Man agrees to a plea of not guilty by insanity in heinous double murder (where he chewed someone’s face off)

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – Defense attorneys and prosecutors came up with a plea deal for a man accused of a double murder and chewing a woman’s face off in 2016.

The plea deal will allow him to plead guilty by reason of insanity and be committed to a mental health facility instead of prison.

In 2016, Florida State University student Austin Harrouff was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other charges related to severely injuring a bystander who tried to stop him from killing the couple. His trial for the charges was set to begin on December 5th, but before the case was presented, Harrouff’s defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed…allowing him to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

The agreement showed that doctors for both the prosecution and defense had sufficient cause to believe Harrouff suffered a significant break from reality when the murders occurred. Because of the mental break, Harrouff would not have been able to understand the consequences of his actions or realize that what he was doing was wrong.

The ruling means that Harrouff will not face any criminal sanctions for the heinous attacks that he claims he did because he was running from a “demon.” Instead of criminal sanctions, he will spend an indefinite amount of time in a secured mental health facility.

Harrouff would be required to stay in the facility until and if a doctor recommends he be released. That recommendation would go back in front of a judge who would have to concur that Harrouff’s treatment has gotten him to the point that he is no longer a danger to himself or others.

Until Harrouff has been transferred to a secure mental health facility, he will remain in custody at the Martin County Jail. Once a secured mental health facility has been selected, he will be transported to the facility and not allowed to leave unless a court order has been obtained.

Harrouff’s parents and others who know him all said that his attitude and demeanor seemed off for a few weeks before the attack. His parents allege they had secured a doctor’s appointment for him to be mentally evaluated, however, the attack came before they were able to get him to a doctor.

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Family and friends of the two people Harrouff murdered, 59-year-old John Stevens and his wife, 53-year-old Michelle Mishcon Stevens, were furious with the decision of the courts to offer and accept the plea agreement.

Michelle’s sister, Cindy Mishcon, was one of the people who spoke up at court hearings disputing that Harrouff was legally insane at the time of her sister’s murder. Cindy, who herself is an attorney, appeared in front of Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer and noted she had begun to write out a victim impact statement when she was “naïve enough” to think justice would be served in the case.

In her argument to Judge Bauer, Cindy said that she had read the text messages for the year before the attacks and listened to the jail phone calls between Harrouff and his family which are a part of the case. It was through those messages that Cindy came away with the conclusion that Harrouff was not insane at the time of the brutal murders, rather, he seemed to be on more of a drug and alcohol binge leading up to the murders.

Cindy said that she came away from the messages which led her to believe Harrouff was nothing more than a “cold-blooded murderer.” She took the opportunity to tell Harrouff directly:

“[Y]ou don’t care about anyone but yourself…the only victim you and your family see is you, and the Harrouff name…Is it really so hard for you to understand that you are a cold-blooded murderer and not a victim?”

Several other family members of the two murder victims took the opportunity to stand up in front of Judge Bauer and voice their displeasure with all involved in the plea agreement. They were all hoping that Harrouff would have been convicted of the first-degree murder and other criminal charges and sentenced to life in prison instead of life in a mental health facility considering the brutality of the attacks.

In 2016, deputies with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office reported arriving on the scene that day and finding Harrouff biting and chewing Steven’s face in the victim’s driveway. Detectives later reported that they also found what appeared to be flesh from Harrouff’s teeth.

The murders happened as Harrouff was walking to his father’s house which happened to be in the neighborhood. For whatever reason, Harrouff targeted the couple and murdered them both. When another neighbor saw what was occurring, he reportedly jumped in to help the two, however, was unable to stop them from being murdered and suffered significant injuries at the hands of Harrouff.

Deputies reported having to use a significant amount of physical force to get Harrouff away from the victims in the case. Beyond physical force, deputies had to use a Taser and police canine along with multiple law enforcement officers to get him away from the victims and take him into custody.


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