Child, pregnant woman among 4 killed in Thanksgiving shooting

10:59 PM, Nov 28, 2009   |    comments
  • Paul Michael Merhige
  • Makayla Sitton was shot and killed during a Thanksgiving Dinner.
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Jupiter, Florida -  Investigators in Florida alerted Michigan authorities to be on the lookout Saturday for a man accused of shooting four relatives to death after a Thanksgiving dinner in South Florida.

The suspect, Paul Michael Merhige, 35, sought a physician in the Detroit area in the past year, Jupiter Police Sgt. Scott Pascarella said, but he was unsure why he needed the doctor.

Around 10 p.m. Thursday, relatives say Merhige left a family gathering of 17 people, then came back with a gun and started shooting.

Among the victims is 6-year-old Makayla Sitton. Makayla is the daughter of a WPTV news photographer.  She was sleeping in a bed at the time she was murdered. 

Also killed was a 76-year-old aunt, Raymonde Joseph, and the suspect's 33-year-old twin sisters, Carla Merhige and  Lisa McKnight. Police say Lisa was pregnant.

A fifth victim, Patrick McKnight, is in the hospital.

Suspect Paul Michael Merhige, 35, is believed to be driving a 4-door blue 2007 Toyota Camry with Florida license plate W42 7JT. He is considered armed and dangerous.

As for Makayla, her father talked about his little girl last night in hopes of bringing awareness to the search for Paul Michael Merhige.

"God packed a lot of sweetness into that little body," Jim Sitton told local reporters. "She's just our life. I don't know how we are ever going to recover." The relationship between Sitton and Paul Merhige was unclear, police said.

It's unclear what caused the shooting.

"What led to this incident, we're not quite sure," said Jupiter Police Sgt. Scott Pascarella. "It did not appear there was any altercation prior to this shooting."

Pascarella said there was "ongoing resentment" in the family, but could not say how that may have have been related to the shooting.

Pascarella said a neighbor called 911 shortly after 10 p.m, bringing Jupiter police to the home on Via Veracruz. Merhige fled before police arrived.

"The word we're trying to get out to the public is that this individual is considered armed and dangerous," said Pascarella.

Neighbors in the Palm Beach County community were shocked. "Our kids walk the streets by themselves," said 67-year-old Nicole Kemp, who did not know any of the victims. "I thought it was the safest place to live. I guess it doesn't matter, if there's a maniac here."

It's unclear where the adult victims lived. Carla Merhige was a real estate agent in Miami, said a co-worker.

"She was a wonderful agent," said Joanna Sherman, a manager at Coldwell Banker Residential real estate. "She was very active in the community and in charities. She was just a genuine, beautiful individual. She always had a smile for everybody."

WFOR, WPTV, WPEC & The Associated Press

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