Family rages as Florida cannibal killer Austin Harrouff may be free again

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Family rages as Florida cannibal killer Austin Harrouff may be free again

A cannibalistic double-murderer from Florida could end up walking the streets again — without ever going to trial.

Former Florida State University fraternity member Austin Harrouff, 25, was deemed not guilty by reason of insanity Monday after randomly hacking John Stevens and his wife Michelle Mischon to death with a machete in 2016.

Deputies said they found Harrouff kneeling over Stevens and gnawing on his face, noting that he spit out pieces of flesh before being taken into custody.

After six years of delays, friends and relatives of the slain couple expected the case to go to trial Monday — but were stunned to learn that the matter was closed.

“Here we are opening the prison doors for a double murderer,” said Cindy Mishcon, the shellshocked sister of victim Michelle Mishcon. “Four words come to mind. White, rich boy justice.”

Austin Harrouff admitted to taking heavy amounts of drugs and alcohol.
AP

Harrouff, who attacked the couple in their garage, will now be sent to a mental hospital rather than a jail cell — and could be released outright if he’s no longer deemed a threat to others.

Harrouff and his parents, including his dentist father, Wade Harouff, asserted that he was mentally ill at the time of the incident and his attorneys issued a not guilty plea.

Victim families angrily rejected that portrayal, arguing that Harrouff was a coddled drug addict who was cognizant of the crime he committed.

Judge Sherwood Bauer told the court that both Martin County prosecutors and Harrouff’s high-priced defense team agreed to nix a trial in favor of the plea accord.

“I didn’t really know you could brutally murder two people, attempt to kill another, and not even have a trial,” said Jodi Bruce, another sister of Mishcon, in a statement to the court Monday. “That was news to me.”

Harrouff’s insanity defense hinged largely on FBI toxicology results that showed no drugs in his system after the crime and determinations from three doctors that he had had a severe psychotic break.

Cindy Mishcon mocked that narrative Monday, and read from a long list of text messages Harrouff wrote in the months and days leading up to the slayings.

Harrouff catalogued his almost daily drug use and frequent blackouts in the correspondence, telling friends that he drank heavily and indulged in cocaine, prescription pills, mushrooms, methamphetamines, codeine, Adderrall and heroin.

Mishcon objected to the notion that Harouff was grappling with organic mental illness during the murders and was unable to process his actions.

In the days before the crime, Harrouf wrote to a friend of his desire for fame.

“Why the f–k just not do what you want,” he wrote. “Just do the craziest shit you can. i just want to be great before I die.”

Austin Harrouff was found not guilty by reason of insanity Monday for a 2016 Florida double murder.
Harrouff, 25, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for a 2016 double murder.
AP

In another message, Harrouff said he wondered if he was insane — but concluded otherwise.

“I thought i was crazy, but really not,” he wrote. “I just know that for me personally the drugs are taking a toll on me and I can’t handle.”

Mishcon also took aim at Harrouf’s father, who appeared on “Dr. Phil” in 2018 to advocate for his son and to outline his mental health problems.

“He had the symptoms for about two weeks prior,” he said during the appearance. “I just thought he’d snap out of it. He went from a happy person to, he can’t sleep, pacing the floors. He could barely work, he was tired. There’s no question that he had mental problems.”

Harrouff’s father also highlighted that his son drank some sort of “caustic” chemical after the murders as evidence of his mental instability.

In rebutting that framing, Mishcon noted that Harrouf’s father bought him the knife he used in the killings at a gun show the day before the crime.

“He let you buy a knife when he thought you were crazy?” Mishcon said Monday. “It’s just not believable.”

The grieving sister said she was baffled by the reluctance of the state attorney’s office to pursue the case further.

“I ask myself, why are we here today?” she said. “Why is there no trial? Why is my family being denied justice?”

Bruce mocked the lawyers sitting at the prosecution table Monday after her sibling’s lengthy address to the court.

“My sister just put on the case for you,” she said. “That is sad. That is sad.”

John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon were stabbed to death in their garage in 2016.
John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon were killed in their garage in 2016.

Amplifying that three reputable doctors deemed Harrouff insane, the judge explained the plea deal to the packed courtroom after the victims’ relatives spoke.

“In the end, they do need to follow the law,” Bauer said. “The defense has the obligation to assess the defendant’s mental health for both competency and insanity. They are obligated to do that in every single case.”

He also rejected the argument that Harrouff’s high-price lawyers tipped the legal scales, noting that most insanity defenses are brought on behalf of indigent defendants by legal aid attorneys.

“It’s a sad case,” Bauer said. “It’s an awful case. But nobody is losing sight — i can tell you I’m not — in the death and injuries that were sustained in the case. But when it all gets said and done, the state and the defense have made a determination that mental intent was not formulated. That it wasn’t there. So the defendant is technically not guilty by reason of insanity.”

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