Juan Ignacio Blanco  


  MALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

  FEMALE murderers

index by country

index by name   A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Murderpedia has thousands of hours of work behind it. To keep creating new content, we kindly appreciate any donation you can give to help the Murderpedia project stay alive. We have many
plans and enthusiasm to keep expanding and making Murderpedia a better site, but we really
need your help for this. Thank you very much in advance.




Paul Michael MERHIGE






A.K.A.: "Thanksgiving Day Killer"
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 4
Date of murders: November 26, 2009
Date of arrest: January 2, 2010
Date of birth: 1974
Victims profile: Merhige’s sisters, twins Lisa Knight (pregnant) and Carla Merhige; their aunt, Raymonde Joseph, 76, and their cousin’s daughter, Makayla Sitton, 6
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Jupiter, Florida, USA
Status: In prison awaiting trial
photo gallery

Trial Date Set For Thanksgiving Massacre Suspect

January 18, 2011

WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) – A trial date has been set for the South Florida man charged with killing four family members on Thanksgiving Day in 2009. Paul Merhige will go on trial August 8, 2011 for the murders of his two sisters, aunt and 6-year-old cousin.

There was a new judge presiding over Tuesday’s hearing because Circuit Judge Joseph Marx is currently not certified to preside over a death penalty case. However, he plans to attend a judicial training class in May which will enable him to preside over the case when it goes to trial in August. Circuit Judge Karen Miller, who is certified, will hear any issues until then.

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. Now, 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.

The trial is expected to last five weeks. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty.


State to seek death penalty against alleged Thanksgiving Day killer

By Andrew Marra and Michael LaForgia - The Palm Beach Post

January 28, 2010

WEST PALM BEACH-- Prosecutors have decided to seek the death penalty for Paul Michael Merhige, the man accused of fatally shooting four family members in a Thanksgiving rampage in Jupiter.

The decision, announced Thursday by State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, comes almost a month after Merhige's Jan. 2 capture in a Florida Keys hotel, where he hid out for weeks after allegedly shooting dead his twin sisters, his aunt and his cousin's 6-year-old daughter at Thanksgiving dinner.

The horrific scale of his alleged crime and the prolonged national manhunt made him one of the nation's most wanted criminals for more than a month. After his capture, the father of one of the victims and the celebrity host of the America's Most Wanted television program each called on McAuliffe to seek to have Merhige executed.

"If there's anyone who deserves the death penalty, it is someone who would execute my 6-year-old daughter while she is in bed," said Jim Sitton, the father of Makayla Sitton, earlier this month.

The decision by prosecutors to seek death by lethal injection came as a grand jury formally indicted the 35-year-old Miami man on four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted first-degree murder. Police say he shot and wounded two other relatives and tried unsuccessfully to shoot his uncle.

His parents, who supported him financially even as a grown man, have not hired a private defense attorney for Merhige, so he will be represented by Carey Haughwout, the county's public defender. She could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Relatives of Merhige's alleged victims also declined to comment Thursday, as did McAuliffe.

Merhige was an honors student and varsity athlete at a prominent Miami prep school before studying at the University of Miami. But after graduating, he never held a job and was supported by his parents, his mother said.

He once shot himself in a supposed suicide attempt and allegedly threatened once to cut the throat of one of his sisters.

Merhige's reported history of mental problems — his mother said he suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder and chronic depression — will likely be a key issue if his case goes to trial. Legal experts have said evidence of Merhige's extensive planning and escape could complicate attempts to argue a convincing insanity defense.

In general, such defenses can backfire on attorneys arguing death penalty cases, said Christopher Slobogin, director of the criminal justice program at Vanderbilt University Law School.

"Some people have described serious mental illness as a double-edged sword," he said. "It … tends to show dangerousness in a typical juror's mind," which might make a jury more likely to recommend the death penalty.

Authorities said Merhige meticulously plotted the killings, buying four guns, packing clothes and withdrawing at least $12,000 in cash.

During the Thanksgiving meal at the Sittons' Jupiter home, he sat quietly and ate nothing. Later, he went outside, removed a gun from his car and re-entered. Moments later, without a word, police say he opened fire.

He fled and hid out in the Keys while a nationwide manhunt swirled around him, swapping the license plate on his blue Toyota Camry and keeping it covered in a motel parking lot.

He was arrested Jan. 2. at the Edgewater Lodge in Long Key, between Islamorada and Marathon, after the motel's owner saw his face broadcast during a college football game. Authorities who raided his motel room said Merhige apparently had been following the manhunt on the Internet.

He was taken to the Palm Beach County Jail, where he remains held without bail.

Merhige, who reportedly nursed a grudge against his family for more than a decade, is accused of killing 6-year-old Sitton; his aunt Raymonde Joseph, 76; and his 33-year-old twin sisters, Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige.

