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DELRAY BEACH, FL (WFLX) - What was accused killer Paul Merhige's state of mind when authorities say he opened fire on his own relatives? Merhige is on suicide watch at the Palm Beach County jail which means he is being watched continuously in the jail's third floor mental health ward.
A forensic psychologist offered us some insight on what would spark a murderous rampage like this.
"Doing this kind of thing on a holiday when all of his loved ones are there, clearly he wanted to make a statement. Clearly, he wanted to make it known that he was extremely upset with his family," said Dr. Dawn Sheehan, a forensic psychologist in Delray Beach.
She has spent her career figuring out what makes people like Paul Merhige tick. She's often called on by the courts to evaluate accused killers waiting for trial.
For Merhige to murder four of his own relatives, she thinks, he was fuming over his belief that they rejected him. "He probably built a lot of anger and resentment and rage towards them which culminated into him kind of planning this out."
In a newly-released arrest report, police say, Merhige had a history of mental illness and had stopped taking his medication and felt distanced from relatives.
"The likelihood is that the years of ruminating about that became so overwhelming for him in the absence of the medication that he became driven to carry out the acts," Dr. Sheehan said.
Dr. Sheehan says this was a case where Merhige's mental state was so compromised, he could not talk out his differences with his family and saw killing them as his only choice. "Oftentimes, mental illness will put somebody in the position to not see many other options."
Dr. Sheehan says it's not possible for her to say whether he was insane at the time this happened without doing more extensive work on his case.
She feels, however, almost certain he had thought about killing his relatives a number of times before, but, for whatever reason, did not carry it out.