Merhige's first statements after arrest caught on camera

Published: Jan. 8, 2010 at 9:29 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2010 at 7:13 PM EST
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Posted by Rachel Leigh - email

LONG KEY, FL (WFLX) - For the first time, we're seeing what happened when investigators took down suspected killer Paul Merhige. He had quite a lot to say to "Americas' Most Wanted" cameras.

Update, MON 10 AM: Fox's "America's Most Wanted" cameras were there as federal marshals and local law enforcement burst into his Long Key hotel room. The Key is located between Marathon and Islamorada.

As they walked Merhige out, he said the following to the camera.

"Eighteen years, I've been tormented. I've had chronic medical problems, mental problems, it's been a nightmare. I didn't even know what I was doing. It was the only thing I could do. I went several times to turn myself in. I was waiting for my parents to maybe make a statement, and tell me to turn myself in. I didn't know what to do and today [night of his arrest], right now, watching on TV, my cousin, I didn't know. I've been wanting, I didn't know what to do. I just can't believe I've done all this. I just can't believe it."

Merhige's words to the camera are practically a confession to the Thanksgiving massacre in Jupiter that left 6-year-old Makayla Sitton, her 78-year-old grandmother, and Merhige's twin sisters dead.

Merhige remains at the Palm Beach County Jail. His case is currently before the state attorney's death penalty review committee.

As this case heads to trial, we're learning more about Paul Michael Merhige's past. His public defenders are expected to explore an insanity defense. They say Merhige had violent tendencies from an early age.

According to the Palm Beach Post, when he was a teen, Merhige pointed a loaded gun at family members following an argument.

He also once shot himself in a supposed suicide attempt and, allegedly, threatened to cut the throat of one of his sisters.

So is Merhige insane or just evil?

Criminal Defense Attorney Tama Beth Kudman shed some light on how the prosecutors and his public defenders may proceed and whether Merhige's remarks on camera following his capture will prove helpful or problematic down the line.

"There's a difference between what we on the street think of as insane and the legal definition of insanity. In Florida, in order to believe you're not guilty by reason of insanity, the jury has to believe you didn't know what you were doing, didn't understand the consequences of what you were doing, or you didn't understand what you were doing was wrong," Kudman explained. "The legal issue is going to be whether or not it's police action, because they placed him in front of reporters, asking him questions and whether he was capable of knowingly and intelligibly knowing his rights."

Kudman says, with all the publicity surrounding this case, a change of venue is a very strong possibility.

Merhige is secluded in the mental health unit of the jail. His next court appearance is scheduled for February 1.

Previously: "America's Most Wanted" will air the segment Saturday at 9 PM on Fox 29.

"Florida Taskforce has approximately 30 marshals on the way down there right now," said investigator.

It is an action packed hour of real-life drama. "America's Most Wanted" cameras capture minute by minute the development's from last Saturday night.

From the moment a tipster called in to the moment Paul Michael Merhige was captured, the video includes the takedown itself and the reaction back in the studio.

"He's alive? Awesome. Paul Merhige has been arrested," said an investigator.

We all saw the video of Merhige being transported by the U.S. Marshals, but new on the program, what seems like a confession to the crime.

"I just can't, I just can't believe I've done all this. I just can't believe it," said Merhige.

The show will also show a tearful sit down interview with John Walsh and the parents of 6-year-old Makayla Sitton who owe the host and his program for a sense of relief that their daughter's accused killer isn't out there anymore

"We want to thank you everything you did -- entering into our nightmare," said Jim Sitton.

Don't miss America's Most Wanted Saturday @ 9 PM on Fox 29.

(AMW.COM) - On the night of Jan. 2, a tipster called the AMW Hotline with information that would lead to AMW Direct Result Capture No. 1099.

The tipster told our Hotline operator that a man fitting the description of accused killer Paul Merhige was staying at a motel in Long Key, Florida. The man had checked into the motel under a false name in early December, and had pre-paid for a two-week stay in cash.

The tipster had seen coverage on the Merhige story and knew he was being profiled on AMW. She was certain she'd seen him earlier that evening at the motel. Hours after the call, Merhige was in custody.

On Jan. 5, Jim and Muriel Sitton, the parents of 6-year-old Makayla Sitton  -- one of the four victims -- met with John Walsh before talking to the media after Merhige's arrest. At the press conference, they talked about the tipster's courage, the cooperation of law enforcement and what Merhige's capture means for their family's pursuit of justice.

When the AMW Hotline received the call, the tipster said a car resembling the Toyota Camry Merhige was believed to be driving was in their motel parking lot underneath a car cover at that very moment.

In the name of justice, the tipster courageously went out of her way to lift up the tarp and find out the license plate number, knowing full well Merhige was holed up inside his motel room. Had he emerged and spotted her, her life could have been in great danger.

According to Walsh, the tipster "knew this guy was alleged to have murdered four people and that he had plenty of guns in that room. … He could make them pay for doing what they did."

But that didn't stop the tipster from picking up the phone.

"They were smart enough to make the connection," Jim Sitton said. "They were brave enough to go lift the tarp and get the tag number, and in this day and age, they made the call."

Authorities ran the plates and found that they did not match Merhige's vehicle. However, the plates were previously registered to a car owned by Merhige's father.

Based on the crucial bit of information received in the tip, police believed they had enough probable cause to move in on their target.

"Once they made the call, the U.S. Marshals took over and made the capture," Sitton said.

When police arrived at the motel, they saw lights on in the room where they believed Merhige was staying. Despite Merhige's barricade, the Marshals and Jupiter police busted through and took Merhige into custody, much to his surprise.