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Parents Could Have Stopped Mehrige Massacre, Lawsuit Claims

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Paul Mehrige in the back of a US Marshal's service van after his arrest in Long Key. The picture was snapped by a crew for the TV program America's Most Wanted. (Source: America's Most Wanted)

Paul Mehrige in the back of a US Marshal’s service van after his arrest in Long Key. The picture was snapped by a crew for the TV program America’s Most Wanted. (Source: America’s Most Wanted)

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South Florida Crime

JUPITER (CBSMiami) – The parents of a six year old girl killed in the Thanksgiving 2009 shooting spree for which Paul Merhige faces multiple murder charges dropped a bombshell Wednesday when they said they would sue his mother and father. The suit will claim the parents had ‘some sense’ Merhige might kill at the family gathering, but did nothing to stop him or warn others.

The allegations will be contained in a lawsuit to be filed against Michael & Carole Merhige, parents of the man who walked into a family Thanksgiving celebration at the home of James and Muriel Sitton, and according to witnesses, sprayed the party with gunfire. Among those killed was the Sittons’ 6-year-old daughter, Makayla. Four relatives, including Makayla, were killed in the grisly attack.

After the massacre, Merhige fled the Jupiter home of the Sittons and eventually ended up in Islamorada, where he hid for a month in a waterfront motel. A nationwide manhunt topped by a tip to America’s Most Wanted ended with his capture.

The lawsuit, to be filed Thursday in Palm Beach District Court by attorneys David C. Prather and Julie H. Littky-Rubin, claim’s Merhige’s parents were negligent because they knew their son was planning to attend the family Thanksgiving event, even though he was unwanted and uninvited. However, according to a statement by the attorneys, the lawsuit will go beyond that, claiming the parents, “had some sense that he might kill people that day, and purposely chose not to tell them that Paul was coming.”

The lawsuit will claim the the parents, “had an opportunity to stop their son before he killed young Makayla, but chose not to do so.”

The attorneys did not specify the dollar amount of damages they were seeking for the Sittons. More information is expected to be revealed at a Thursday news conference after the lawsuit is filed.

Merhige had a long history of problems with other members of his family, and was said to have mental health issues for which he was medicated. claim he planned his attack carefully, purchasing 4 guns and ammunition, taking $12 thousand out of the bank, and even buying a cover for his car, which was eventually used to hide it from view while he was on the run.

Family members said he was quiet throughout the dinner, which he was allowed to attend even though he was not invited. They said the shooting came as a complete surprise.

Merhige is still awaiting trial on 4 counts of murder and other crimes related to the massacre.

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