Courts & Crime

Court records: Sister feared suspect in Thanksgiving slayings

MIAMI — As Palm Beach County authorities continued their search for Paul Merhige, the Miami man accused of killing four relatives on Thanksgiving, court records show that the suspected killer had a troubled relationship with one of his slain sisters.

In 2006, Carla Merhige, Paul Merhige's younger sister, so feared her brother could turn violent that she went to court to ask a Miami-Dade judge to keep him away from her.

In her request for a restraining order against him, Carla Merhige claimed that her brother had threatened to kill her -- as well as himself -- and refused to take medication for an unnamed mental illness.

Carla Merhige, quoting her brother, said he stood in her face, telling her "I'm going to slit your throat'' and "this time I'm not going to go by myself (referring to a recent suicide attempt),'' according to court documents. She said the threats happened on a "regular basis'' and sought the court's help to "prevent further incidents of violence and harrassment.''

Despite her fears, Carla Merhige voluntarily withdrew her request for a restraining order on May 12, 2006 -- just three weeks after filing it.

Eight years earlier, Paul Merhige had sought protection from law enforcement authorities after he accused his sister of trying to kill him. He dropped the request about five weeks later.

At the time, Paul Merhige alleged that Carla had told him that "If I had the chance to get away with it, I'll kill you [sic].''

Paul Merhige claimed that his sister broke his bedroom door down, began screaming at him and spit in his face before wrestling him to the floor. He said he was being treated for "obsessive compulsive disorders'' and that Carla and other family members "were aware of his treatment, but would purposely harass him, contradicting the doctor's orders.''

He claimed family members wanted him "to get worse and not overcome his illness.''

In Palm Beach County, authorities have not disclosed a specific motive in the Thanksgiving Day shooting.

Paul Merhige is being sought as a fugitive on four counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Carla, 33, Lisa Knight, also 33 and Carla's twin sister, and two other relatives, including a 6-year-old girl who was the daughter of Jim and Muriel Sitton, who were hosting the Thanksgiving dinner for 17 people.

"They're just trying to get their heads around it,'' said family friend Shannon Cake, who works with Jim Sitton at WPTV-NBC 5 in West Palm Beach.

Police say Paul Michael Merhige opened fire at 10 p.m., killing his aunt, Raymonde Joseph, his sisters and 6-year-old Makayla Sitton.

The U.S. Marshals Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force offered $10,000 for information leading to Merhige's arrest. The Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office has issued an arrest warrant for Merhige for four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

Police are looking for Merhige, 35, in Florida and Michigan. He was last seen driving a blue 2007 Toyota Camry with the Florida license plate W42 7JT. Authorities have been searching for him in Florida and Michigan.

Meanwhile, friends of the twin sisters prepared to hold a candlelight vigil Monday night at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, 2055 Coral Way, Miami. The two sisters were parishioners at the church.

Friends said the sisters had "angelic'' voices and would often sing at holiday parties, funerals, weddings and other occasions. They also sang at Our Lady of Lebanon church.

The Rev. Elie Mikhael, the church pastor, said he was expecting at least 250 people to attend the vigil, which is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

The sisters touched many people, said the Rev. Elie Mikhael, pastor of Our Lady of Lebanon. ``Just by their personalities, their presence, their devotion, their smiles, [they were] very unique girls,''

The community has been "very supportive,'' he said.