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Posted: August 24, 2016

What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case

Flowers lie in front of John Stevens’ home on Southeast Kokomo Lane in Tequesta, Wednesday, August 17, 2016. Stevens and Michelle Mishcon were found dead after being attacked by Austin Harrouff Monday night at the home. The 19-year-old Florida State University sophomore fatally stabbed the two while walking home, authorities said. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Lannis Waters
Flowers lie in front of John Stevens’ home on Southeast Kokomo Lane in Tequesta, Wednesday, August 17, 2016. Stevens and Michelle Mishcon were found dead after being attacked by Austin Harrouff Monday night at the home. The 19-year-old Florida State University sophomore fatally stabbed the two while walking home, authorities said. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

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            What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case
John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon were found dead after being attacked by Austin Harrouff Monday in Stevens’ garage on Southeast Kokomo Lane in Tequesta. The garage door was frequently open at the home. Friends would gather in the fixed up garage, complete with couches and a TV. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

            What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case
Harrouff

            What we know and don't know about Florida face-biting case
Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens

By Olivia Hitchcock

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

More than a week after Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were killed in their southern Martin County home, Florida, much remains unknown about what led to the seemingly random, but unusually brutal, stabbings.

The couple often kept their garage door up, said Stevens’ brother-in-law, Doug Maddox, with a seat open and the TV on for friends and family. Mishcon was found stabbed to death at about 9:30 p.m. Aug. 15 in that garage. Stevens was found dead in the driveway.

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When sheriff’s deputies arrived at the home on Southeast Kokomo Lane, just north of the Jupiter border, they also found 19-year-old Austin Harrouff. The Jupiter teen was clinging to Stevens and biting off pieces of the man’s face. He already had bitten the man’s abdomen, deputies said.

A neighbor told deputies he tried to intervene in the attack but was stabbed, too. That neighbor, Jeff Fisher, went back to his home across the street and called 911. He was “bleeding profusely,” he told a dispatcher. His wife said he had been stabbed in the back.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder called Harrouff “abnormally strong.”

Yet friends of the sophomore at Florida State University said he “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

So what was the motive?

“We may absolutely never know,” Snyder said.

Nothing indicates Harrouff knew the couple. Their family members have said they don’t recognize the teen. Fisher told a dispatcher shortly after he was stabbed that he didn’t either.

>>READ MORE: Dad says Austin Harrouff may have mental illness

Officials have been unable to talk to Harrouff, the Sheriff’s Office says, because he has been sedated or hooked to breathing tubes since he arrived at St. Mary’s Medical Center immediately following the stabbings. The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, but has not provided a statement.

The details of Harrouff’s injuries, and a complete toxicology report, haven’t been released.

He arrived making “animal-like noises,” the Sheriff’s Office said, and was delusional. His parents said the teen had been acting strange for at least a week; his father said the strange behavior had been going on for months. His mother told Jupiter police that Harrouff had told her he had “super powers” and that he was immortal.

Harrouff’s dad, Wade, thinks mental illness may have triggered the attacks. The teen hasn’t been diagnosed, his dad said, but schizophrenia runs in the family.

Were drugs involved?

The sheriff speculates drugs, like flakka or bath salts, may be involved. Yet Harrouff dared deputies to drug test him after they took him in to custody: “Test me. You won’t find any drugs.”

>>READ MORE: What is flakka and what does it do to your body?

Initial tests indicate Harrouff didn’t have street drugs, like cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine or marijuana, in his system at the time of the attacks.

“I don’t think he did (use drugs),” Wade Harrouff said. “I guess we’ll find out when the test comes.”

Those drug tests of Austin Harrouff’s blood -- which are being done by the FBI -- will show whether drugs like flakka or bath salts were in the teen’s system.

Until then, detectives are in “a holding pattern,” the Sheriff’s Office said.

Is Austin Harrouff’s condition affecting the investigation?

The teen’s condition also is stalling the investigation.

The sheriff's office reported that Harrouff regained consciousness Friday, over a week after the incident. He has not spoken to authorities yet. 

The day after the fatal stabbings, Snyder said Austin Harrouff’s injuries were “life-threatening” and that his condition was getting worse. Eight days after the attack, officials are saying the teen is in critical, but stable condition. On Tuesday, though, his father said his organs were failing. His son’s liver is malfunctioning, his lungs are filling with fluid and he has bleeding of the esophagus. The Sheriff’s Office said it would not release details of Austin Harrouff’s treatment plan at the hospital. 

The night of the attack, Harrouff was out to dinner with his parents at Duffy’s Sports Grill in Jupiter with his parents. Harrouff left the restaurant, his father said, and went to his mother’s house. There he attempted to drink cooking oil, according to his father.

Afterward, Harrouff’s mother, Mina, brought him back to the restaurant. There, Harrouff’s father became upset with his son and grabbed him by the collar.

It’s unclear if there was a fight, but surveillance video from the restaurant shows Harrouff eventually leave, walking calmly out of the restaurant. He then made his way to Stevens and Mishcon’s home, about four miles north along Island Way.

What happened when Harrouff reached the garage?

The Sheriff’s Office said the teen may have ingested something “caustic” in the couple’s garage.

“There were things he could have consumed, and that first night at the hospital, the hospital speculated based on what they were seeing in his body fluids, that perhaps he had ingested something caustic from the garage,” Snyder said.

The blood test results “will provide a big piece of the unknown,” Snyder said.

What happens when Harrouff is released from the hospital?

As soon as Harrouff is released from St. Mary’s Medical Center, the Sheriff’s Office said it will charge him with two counts of first-degree murder and one of attempted murder.


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