public.

Circuit Judge John Hoy said he will take time to decide after Tuesday’s hearing where defenders of Merhige and media attorneys squared off. Hoy said he will consider each item individually before deciding on its release.

Merhige’s defense team is making an extraordinary request that — contrary to Florida’s public records laws — key items of evidence be withheld from the public, including Merhige’s statements to investigators, witness lists and domestic violence records.

Public Defender Carey Haughwout told Hoy this afternoon that releasing further documents would further impede Merhige’s right to a fair trial and generate more stories in what has already been an extraordinary amount of prejudicial pre-trial publicity.

Attorneys for The Palm Beach Post and local television stations responded that much of the information Haughwout seeks to preclude has already been released.

“It’s a law in Florida that has been applied during the lifetimes of most everyone in this courtroom,” Post attorney Martin Reeder told Hoy.

Also on Haughwout’s list are gun-purchase records and an inventory of items discovered in the Long Key motel room where U.S. Marshals captured the 35-year-old Miami man in January after a massive nationwide manhunt.

Striking a balance between the First and Sixth amendments — the rights to free speech and a fair trial, respectively — Hoy previously approved an agreement between media attorneys and Haughwout that allowed the public defender to object to release of certain items of evidence and ordering the release of the items to which there was no objection.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:11 am

That is pure crap. He murdered his family in cold blood while the survivor's witnessed it.

He committed these heinous acts in Florida. Too bad for him. The Sunshine Laws apply! la la la angry

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Normal Thanksgiving day masscre survivor speaks

Post by Nama on Sun May 02, 2010 12:04 am

The man who survived the Thanksgiving Day massacre is speaking for the first time after 3 months in a coma. He made it to "Shine the Light", a tribute to his niece Makayla Sitton, who died that night.

"I had to re-learn how to walk, talk, sit up in bed, and roll over," Patrick Knight said, "But I've done it, three days ago I was able to walk without a walker, and i believe it was so I could come here."

Knight has lost more than most of us could imagine. He lost his pregnant wife Lisa, their unborn baby and almost his own life. It all happened in minutes of terror on Thanksgiving night in Jupiter. In total 4 family members lost their lives that night. A family member, Paul Merhige was later arrested.

Knight said, "I missed all the funerals including the one for my wife, so to be here today with the whole family celebrating Makayla's life it's huge."

Patrick needs to go through some more rehab so he can get a better handle on his motor skills. For now he's on pain-killers, but amazingly he should make a full recovery.

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Normal Paul Merhige in Court

Post by Nama on Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:09 am

Paul Michael Merhige facing several of his victim's families face to face.

Merhige is charged with four counts of first degree murder and three counts of attempted first degree murder in the Thanksgiving day shootings of five family members.

The parents of the youngest victim to die that day 6-year old Makayla Sitton were in the first row of the courtroom just feet away from their daughter's alleged killer.

The only survivor Patrick Knight, a Miami attorney was in court for the first time. Knight awoke from a coma in March to find out his wife and unborn child were killed in the massacre.

Because it's a death penalty case, the trial may not begin for another two years.

Family Advisor David Praether said, "the family has some frustrations the case not being set
and the state attorneys office has been diligently working the case and working the file ."

The next hearing has been set for September 22, the judge saying he at least wants attorneys to have depositions scheduled by then.

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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Guest on Sun Aug 29, 2010 11:05 am

i knew paul. he also suffered from CFS, which is now shown to be caused by a retroviral infection. he didnt develop OCD until after getting the infection. he acquired it at 17.
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Normal Re: UPDATE: Paul Michael Merhige Given Seven Life Sentences For The Thanksgiving Shooting That Took The Lives Of 4

Post by Wrapitup on Sun Aug 29, 2010 2:29 pm

CFS?????? What is that?

Thanks for your post. With all due respect and a welcome to VH..this does NOT excuse the despicable murders at his hands.

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