Austin Harrouf: Judge to decide fate of Florida man who killed couple and chewed off victim’s face
MARTIN COUNTY, FLORIDA: Austin Harrouf is set to stand trial on Monday, November 28, after he allegedly killed a couple in their garage and chewed on one of the victims' faces.
Harrouf, now 25, has reportedly waived his right to a jury trial and left it up to Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer to determine if he was insane when he stabbed to death 59-year-old John Stevens, his wife, 53-year-old Michelle Mishcon Stevens, and seriously injured a neighbor who tried to intervene in the August 2016 attack that dominated headlines due to its brutality and gruesome nature. However, the perp has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges levied against him.
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The former Florida State University student, aged 19 at the time of the incident, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder with a weapon, attempted first-degree murder with a weapon, and burglary of a dwelling with an assault or battery while armed. In 2017, prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty in his case.
A couple of mental health experts, including one hired by the prosecution, concluded that Harrouf had experienced an "acute psychotic episode" when he left a dinner he was having with his father and proceeded to attack the Stevenses about 45 minutes later. When deputies responded to the scene, they reportedly found him "growling" while eating chunks of John Stevens' face. It took several officers and a police dog to subdue him, including a stun gun.
Friends and family members were concerned for Harrouf after he was behaving strangely for weeks leading up to the attack. His parents had even booked an appointment for him with a mental health practitioner. On the night of the grisly double homicide, Harrouf was having dinner with his father and his father's girlfriend when he abruptly left and went to his mother's residence. There, he reportedly poured cooking oil into a bowl of parmesan cheese and ate it. His mother took him back to the restaurant after becoming concerned with his behavior. She said he told her he had superpowers and that there were demons in her house.
The embattled mother proceeded to call 911 and told a dispatcher that her son seemed delusional. Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, Harrouf's father apparently grabbed his shoulders and shook him while asking, "What's wrong with you?" The perp reportedly raised his fist, but the girlfriend stopped him and he left the restaurant once again. Harrouf attacked the Stevenses about forty-five minutes later.
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Authorities eventually learned that Harrouf had purchased hallucinogenic mushrooms. His friends told investigators that he had destroyed them, and no trace of the drug was found in his system. Meanwhile, his Google searches included queries about "hallucinations" and "how to know if you're insane." Harrouf's trial had been delayed for years due to a number of reasons, including legal wrangling, his lengthy recovery from drinking a chemical in the Stevenses’ garage, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, Judge Bauer must determine whether he was insane at the time of the attack. If yes, Harrouf will be sentenced to a mental health facility. On the other hand, if the judge rejects the insanity defense and finds him guilty, he will be sentenced to life in prison, CrimeOnline reported.