Veteran Assistant State Attorney Aleathea McRoberts, who co-prosecuted the Dunbar Village rape trials, is slated to prosecute Merhige. His arraignment in court is set for Feb. 2.

In Florida, a majority of jurors must vote to recommend the death penalty and a judge then makes the final decision. The case is set to be handled by Circuit Judge John Hoy.


An unusual suspect: Merhige was likable honors student before he did the unthinkable

By Adam Playford - The Palm Beach Post

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009

— Before the wanted posters and that terrible night, before the restraining orders and the conflicts and the breakdown that started it all — before all of that, there was a promise, made on his senior page in the high school yearbook, from Paul Michael Merhige to "all 32" members of his family:

"I love you now and will forever."

But forever didn't last.

Now, more than 17 years later, Merhige is being hunted, accused of brutally killing four of those family members after Thanksgiving dinner, and then disappearing into the night; leaving dead an aunt, his cousin's 6-year-old daughter and both of Merhige's sisters, one of whom was pregnant.

The two images are hard to reconcile: The man who police say harbored deep hatred for his family. The boy who devoted his whole yearbook page to them, while his peers used theirs to joke about detention and to "thank god it's over."

The guy in the yearbook, "that's who I went to high school with," said Jacqueline Kirtley, who sat next to Merhige in AP biology. The stuff she's seen in the news? "We don't recognize that as the same person."

How did the 17-year-old who wrote that "I have been so lucky to be blessed with having twin sisters and being your protective older brother" become the 35-year-old who killed them both?

And how did "Mom and Dad, thank you for all that you have given me" turn into allegedly reloading his gun and saying to Dad, "I've been waiting 20 years to do this"?

Merghige's mother has said he had a nervous breakdown at 19, as an honors student at the University of Miami, and has battled severe depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Family members have declined to discuss the specifics of what happened.

Well-liked and driven

But the picture painted by family members and police reports of Merhige today is that the breakdown never ended; that he became a troubled man, suffering from insomnia, obesity, a receding hairline and OCD; repeatedly bathing and shaving, struggling to make decisions and unable to hold a job. He skipped his medicine, attempted suicide and routinely threatened to kill one of his sisters, according to a complaint the sister filed, then withdrew, in 2006.

All of which sounded nothing like the person Kirtley and her high school classmates knew in 1992.

Merhige graduated third in his class from Gulliver Prep, a pricey haven for the children of Miami's well-to-do. He played football, baseball and soccer. Led the French honor society. Driven and mature. Handsome and fit. Personable but quiet. Well-liked, if not precisely popular. ("He was a smart kid at a private school. So none of us were really popular," Kirtley said, laughing.)

Still. A success story in the making.

"I thought he'd be running a company or a business or something like that," said Bob Schweid, who was Merhige's football coach for half a season.

Merhige pushed himself hard, Schweid recalled. He was a kicker, and kicking is a specialty — not something that would be taught in practice. So he practiced on his own.

In class, he was confident and had a plan: Go to UM and become a doctor, according to another classmate, who asked not to be named while Merhige's still loose .

"It seemed like he just had everything going for him while other people were still kind of fuddling around," he said.

The classmate remembers debating Merhige over whether anyone believes every word in the Bible. Merhige didn't think so.

He also had a lighter side, Kirtley recalled; he was fun to sit next to.

Even at 17, he worried that he might go bald. "I guess his father didn't have a lot of hair, so he tried to start using Rogaine in high school as a preventative measure," she said.

In her yearbook, he congratulated her on getting into MIT, complimented her personality and praised her "zest to experience life in every way."

And gave a friendly word of warning: "You better watch out with those northern guys. For some reason, I don't think they have what it takes to treat a girl right."

What she hears now just doesn't make sense — doesn't jibe with the person she knew.

"What could've happened to him in the last 15 years?" Kirtley asked.

Did a slight start a buildup to rage?

For now, it will remain a mystery. But there are a few obvious guesses, specialists say.

Mental illness often comes out in college — preexisting conditions triggered by stress and drastic life changes, said Kevin Beaver, a professor at Florida State University.

"Those different mental disorders can feed into violence," he said.

But the movement from breakdown to violence is often gradual, said Dr. Stephen Alexander, a practicing psychologist who was once the chief psychologist for the Palm Beach Circuit Court.

It starts with a slight, real or perceived, Alexander said. Perhaps after the breakdown, Merhige was jealous of his sisters' success. Perhaps he felt like a failure and needed someone to blame. Perhaps it was something else entirely.

Whatever it was, it was likely something, and that became a slight, and that slight became resentment, and that resentment became rage, Alexander said.

If Merhige has OCD — or even, as a profile by the U.S. Marshals Service implies, he merely thinks he does — that would give him an excuse to revisit those feelings, to turn them over in his mind. Over time, the bitterness and unhappiness and bad feelings would crystallize.

