WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) – Nearly two years after a six-year-old South Florida girl, and three others, were killed in a Thanksgiving Day massacre, the family of the youngest victim has filed a lawsuit.
Muriel and Jim Sitton, and Antoine Joseph, whose wife was also killed, have filed suit against the parents of Paul Merhige claiming they knew he was unstable and potentially violent and did nothing to warn them that he would be attending their Thanksgiving dinner in 2009.
The lawsuit claims Michael and Carole Merhige were negligent because they knew their son was planning to attend the Thanksgiving event, even though he was unwanted and uninvited.
According to the lawsuit, his mother told her daughter she hoped he wouldn’t “come and kill us all” in advance of Thanksgiving.
It was during Thanksgiving dinner that Merhige, Muriel Sitton’s cousin, is accused of shooting to death his twin sisters Carla and Lisa, his aunt Raymonde Joseph, and 6-year-old cousin Makayla while she slept in her bed in her Jupiter home.
The suit also claims his parents “had some sense that he might kill people that day”, but did nothing to stop him.
“The reason we are bringing this case is because the Merhige’s knew that and our clients didn’t,” said attorney Julie Littky-Rubin. “Had our clients known that, they would have said, ‘No, he cannot come.’ Instead he showed up. Muriel had one minutes’ notice that Paul was on his way. Had she known, had Jim known, had Dr. Joseph known, had anyone known, they would have prevented him from being there.”
The Sitton’s also said that Paul Merhige’s father was a former CIA agent and he had opportunity because of his past training, to prevent his daughters from being shot.
After the massacre, Merhige fled the Sittons Jupiter home and eventually ended up in Islamorada, where he hid for a month in a waterfront motel.
A tip to America’s Most Wanted led to his capture and ended a nationwide manhunt.
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. Prosecutors 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.
Paul Merhige is awaiting trial on four counts of First-Degree Murder and has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.