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Trial Date Set For Thanksgiving Massacre Suspect

WEST PALM BEACH (CBS4) – A trial date has been set for the South Florida man charged with killing four family members on Thanksgiving Day in 2009. Paul Merhige will go on trial August 8, 2011 for the murders of his two sisters, aunt and 6-year-old cousin.

There was a new judge presiding over Tuesday's hearing because Circuit Judge Joseph Marx is currently not certified to preside over a death penalty case. However, he plans to attend a judicial training class in May which will enable him to preside over the case when it goes to trial in August. Circuit Judge Karen Miller, who is certified, will hear any issues until then.

Merhige is accused of gunning down relatives inside his cousin's home as Thanksgiving dinner was winding down in 2009. Those who didn't survive the massacre included Merhige's sisters, twins Lisa Knight and Carla Merhige; their aunt, Raymonde Joseph, 76, and their cousin's daughter, Makayla Sitton, 6. Lisa Knight was also pregnant.

Knight's husband, Patrick, was also shot in the stomach and spent three months in a medically induced coma. He wasn't expected to survive. Now, he's expected to be the star witness at Merhige's trial.

After the shooting, Merhige vanished. He fled to the Florida Keys where he reportedly planned to commit suicide. After a five-week manhunt, Merhige was finally taken into custody January 2nd, 2010 on Long Key when the Pfaff family, who own of the Edgewater Resort, saw his face on the local news and recognized him as one of their customers.

The trial is expected to last five weeks. If convicted, he could receive the death penalty.

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