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Viewer Tip Leads to Arrest in Thanksgiving Slayings

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CNN: A tip from a television viewer led to the arrest of a Florida man accused of gunning down four of his family members on Thanksgiving Day, authorities said early Sunday.

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Paul Michael Merhige, 35, was arrested in Monroe County by U.S. Marshals Saturday night, said sheriff's spokeswoman Becky Herrin.

A viewer of the show "America's Most Wanted" recognized descriptions of Merhige and his car, authorities said at a news conference early Sunday. Officers immediately responded to the tip, surrounding a small motel in the Middle Keys, part of the Florida Keys.

The "America's Most Wanted" tipster told authorities that Merhige had checked into the Edgewater Lodge under the name John Baca and provided an address in Homestead, Florida, according to a news release from police in Jupiter, Florida.

Merhige had paid cash at least two weeks in advance for his second-story room, the U.S. Marshal's Service said in a news release. He was on a computer when marshals burst into his room.

Merhige had tried to disguise his 2007 Blue Toyota Camry with a car cover and had switched its vehicle tag with one from another car he'd owned, the statement said. Authorities said Merhige, who had apparently been at the Monroe County motel since December 2, did not resist apprehension by U.S. marshals. It was not immediately clear whether he was armed at the time of his arrest, which occurred more than 200 miles from Jupiter, Florida.

Authorities said Merhige attended a holiday gathering when he shot several members of his family.

Merhige's twin sisters Carla Merhige and Lisa Knight, 33, and Raymonde Joseph, 76, were killed, along with his 6-year-old cousin Makayla Sitton, police said.

Authorities said Knight was pregnant. Two others -- Patrick Knight and Clifford Gebara -- were wounded, police said.

Interviews with family members suggest that Merhige "had ongoing resentment" for some of his relatives, police said.

Jim Sitton, father of 6-year-old Makayla, who was killed, told CNN affiliate WPTV late Saturday that he would "sleep a little better tonight."

"I won't be patrolling my house with a shotgun, looking for the monster. ... I've been in protective mode," he said. "This doesn't bring Makayla back. I'm not jumping for joy. Her room is still empty. But the monster is in a cage now."

Merhige faces four counts of first-degree murder and at least one count of first-degree murder, authorities said Sunday. The case is expected to go to a grand jury within 30 days.

In December, the Marshals added Merhige to their list of the top 15 most-wanted fugitives, and a $25,000 reward was offered for information leading to his arrest.

The agency also released some distinguishing characteristics about Merhige, saying he was known to either fake or display symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, such as frequent bathing and shaving, and difficulty making decisions. He also had faked or displayed symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome, and taken several prescription drugs for the ailments.

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