Judge Accepts Insanity Plea for Killer Who Murdered Two, Ate Victim's Face

In 2016, Florida State University student Austin Harrouff — then 19 — was arrested after he killed a Florida couple and was found chewing on one of their faces when police arrived on the scene.

On Monday, November 28, 2022, a judge officially accepted a not guilty by reason of insanity plea as part of a deal which will keep Harrouff out of a jury trial and send him — involuntarily — to a mental health facility until both doctors and a judge agree he’s no longer a danger to society.

According to a statement read by the judge in today’s hearing, state prosecutors and Harrouff’s defense attorneys agreed he was “not legally sane” at the time of the offense.

Harrouff, now 25, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the grisly killings of both John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53. The two — who Harrouff did not know personally — were murdered in their garage. It took a stun gun, police dog and several officers to subdue Harrouff, who stripped down to his underwear and drank chemicals found in the garage before biting John’s face during the attack.

He also attacked the couple’s neighbor, Jeffrey Fisher, who rushed to the home to help the pair.

Harrouff’s father previously told Dr. Phil his son stormed out of dinner with him the night of the murders, before walking to his mother’s house, where he started to eat a bowl of cooking oil and Parmesan cheese. He returned to the restaurant where his father was, before once again leaving and walking toward the Stevens’ home.

Austin was also interviewed by Dr. Phil while he was still in the hospital recovering from his injuries, before he was officially arrested and charged. The interview was pulled from airing, but was eventually released to the media after a judge’s ruling in 2017. Speaking with Dr. Phil, he said he could only recall fleeting moments of the attack, but could remember holding a machete at one point.

“It happened but I wasn’t aware of it at the time,” he said. “I never imagined this would ever happen and I am deeply sorry to the family that was affected. I hope that something like this never happens again. I never wanted, consciously, to do something like this or I never planned it. I didn’t want to do it.”

He claimed he believed he was fleeing from a demon named Daniel before he got to the Stevens’ home. “I just need to find someone to help me, to figure out where I am,” he said. “I don’t even remember what I said to myself. I just remember being afraid, scared.”

At the time, Harrouff denied using hallucinogenic drugs including bath salts and flakka, neither of which reportedly showed up in his blood tests. Though he reportedly bought mushrooms shortly before the attack, his friends claimed he destroyed them and no traces were found in his blood. According to investigators, he Googled “how to know if you are going crazy” before the attack.

In court Monday, family members of the deceased gave emotional impact statements, in which they expressed their frustration and extreme anger with the plea deal, the suspect, his family and prosecutors.

The daughter of John Stevens, Ivy Stevens, said “the reality of what happened to them the night they were murdered has overshadowed” any positive memories she has of the couple. “Now, when I think of my dad and Michelle, I imagine them lifeless and mutilated,” she said, before detailing how “horrific” it must have been for the couple as they were murdered.

“I am so angry that this is the only way that I can remember them now. I am angry they won’t be remembered for the life they lived before you, only the headlines that you have turned them into,” she continued.

“You are a disgusting human with a rancid soul. A sick animal that should have been put down a long time ago. You deserve nothing more than to feel despair and debilitating guilt for what you did every second of the day for the rest of your sad, meaningless and pathetic life,” she concluded. “I hope death comes for you sooner than later and when it does, I will rejoice because only then will justice be truly served for John and Michelle. I hope you burn in hell. Along with your parents.”

Two of Michelle’s sister’s also spoke after the judge accepted the deal.

“It’s so sad that one person could take so much from so many other people,” said one of her sisters. “You destroyed our family.”

Speaking to Austin’s parents, she said, “You should have done something sooner. You both said your son acted strangely for weeks leading up to the murders and you even set up an appointment for him to be evaluated. You should have done your job better, quicker.”

“You’re parents. You should have been better. You should have done more. You failed miserably,” she continued. “Because you failed as parents, my sister and brother-in-law are dead.”

“No one in your family has taken responsibility for what’s happened. Not even you,” she said to Austin. “I hate you. I hate you all. I hate what you did. I really think you deserve to die, Austin. Your family deserves to suffer, the way my family suffers. And sadly, I don’t think anyone in here is ever going to suffer how Michelle and John did.”

To the judge, she added, “I hope that he stays wherever you are sending him, forever. If not forever, for at least my lifetime. Or I hope society is ready to live with a person like you, because if you get out and I’m alive, I will call attention to it.”

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