South Florida Crime
WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – The sole suspect in the Thanksgiving Day massacre in Jupiter is expected to take a plea deal later this week, according to WPEC.
Prosecutors have reportedly reached a plea deal which would spare the death sentence for Paul Michael Merhige, 37. He will plead guilty to murder and attempted murder charges in exchange for seven life sentences.
Merhige is accused of gunning down relatives inside his cousin’s home as Thanksgiving dinner was winding down in 2009. Those who didn’t survive the massacre included Merhige’s sisters, twins Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige; their aunt, Raymonde Joseph, 76, and their cousin’s daughter, Makayla Sitton, 6. Lisa Knight was also pregnant.
Knight’s husband, Patrick, was also shot in the stomach and spent three months in a medically induced coma. He wasn’t expected to survive. If the plea deal is not executed, he’s expected to be the star witness at Merhige’s trial.
After the shooting, Merhige vanished. He fled to the Florida Keys where he reportedly planned to commit suicide. After a five-week manhunt, Merhige was finally taken into custody January 2nd, 2010 on Long Key when the Pfaff family, who own of the Edgewater Resort, saw his face on the local news and recognized him as one of their customers.
Two lawsuits have been filed against Merhige’s parents, Michael and Carole, one from Patrick Knight and the other by the parents of Makayla Sitton. Both parties allege the Merhige’s knew of their son’s “dangerous propensities” and failed to protect their relatives during the Thanksgiving get-together from him.
The Merhiges deny the claim.