And then he starts thinking about killing.

At first, Alexander says, it would be a little like standing at the edge of a tall building. Most people will think, "What if I jump?" and then feel a strong unease, and then walk away.

So he thinks, "What if I kill them?" And the thought passes, but it comes back, and comes back, till it has settled in, dug grooves in his mind. (For Merhige, Alexander said, it could be legitimized because of his family's history; Merhige's aunt killed her husband and her two children and then herself in the 1970s.)

Again, the OCD would make it worse — giving him an excuse to come back to the idea over and over.

Eventually, the idea would become more concrete — would start including where he would go and how he'd do it.

When Merhige went to dinner that night, he might not have been sure he would kill, Alexander said. But he knew he'd be ready.

"When you look at them, you see, they've been snapping all along," he said. "This was a build-up."

The reward for information leading to the apprehension of Paul Merhige is $100,000. Merhige was last seen operating a 2007 royal blue four-door Toyota Camry bearing the Florida license plate W42-7JT. He is considered armed and dangerous.


Thanksgiving Massacre Witness: Paul Merhige Ate Dinner, Sang Songs Then Executed Family

December 2, 2009

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (CBS/AP) Paul Michael Merhige sat through three hours of Thanksgiving Day dinner and sing-alongs around the piano, plotting the moment he would fatally shoot four relatives, his cousin-in-law said Tuesday.

After opening fire, Merhige was heard saying he had waited 20 years to kill them, according to the host of the dinner that turned deadly.

There were no arguments, warnings or red flags before the rampage, said Merhige's cousin-in-law Jim Sitton, whose 6-year-old daughter was killed.

Merhige also shot his 79-year-old aunt to death and killed his twin sisters, one of whom was pregnant, police said.

"He had this whole thing pre-planned. His goal was to shoot his sisters and punish his parents," Sitton said.

It's not clear exactly who was shot when, but the bloodbath could have been worse with 16 family members present. Sitton said Merhige, 35, also pointed the gun at Merhige's uncle, but it twice wouldn't fire. At one point, according to Sitton, Merhige "turned and started to walk away and said, 'I have been waiting 20 years to do this."'

Authorities were still searching for Merhige, who hasn't been seen since the shootings.

At Sitton's home in an upscale, gated community in Jupiter, a beach town some 55 miles north of Miami, crime scene tape still overshadows holiday decorations. Sitton said the holiday meal was a happy one.

His daughter, Makayla, wrote on cards how thankful she was for her family, and strung them on a clothesline. After dinner, she sang songs as part of an impromptu dress rehearsal for a performance of "The Nutcracker" she was to be in the next day.

Sitton, a videographer for a local television station, said he doesn't know who invited Merhige to his home, but he thought little of it when Merhige's father called to say Merhige was on his way and needed directions.

Sitton said his wife's cousin was always on the fringe of family life and rarely attended gatherings. He had only met Merhige twice and hadn't seen him in more than a decade.

Sitton said Merhige methodically picked off his victims, shooting his twin sisters, Carla Merhige, a real estate agent, and Lisa Knight, who was pregnant. Like Makayla, they loved to sing.

Merhige also shot his aunt, Raymonde Joseph. Merhige's brother-in-law Patrick Knight was in critical but stable condition at a hospital Tuesday. Another man, Clifford Gebara, 52, was grazed by a bullet.

Sitton doesn't think Merhige planned to kill Makayla, but thinks he became jealous when he saw the family delight in her singing.

"He tried to snuff out the light," Sitton said. "He came into a baby's room. He saw her innocence and he walked in and purposefully killed her."

Sitton said he dreaded returning to his home, but was comforted when he walked into his daughter's room Sunday. Beside her bed, he wept when he read for the first time a novel she had been writing about a squirrel. Makayla was a voracious reader, who loved to sing, dance and tell stories. She would have turned 7 in a few days.

Jupiter police were looking in bodies of water near the home, though the search wasn't based on any specific tip, officer Sally Collins-Ortiz said. Investigators also alerted Michigan authorities to be on the lookout for Merhige because a doctor in the Detroit area treated him there three months ago. Authorities have not said what the doctor treated him for.

Sitton called Merhige "a monster" but said he didn't know if Merhige suffered from mental illness.

Court documents showed Merhige and his siblings had a troubled history. Nearly a decade ago, Merhige sought protection from law enforcement after he accused his sister of trying to kill him, according to records obtained by The Miami Herald. He dropped the request a few weeks later.

In 2006, Carla Merhige, requested a restraining order against her brother saying he threatened to kill her and himself, the newspaper reported. She also withdrew her request a few weeks later.

Merhige was believed to be driving a royal blue 2007 Toyota Camry with a rear spoiler and a Florida license plate.

Prosecutors issued an arrest warrant Saturday for four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. A $10,000 reward was offered for information leading to his arrest.



home last updates contact