The Oxygen Network is airing their “Deadly Thanksgiving” episode this weekend on Homicide for the Holidays. The story is based on the fatal shootings that occurred in Jupiter, Florida, seven years ago.
Authorities say Paul Michael Merhige pretended to enjoy his Thanksgiving dinner before he fired multiple shots, killing four of his family members and wounding two others. Homicide for the Holidays will interview surviving family members and law enforcement, who will share the traumatic events. Paul Michael Merhige is in prison serving multiple life sentences for the deaths of his twin sisters and a cousin’s small child.
Thanksgiving Dinner Ends In Massive Bloodshed
The deadly Thanksgiving massacre ripped through headlines in November of 2009. Florida detectives say they were called out to the scene, where they found the bodies of four people: 33-year-old twin sisters Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige, 76-year-old Raymonde Joseph, and 6-year-old Makayla Sitton. Two other people were wounded but survived their injuries.
During the 911 call, operators heard a chaotic scene developing in Jupiter, where anguished family members wailed and screamed in the background. Police found little Makayla Sitton dead in her bed. Family members say they don’t know what happened and that everything seemed fine just moments before the shooting.
According to grief-stricken family members, 35-year-old Paul Michael Merhige, the brother to Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige, attended the large family dinner gathering for the Thanksgiving holidays. According to relatives, Merhige sang songs and ate dinner. But at some point, he left the home and returned before opening fire.
Jupiter detectives learned that Paul Michael Merhige had a history of disturbing behavior and mental problems. However, what occurred at the Thanksgiving feast was totally unexpected. Over a dozen family members were present.
By the time officers had arrived, the gunman was already gone. Witnesses say that he fled the scene in a blue car.
The manhunt for Paul Michael Merhige swung into full gear as they tried to locate his whereabouts and provide justice for the family.
Police struck gold when the case was aired on John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted, which led to a tip that he was hiding out at a local hotel in the Florida Keys, the New York Daily News reported.
Paul Michael Merhige, who was using a fake name, was arrested and charged with the killings.
For those who loved the victims, they say that Paul Michael Merhige deserves nothing less than the death penalty and that there isn’t a case where the death penalty is more justified than this one.
No matter what his problem was with some of his family members, to take the life of an innocent child is unforgivable, some believed. Makayla’s father, James Sitton, stated the following, according to ABC News.
“Makayla was a special girl. Six-years-old, played piano and sang. She was supposed to be in the Nutcracker ballet tomorrow at the Eissey theater…. She was very excited about this. Tonight, when we put her down, I got to have a tender, special moment with her. She’s just, our life, and I don’t know how we’re ever going to recover. God packed a lot of sweetness into that little body, and it’s a tragic way to go, but we know where she is.”
The death penalty was considered but later taken out of the discussion. According to the Daily Mail, James Sitton, the father of Makayla Sitton, clenched locks of his daughter’s hair before dropping to his knees and begging the judge not to consider the multiple life sentences.
Sadly, the judge didn’t have much of a choice in the matter, since it had already been decided that this was not going to be a death penalty case.
Paul Michael Merhige was sentenced to seven life sentences. Currently, he is serving his sentence in a Florida correctional facility.
Don’t miss this episode of Homicide for the Holidays, which airs this Saturday, December 3 at 8/7 p.m. Central on the Oxygen Network.
[Featured Image by Lynne Sladky/AP Images]