Six-year-old girl one of four victims shot dead at Thanksgiving Day celebration

By Calvin Palmer

Four people were shot dead last night when a man opened fire at a Thanksgiving Day family gathering in Florida.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt Scott Pascarella said 17 relatives were inside the home in Jupiter when the shootings were reported.

Police are searching for 35-year-old suspect Michael Merihige, of Miami.

The victims have been named as Merhige’s 33-year-old twin sisters — Carla Merhige and Lisa Merhige — Raymonde Joseph, 76, and Merhige’s cousin, six- year-old McKayla Sitton, who was asleep in bed when she was shot.

“It was a domestic disturbance. That’s all we know,” Pascarella said today. “What triggered the gunfire, we don’t know.”

Lisa Merhige’s husband, Patrick McKnight, 37, was wounded and is being treated at a hospital. Another cousin, Clifford Bebara, 52, was also injured. Their condition is unknown.

Makayla was due to perform today in The Nutcracker at the Eissey Theater in Palm Beach Gardens.

“She loved ballet and was so thrilled because this was the first time she was able to participate in The Nutcracker,” Colleen Smith, artistic director of the Classical Ballet Theater, said today.

“She was a delightful little girl,” Smith said. “She was luminous,” Smith said. “She never complained and always said, ‘Thank you.’ Makalya was always smiling and tried to make the other children feel better. She was such a dear child.”

Jupiter, a small coastal town about 90 miles north of Miami.

[Based on reports by the Palm Beach Post and Associated Press.]

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