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4 Relatives Shot Dead at Fla. Thanksgiving Party

Friday, 27 Nov 2009 07:36 AM

JUPITER, Fla. -- A manhunt was under way in Florida early Friday for a relative of three adults and a child shot to death during a Thanksgiving family gathering.

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

Jupiter Police Sgt. Scott Pascarella said they're looking for Paul Michael Merhige, 35, of Miami. Merhige is the cousin of the 6-year-old victim, McKayla Sitton, police said.

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The other shooting victims were named as Ramone Joseph, Carla Merhige and Lisa Merhige. The two women were 33 years old and the male victim's age was not immediately known.

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," said Pascarella. "It did not appear there was any altercation prior to this shooting."

According to WPTV-TV, the little girl killed was the daughter of WPTV photojournalist Jim Sitton. His two sisters were also among the dead. 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.

Police across South Florida and the U.S. Marshals Service were searching for Paul Merhige. Pascarella said Merhige is believed to be driving a blue 2007 4-door Toyota Camry with Florida license plate W42 7JT.

"The word we're trying to get out to the public is that this individual is considered armed and dangerous," said Pascarella.

© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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