The owners of the Edgewater Lodge in the Florida Keys have received the $100,000 reward for providing the tip that led to the capture of a fugitive wanted for killing four family members on Thanksgiving Day in Palm Beach County.
Paul Michael Merhige, 35, had been on the run for 38 days until Paul Pfaff recognized him on “America’s Most Wanted” as a guest at their motel and Melinda Pfaff called the program’s hot line minutes later.
“There is nothing to celebrate; we’re not going to take a big trip,” Melinda Pfaff said. “He killed people in his family and put my family’s life in danger.”
The couple have no specific plans on how to spend the money, but Melinda Pfaff said it’s likely they will save it for practical reasons like medical emergencies.
“The only reason I want to talk about it is to let people know that rewards are paid and not to be hesitant to call in something,” she said.
Merhige had been staying for a month at the small waterfront motel on an isolated stretch of U.S. 1 in the middle Keys north of Marathon. He rarely left his room, except to do laundry.
“I’m sure he picked this place because it’s small and we don’t even have a newspaper box,” Melinda Pfaff said.
But on Jan. 2, Paul Pfaff was watching football when he saw a preview of the upcoming episode of “America’s Most Wanted.”
Pfaff said he recognized the man in the video as the guest who had registered as Paul Baca, and kept his Toyota Camry covered with a tarp.
Merhige had been staying for a month in Room 14, a $69-a-night efficiency next to the room where the Pfaffs’ 21-year-old daughter lived.
Melinda Pfaff went on the Internet to look up Merhige’s picture and agreed Baca was the same guy. She called the hot line while Paul Pfaff yelled in the background: “Come get him now.”
Before making the call, the Pfaffs evacuated everyone staying in rooms in the main building that included the office.
Melinda Pfaff said U.S. Marshal Thaddeus Lee arrived and coordinated the massive effort to arrest Merhige, 35, who was wanted on four counts of first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.