- The Washington Times - Friday, November 27, 2009

JUPITER, Florida (AP) — Four people including a child in bed were shot to death during a family Thanksgiving gathering and a manhunt was under way in Florida early Friday for a male relative suspected in the slayings.

Police said that 17 relatives were in the house when the shootings were reported around 10 p.m. Thursday in Jupiter, a small coastal town about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Miami.

Jupiter Police Sgt. Scott Pascarella said they were looking for Paul Michael Merhige, 35, who is a cousin of the 6-year-old victim, McKayla Sitton.

Police identified the others killed as Raymonde Joseph, 76, and 33-year-old twin sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Merhige. The two women were the suspect’s sisters.

Authorities said a fifth victim, Patrick McKnight, was being treated at a hospital. His condition was not available.

“What led to this incident, we’re not quite sure,” he said. “It did not appear there was any altercation prior to this shooting.”

Police said the home was owned by Jim Sitton, a photojournalist for WPTV-TV and father of the little girl killed. Sitton told WPTV his daughter was in bed when she was shot. He was at the party at the time of the shooting but was not wounded.

Sitton told local media that his daughter was supposed to perform Friday in a holiday production of the Nutcracker.

“God packed a lot of sweetness into that little body,” Sitton said. “She’s just our life. I don’t know how we are ever going to recover.”

The relationship between Sitton and Paul Merhige was unclear, police said.

Phone calls to a number listed for Paul Merhige were not answered.

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