Fugitive killer found in Florida Keys after 38 days on the lam.
Jim Sitton of Jupiter, Fla. hosted a family Thanksgiving dinner for 17 relatives. Jupiter is an upscale, beach-front city about 65 miles up the Atlantic coast from Miami. Michael Jordan and Burt Reynolds are among the luminaries that make their homes there.
Sitton had covered many stories as a video-journalist, but on Thanksgiving he was to become part of a story- a violent and pitiable one.
An Unexpected Guest
Paul Michael Merhige,35, was not expected to attend. He rarely appeared at family get-togethers and Sitton, who had not seen Merhige for more than ten years, had not invited the man. When Merhige showed up for the dinner at Sitton’s home in a gated community Sitton did not think too much about it, assuming the man was invited by one of his twin sisters, who would be in attendance.
Paul Merhige, mug shot
Sitton was aware that Merhige had a troubled past, including a suicide attempt and domestic violence involving one of his sisters. Yet if he were invited, Sitton thought, Merhige must have gotten better. In fact, his mental pathology had grown far worse.
Ironically, Jupiter was the god in the early Roman pantheon who ruled over law and social order. Before the evening was over, Merhige would rend both of these asunder.
Merhige Suffered Through Three Hours of Dinner, then Celebration in Song and Praise
Paul Merhige had admitted to being an excessive compulsive, but he had more problems than that. In 2006 sister Carla Merhige filed for a protective order against him, claiming Paul had threatened to kill her and himself, and that he refused to take medication for an undisclosed mental illness. She noted that Paul had a prior suicide attempt and vowed to take her with him this time.
Paul Merhige himself pled that Carla was harassing him and aggravating his mental condition.
During the Thanksgiving celebration, Merhige was largely silent and taciturn. Unbeknownst to his host, Paul Merhige was not there to give thanks; there was a gun in his car and murder in his heart.
Following dinner, the family gathered around the piano. Makayla Sitton, the host’s six year old daughter and cousin to Paul Merhige, recited Psalm 100, an ode to praise, and sang several show tunes. Merhige’s twin sisters sang Via De La Rosa. Merhige must have despised all of it. He was not here to praise God or be joyful. The family’s delight at each performance only added heat to the smoldering cauldron within him.