4 relatives shot dead at Fla. dinner
Hunt continues for man driving a blue Camry
JUPITER, Fla. - A Florida man opened fire on his family after Thanksgiving dinner, killing his pregnant sister, 6-year-old cousin, and two other relatives before speeding off and triggering a statewide manhunt, police said yesterday.
Police were still searching last evening for Paul Michael Merhige, 35, of Miami.
He also is accused of gunning down his pregnant sister’s twin and his 79-year-old aunt. Jupiter police Sergeant Scott Pascarella said there had been “ongoing resentment’’ in the family, but did not elaborate.
“What led to this incident, we’re not quite sure,’’ Pascarella said. “It did not appear there was any altercation prior to this shooting.’’
Pascarella said Merhige left the gathering briefly before returning with a handgun.
Seventeen relatives had gathered in Jupiter, a small beach town about 90 miles north of Miami best known as a home to celebrities including Michael Jordan and Burt Reynolds.
Police spokeswoman Sally Collins-Ortiz said the city had never experienced a slaying with so many victims.
The department enlisted the US Marshals in the search for Merhige, who police said had no known criminal past. He was believed to be driving a royal blue 2007
Pascarella said police first received a 911 call from a neighbor, then another from someone inside the house. The residence, in a well-kept new subdivision with brick-paved driveways, is owned by TV videojournalist Jim Sitton and his wife.
Sitton’s daughter Makayla was the young victim. Police said she had gone to bed before the rampage.
The other victims were Merhige’s twin sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, and an aunt, Raymonde Joseph. A fifth victim, Merhige’s brother-in-law Patrick Knight, was in critical but stable condition at a local hospital. Another man, Clifford Gebara, 52, was grazed by a bullet but suffered no serious injury.