Page last updated at 18:19 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

US police seek man after Thanksgiving party shootings

Makayla Sitton (provided by Jim Sitton via WPTV)
Makayla Sitton was shot in her bed

Police in the US are searching for a man after four relatives - including a child - were shot dead at a family Thanksgiving dinner in Florida.

Paul Michael Merhige, 35, is considered armed and dangerous, police in the small Palm Beach town of Jupiter said.

The victims are a six-year-old girl who was shot in her bed, the man's twin sisters and his 76-year-old aunt.

Police said 17 relatives were gathered at the home for dinner on Thursday. The motive for the killings is unclear.

Authorities said a fifth victim, Mr Merhige's brother-in-law, was being treated in hospital for unspecified wounds.

Father's grief

Sgt Scott Pascarella said police had received emergency calls after 2200 local time.

He said that sometime after Thanksgiving dinner, Mr Merhige left the residence, returned with a handgun and started shooting.

"What led to this incident, we're not quite sure," said Sgt Pascarella. "It did not appear there was any altercation prior to this shooting."

Mr Merhige, who has no criminal record, is the cousin of six-year-old Makayla Sitton, police officials told the Associated Press news agency.

They said the girl's father, Jim Sitton, owned the home in Jupiter, some 150km (90 miles) north of Miami.

"God packed a lot of sweetness into that little body," Mr Sitton said. "She's just our life. I don't know how we are ever going to recover."

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