Palm Beach Circuit Judge Joseph Marx handed down seven life sentences to Merhige, 37, after an emotional plea hearing.
Marx sentenced Merhige over the objections of Makayla’s parents, Jim and Muriel Sitton. Holding a lock of Makayla’s hair and her picture, the couple asked that Marx reject a plea deal worked out with the Palm Beach County State Attorney.
Originally, State Attorney Michael McAuliffe had announced he’d seek the death penalty. He is scheduled to hold a press conference later today to explain his decision.
Meanwhile, here is some of the live Gossip Extra tweet (@gossipextra) of the hearing:
— After his wife Muriel spoke to Marx, court deputies surrounded Jim as he knelt down to beg the judge not to accept the plea. Marx yelled at him to stop and sit on his chair. He was escorted by three deputies back to the public’s benches . . .
— Muriel Sitton: “He’s a killer who saw Makayla’s life shine bright . . . No sentence on this earth can make up for what we’ve lost.”
— Muriel Sitton, who’s pregnant: “We have the chance to be parents again, but there’ll always be someone missing.”
— Muriel Sitton: “I had the priviledge of homeschooling Makayla. The book marks in the books are still the way they were that day.”
— Muriel Sitton: “For many months, I didn’t want to go on . . .”
— Muriel Sitton: “The last time I saw my daughter, I held her blood soaked hand and kissed her beautiful face.”
— Muriel Sitton: “The world will never hear how the bullets were flying and the bodies were falling . . . I screamed and screamed .”
— Muriel Sitton, holding a framed photo Makayla. “Let a jury hear in details what we lived that night.”
— Jim Sitton: “Am I to understand that the state attorney doesn’t have the money to pursue this case?”
— Jim Sitton: “The state attorney tried to scare us into taking this plea . . . they’re afraid of a jury.”
— Jim Sitton: “A plea is the easiest thing, the cheapest thing . . . I beg Mike McAuliffe not to take this plea.”
— Jim Sitton: “The only reason the state attorney is doing this is to saveÂ (Merhige’s) life . . . (Merhige) didn’t give Makayla that chance . . .
— Jim Sitton: “This plea is being ram-rodded down the throat of my pregnant wife . . . she wailed night and day … almost drove me insane.”
— Jim Sitton: “This is the worst crime in this county in over a decade and we’re taking a plea in two days? He took our only child”
— Jim Sitton: “She was on the gurney at St. Marys, I kept my hand over her wound so her mother couldnt’ see.”
— Jim Sitton: “The state attorney just wants to push this through . . . let’s all take a deep breath and make sure we do the right thing.”
— Jim Sitton: “We already waited two years. Judge, give us a week or two… this was shocking turn of events . . . what’s the rush?”
— Jim Sitton: “There are things the state attorney didn’t tell us.”