Face-biting suspect regains consciousness after double homicide

By: Hannah Winston , Palm Beach Post

Updated:

The 19-year-old man accused of stabbing a Martin County couple to death and biting one of their faces Aug. 15 has regained consciousness, but has not spoken with investigators, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Austin Harrouff has been at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach since the night of the fatal attacks and underwent hand surgery for undisclosed injuries. Though he was conscious when he first arrived, he has been on a breathing tube and under sedation in critical but stable condition for several days, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

On Tuesday, Harrouff’s father, Wade, said his son’s organs were failing.

Sheriff William D. Snyder said Friday that investigators can’t say with certainty what caused his condition to plummet, but hospital officials believe Harrouff may have swallowed some kind of chemicals found in the garage where he attacked the John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon. Snyder said they’re still waiting for toxicology tests from the FBI to see if there were any drugs in his system at the time.

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“He’s coming out of heavy, heavy sedation,” Snyder said. “But he’s alert enough to nod to his mother.”

Because Harrouff still has a breathing tube, he can’t speak. Snyder said investigators hope to be able to speak with him this weekend or early next week about what happened the night of Aug. 15.

Wade Harrouff told The Palm Beach Post his son left a Duffy’s Sports Grill in Jupiter that night, went to his mother’s home nearby and attempted to drink cooking oil. His mother, Mina, drove him back to Duffy’s, where he got into a fight with his family and then left again, his father said. Surveillance footage shows him calmly leaving the restaurant.

Authorities say Harrouff walked 4 miles north on Island Way until he came upon Stevens and Mishcon sitting in their garage on Southeast Kokomo Lane, just north of the Jupiter border. What drove Harrouff to attack the couple, beating and stabbing the pair to death, and severely injuring a neighbor who attempted to intervene, is unknown.

When Martin County sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene, they said Harrouff was on top of Stevens, biting his face. Harrouff had also bitten his abdomen, investigators said.

“I got this guy wrapped around him, and he’s biting him,” a first responder said of Harrouff over a radio transmission that night. “This guy won’t let go.”

After deputies used police dogs, a stun gun and physical force to subdue Harrouff, they got him into custody and to the hospital for treatment.

Harrouff told authorities to test him for drugs, saying they wouldn’t find anything. And when toxicology came back, the results ruled out all common illegal substances such as cocaine, marijuana and other drugs. Further testing is still being conducted for substances such as bath salts and flakka.

Harrouff’s father said he doesn’t believe his son’s outbursts were drug-related, but instead caused by an undiagnosed mental illness.

“I know it’s not flakka-induced,” said Harrouff, who will talk about his son on a segment of the “Dr. Phil” syndicated TV show set to air Sept. 7. “The weird behavior is coming from schizophrenia in my family.”

The night Harrouff walked off from the Duffy’s, his mother filed a report with Jupiter police saying her son had spoken to her about super powers and being immortal.

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