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Judge accepts plea in Fla. family shootings case
Judge accepts plea deal in 2009 Fla. Thanksgiving shootings case; suspect spared death penalty
By The Associated Press

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) ' A judge has accepted a plea deal for a man accused of shooting four relatives dead at a South Florida Thanksgiving gathering, sparing him the death penalty.

Judge Joseph Marx sentenced Paul Michael Merhige (MAYR'-ihj) to seven consecutive life sentences.

The father of a 6-year-old victim fell to his knees Thursday and begged the judge not to accept the plea.

Merhige was accused of shooting his twin sisters, an aunt and 6-year-old cousin after a Thanksgiving family dinner in Jupiter in 2009. He then fled, prompting a monthlong manhunt.

State Attorney Michael McAuliffe said the decision was difficult. He considered victims who wanted a resolution now and others who felt anything short of an execution was injustice. McAuliffe said the majority of victims and relatives agreed with the decision.

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