The parents of a 6-year-old killed during a Thanksgiving massacre claim the shooter's parents should also be held responsible for their child's death, according to a lawsuit filed in West Palm Beach on Thursday.
Muriel and Jimmy Sitton are suing their cousins, Michael and Carole Merhige, for inviting their son, Paul Merhige, the alleged gunman of the 2009 shooting after a family dinner.
Paul Merhige, who is Muriel Sitton's cousin, was captured in the Florida Keys after 40 days on the run after the killing.
On Thursday, the Sittons said they understood the Merhiges lost two daughters that day, but contend their cousins brought murder to their doorstep Thanksgiving 2009.
Jimmy Sitton said Merhige's parents knew their son was dangerous but did not tell the other 14 members of the family that were invited to the dinner that he was coming.
In the lawsuit, the Sittons claim the Merhiges secretly invited their son and didn't tell the hosts.
"If someone brought a rattlesnake or a pit bull to your home, without your permission, and that pit bull started attacking and killing people, wouldn't you hold that person responsible?" Jimmy Sitton said. "That's what this is. We're seeking justice with every means at our disposal."
The Merhiges, who have not spoken publicly about the incident, could not immediately be reached for comment. It was also unclear if they had an attorney.
The lawsuit claims Muriel Sitton didn't know her cousin, Paul Merhige, was coming to dinner until she overheard a phone call between Michael Merhige and his son on Thanksgiving confirming the directions to her house. Muriel Sitton had not seen the man in 12 years, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also alleges Carole Merhige told her daughter, Lisa, just days before the shooting that "I hope he doesn't come and kill us all tonight."
"Everyone is going up including Paul!" Carole Merhige allegedly wrote in an e-mail according to the lawsuit. "It will be interesting to say the least."
The lawsuit does not say who the e-mail was to or how it was found.
The Sittons also said the Merhiges did nothing to stop their son once he started shooting at relatives, and they could have stepped in and possibly saved Makayla, who was in her bedroom..
“It's our position that they knew Paul was coming and they were going to spring him on the Sittons at the last possible moment so that they wouldn’t be in a position to tell him 'no' or turn him away,” attorney David Prather said.
The lawsuit requests damages of more than $15,000.