Crime

What You Should Know Ahead of Accused "Face-Eating Murderer" Austin Harrouff's Trial

In 2016, Florida State University student Austin Harrouff allegedly attacked and killed John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon at their Tequesta home.
In 2016, Florida State University student Austin Harrouff allegedly attacked and killed John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon at their Tequesta home. Screenshot via YouTube
In August 2016, Florida State University student Austin Harrouff allegedly attacked strangers John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon outside their Tequesta home, killing the couple in a bizarre rampage that made headlines around the globe.

Following the seemingly random murders, in which Harrouff allegedly gnawed on Stevens' face, many wondered what could have triggered such a brutal attack. While police initially attributed Harrouff's actions  to intoxication with bath salts or flakka, toxicology reports disproved that theory. Harrouff's attorneys and medical experts have since argued in court that he was in the midst of an "acute psychotic episode" and believed he was "half-dog, half-man" when he killed Stevens and Mischon.

Nearly six years after the double murder in Martin County, Harrouff's nonjury trial is slated to begin in November. He is expected to invoke an insanity defense.

As the trial approaches, here's a primer on Harrouff's case.


What Happened?

On the evening of August 15, 2016, 19-year-old Austin Harrouff stormed out of a Duffy's Bar & Grill in Jupiter where he was dining with his family and went to his mother's home, where he reportedly drank cooking oil and was acting strange. After his mother found him and drove him back to the restaurant, he got into an argument with his father and left again, walking across town until he came upon Stevens and Mishcon's Tequesta home, just north of the Palm Beach County line.

There, he allegedly knifed and bludgeoned the couple to death in their garage. A neighbor, Jeff Fisher, intervened after hearing the noise outside, according to a police report. Harrouff allegedly stabbed him, too, but Fisher survived. Martin County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived on the scene to find Harrouff in his underpants, gnawing on Stevens' face and grunting like an animal. It reportedly took a Taser, three police officers, and a K9 to pull Harrouff from Stevens’ body.

Harrouff had been showing signs of erratic behavior before the attack. According to WPBF, his mother, Mina, called police shortly before the attack and told them her son had been acting strangely. She said he was claiming he had "superpowers" and "was here to protect people."

Who Is Austin Harrouff?

Austin Harrouff, now 25, was born in Palm Beach Gardens and grew up in northern Palm Beach County.

A former high school wrestler and football player, he was a sophomore at FSU and member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity at the time of the murders. A YouTube channel, under the username A.Frost, is filled with a wide-ranging collection of his videos — including clips of him belting out a rendition of Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" and rambling about personal trainers and why he decided not to take steroids.

According to his recruiting profile, Harrouff was six feet tall, weighed 200 pounds, and could bench-press 365 pounds as a high-school student.


Who Were Harrouff's victims?

Mishcon, who was 53, and Stevens, 59, lived near Jupiter in a home surrounded by sprawling golf courses near the banks of the Loxahatchee River. The couple, who met in 1997 at a financial firm in Miami where they both worked, reportedly spent many evenings relaxing and entertaining guests in their garage, where they'd set up a television set and chairs. According to news reports, they'd recently celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary.

Mischon, the daughter of former North Miami Beach Mayor Jeff Mischon, worked in finance in Boca Raton; Stevens was a retired owner of a landscaping business, Greensmart Lawn and Garden. 

Were Drugs Involved?

While Martin County Sheriff William Snyder initially told reporters the murders of Mishcon and Stevens could “absolutely” have been fueled by the synthetic drug flakka, attracting widespread media attention, his speculation was later debunked by toxicology reports. A long-awaited toxicology report released in November 2016 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that no designer drugs were in Harrouff's system at the time of the attack — only alcohol and trace amounts of marijuana.


What Charges Does Harrouff Face?

Harrouff is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Mishcon and Stevens, as well as an attempted first-degree murder charge in the attack on Fisher, the neighbor who was stabbed when he intervened.

Harrouff's defense attorneys have indicated they will seek an acquittal by reason of insanity. In a 38-page report by forensic psychologist Dr. Phillip Resnick, Harrouff was found to have been suffering from "severe mental disease," specifically bipolar disorder and acute manic episodes with psychotic features, as well as “clinical lycanthropy delusions,” also known as werewolf syndrome.
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Alex DeLuca is a staff writer at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca