Most Wanted Merhige's Life on the Lam

Canned food in a small motel for man accused of Thanksgiving slaughter

Paul Merhige may spend the rest of his life behind bars, and it appears his secluded stay at a small Keys motel may have prepared him for that possibility.

As an intense 38-day nationwide manhunt was underway to find the Jupiter man accused of coldly gunning down four relatives during Thanksgiving dinner, he sat holed up in his motel room, eating a stockpile of canned food and water and rarely going outside.

Merhige, 35, checked into the Edgewater Lodge on Dec. 2 under a fake name -- John Baca -- paid in cash, and insisted on cleaning his own room.

"I didn't see him hardly at all, that's what bothered me," said Edgewater owner Paul Pfaff. "He just stayed in his room, and you know when he did come out he did his laundry once in awhile."

As authorities plastered South Florida with wanted posters with Merhige's face and license plate number, the hunted man rarely saw the light of day and kept a cover on his car.

Merhige's undoing happened Saturday night, when Pfaff caught a glimpse of the fugitive on "America's Most Wanted," and called the police.

"I don't watch the news a lot, I don't read the paper a lot. It just happened to be on right after the football game and there he was," Pfaff said.

US Marshals and local deputies busted through the sliding glass door of Merhige's room shortly after 10 p.m.

"Many of you have heard me say, over and over again, we just have to reach that one person that's gonna make the one call and we reached them tonight and that's how we made the apprehension," said Chief Frank Kitzerow with the Jupiter Police department.

Merhige had shaved his head and grown a beard since the Thanksgiving massacre, where police said he calmly sat through the three hour dinner gathering before going to his car and grabbing his handgun.

When he came back into the house, he opened fire and when the smoke had cleared, four people were dead, including his sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Merhige Knight, aunt Raymonde Joseph, and 6-year-old Makayla Sitton.

Jim Sitton, Makayla's father, appeared on the "Today Show" yesterday to express his relief at Merhige's capture.

"The monster's in the cage," Sitton said. "Ever since we've come back into the house, I've been in protective mode, we've had Jupiter police in front of our house and in back, protecting us 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

Merhige was booked yesterday into the Palm Beach County jail without bond. He's been charged with four counts of first degree murder.

Now that the terror is over, relatives are left looking for answers.

"These last five weeks have been total horror, heartbreaking," said Clifford Gerbara, one of the relatives who survived the Thanksgiving rampage. "There is no closure to this type of tragedy, the only thing is that this capture puts an end to our living in terror."

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