The parents of accused 'Thanksgiving killer' Paul Michael Merhige's littlest victim plan to file a negligence suit Thursday against his parents.
Jim and Muriel Sitton say not only did Michael and Carole Merhige of Miami know their son was planning to attend the fateful family gathering at the Sitton's Jupiter home uninvited and unannounced, but that they had some sense he might kill people that day and purposefully chose not to tell them, according to a media advisory released by their attorneys.
The Sittons also allege that the Merhiges had an opportunity to stop their son before he killed their six-year-old daughter, Makayla, but chose not to.
The sleeping child, the only daughter of Paul Merhige's cousin, was the fourth person he allegedly shot to death at the 2009 massacre in Jupiter.
The 36-year-old had a history of mental illness and violent threats against his sisters and was generally estranged from the family, but attended the Thanksgiving celebration after calling his parents.
"Everyone is going up (including Paul!!)," wrote Carole Merhige before the killings in an e-mail to a relative obtained by NBC affiliate WPTV. "It will be interesting to say the least!"
Merhige sat calmly through the three-hour dinner in Jupiter, relatives told police. His sisters had sung and Makayla had recited Psalm 100 and gone to sleep when police say the one-time Gulliver Prep standout walked to his car and grabbed a handgun.
Merhige then shot his 76-year-old aunt Raymonde Joseph, brother-in-law Patrick Knight, and twin sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight before heading in to the bedroom where Makayla slept, police say.
"He went and shot [Makayla] and came out and almost instantly, like a second thought, went right back in and shot her again, I guess to make sure she was dead," Knight told investigators after waking up from a coma in March. He was the only wounded victim to survive.
Merhige fled the scene, touching off an intense, 38-day nationwide manhunt until a profile of him on an episode of "America's Most Wanted" led to his capture on Jan. 2 in a Keys motel room.
Testimony from his mother appears likely to figure in the Sitton's case against her.
"I hope he doesn't come and kill us all tonight," his mother Carole Merhige recalled remarking to one of her daughters, according to documents and audio recordings.
"Mom, it came to my mind," she said Lisa Knight replied. "But don't say that to Dad because Dad would get upset that we had such ideas."
Charged with four counts of first degree murder, Merhige has been sitting in the Palm Beach County jail since his capture. Prosecutors have announced they'll seek the death penalty for Merhige, and a trial is expected to begin this fall.
The Sittons are expected to speak about their suit from their attorneys' offices Thursday at 11 a.m.