Thanksgiving 'killer' arrested at motel

A man accused of killing four relatives at a Thanksgiving holiday dinner was captured at a motel in the Florida Keys where police said he had eluded authorities for about a month by checking in under a fake name and address, and hiding his car with a cover.

Paul Merhige, 35, was arrested without a struggle last night after the TV show "America's Most Wanted" aired and provided the tip that led to Merhige's capture on Long Key, Jupiter Police Sgt Scott Pascarella said.

"I'm elated that the monster is in the cage," Jim Sitton, the father of six-year-old victim Makayla Sitton, told The Palm Beach Post.

"We don't have to worry about him killing my wife or coming back for my father-in-law. It doesn't bring my daughter back, but at least this chapter is over."

Merhige had been the subject of a massive manhunt from Miami to Michigan that included billboards and flyers with his image and a 100,000 dollar (£61,000) reward for information leading to his arrest. He is accused of gunning down his twin sisters, a 79-year-old aunt and a six-year-old cousin on November 26 at a family gathering in Jupiter.

Authorities said Merhige checked into the motel December 2, using the name "John Baca" and a false Homestead address. He had the same blue 2007 Toyota Camry that had been a key part of the manhunt, but police said it was hidden at the motel.

US Marshals said Merhige, who had withdrawn 12,000 dollars (£7,100) from bank accounts before the killings, paid for his room in advance in cash. It turned out that the licence tag on his car had been registered to a Lexus he owned in 2006.

Merhige was on his computer when US Marshals and local deputies entered his motel room, according to a Marshals statement.

Authorities said he was taken to the Palm Beach County jail.

Police said Merhige opened fire at a home where 16 relatives had gathered for the holiday in Jupiter, an affluent community about 90 miles north of Miami. He faces four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder in the shootings, which also injured two other people.

Police said Merhige shot and killed his 33-year-old twin sisters, Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, both of Miami, along with his aunt Raymonde Joseph, 76, and his young cousin. Police said Knight was pregnant.

Authorities have said Merhige carefully planned the killings. Sitton has said Merhige was heard saying after the shootings that he had waited 20 years to kill the relatives.

Merhige sat through three hours of dinner and sing-a-longs around the piano before the shootings, Sitton has said. There were no arguments, warnings or red flags before the rampage, he said.

Police said Merhige was taking numerous medications, including Ativan, which is used to treat anxiety disorders.