WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - With Paul Merhige spending the rest of his life behind bars, his parents are playing offense saying they're not to blame for their son’s quadruple killings.
"They've been damaged by this, the tragedy has been compounded by these statements,” said the Merhige’s attorney, Allen Rossin.
One day before the two-year anniversary of their son's Thanksgiving night shooting spree, Carole and Michael Merhige filed a counterclaim alleging Jim and Muriel Sitton, parents of their son's youngest victim, should have prevented their son from killing.
"To the extent Paul had problems the entire family knew that,” said Rossin. “If the Sittons were concerned he was going to be a problem that day, then they should have stopped them. It was their house, they should have protected their family as well as the Merhige family if they were concerned"
"My first reaction to the counterclaim was that is was an absurd litigation tactic on behalf of the parents,” said attorney David Prather, who is representing the Sittons. He filed their lawsuit against the Merhiges back in September. The Sittons have maintained Paul's parents not only knew he was coming that night and didn't tell them, but feared he might kill.
In the lawsuit, the Merhige's also claim Jim Sitton has defamed them with unfair and untrue statements about the couple by saying they invited Paul to the dinner without notifying other members of the family and knowing his reputation for violence.
Also named in the lawsuit is Dr. Antoine Joseph, whose wife was murdered by Merhige. Joseph is Muriel Sitton’s father. His sister is Carole Merhige.
"We don’t believe, legally, they have a claim,” said Prather.
In addition to murdering 6-year-old Makayla Sitton and 76-year-old Raymonde Joseph, Paul Merhige also murdered his sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Merhige Knight.
"I've seen many instances to blame the victim that have seriously backfired,” said Jack Scarola, a respected civil attorney. He says the Merhige's counterclaim is an unusual move and risky.
"Unless that blame is very well supported by evidence - it comes with a great deal of danger and risk; a jury can easily be alienated.”
A new battle born out of a devastating tragedy tearing apart two families..
"If anyone can convince the Sittons to drop their case, that would be wonderful,” said Rossin.
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