Posted by Rachel Leigh - email
LONG KEY, FL (WFLX) - The takedown of Merhige happened Saturday night on Long Key in the Florida Keys between Isla Morada and Marathon. Investigators say, Merhige was holed up inside a motel room.
U.S. Marshall hunted Paul Michael Merhige down and Tasered him in a motel room in the Florida Keys.
The Edgewater Motel owner recognized Merhige's face just as 'America's Most Wanted' was about to air an episode on him. "I saw him on TV, and I hadn't seen him before," said the motel owner.
Makayla Sitton's father had gotten the phone call. "The U.S. Marshals were going in while I was watching 'America's Most Wanted'. He [Merhige] was watching, too. But I knew something he didn't. His hotel was getting surrounded."
It took 38 days to locate him, but just minutes to take him down. He did not try to evade. There was no way he could the way that the room was set up. Inside room 14, investigators say, Merhige lived in seclusion for the last month. They found food strewn about and helium tanks.
The motel owner says Merhige would rarely come out of his room. "Just watching the segments last [Saturday] night. I went online, and the family can now rest."
Outside the room, the smoking gun to match the tip and the blue Toyota Camry. Investigators say Merhige had changed the license plate. They ran it and it came back to an old Lexus of his. That's how investigators knew they had their man.
Investigators also found a noose which may mean Merhige was planning to kill himself.
Jupiter Police called an impromptu news conference late Saturday night as Merhige was on his way back to Palm Beach County.
Police Chief Frank Kitzerow thanked law enforcement agencies from all over South Florida and the media for their hard work. He made it a point to say the arrest was the result of a team effort, and he was confident all along they would get their man. "We were confident that we'd make the apprehension, and we have."
He thanked the Sitton family for cooperating with police and for keeping the story alive by continuing to talk to the media about such a painful event. He says keeping the picture out there is what eventually led to his capture.
Shortly after the press conference wrapped up, Jim Sitton thanked the media for keeping Merhige's picture in the headlines and praised the tireless efforts of the Jupiter Police Department, the U.S. Marshals Service, and especially John Walsh of 'America's Most Wanted'. "He came in and shined the national spotlight on this case. Nobody can do it like he does. Thank you John Walsh for capturing a monster."
Sitton said the Jupiter Police have been providing round the clock protection for him and his wife since Thanksgiving.
As long as the suspect was at large, he was keeping a gun in his hand at night. But now, finally, the family will be able to move forward and begin the process of mourning. "At least, now, I'll be able to sleep knowing the monster is not outside my door hoping to finish what he started on Thanksgiving."