Florida woman’s estate sues suspect in face-chewing slaying
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The suspect accused of randomly killing a Florida couple and chewing the face of the dying husband is being sued by the dead woman’s estate.
The estate of Michelle Mischcon Stevens filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Austin Harrouff, who is charged with killing her and her husband, John Stevens.
Martin County prosecutors say Harrouff attacked the Stevenses outside their home north of Palm Beach on Aug. 15, 2016, stabbing and beating them to death. Deputies say they found the then-muscular former high school football player and wrestler in his underwear, making animal noises and biting John Stevens’ face as he pinned his victim’s body to the driveway.
The lawsuit alleges Harrouff, now 21, wrote songs fanaticizing about fatally stabbing someone and that he had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse. Blood tests taken after the attack found nothing in his system. He is jailed without bond on first-degree murder charges and is facing a life sentence if convicted. Prosecutors have dropped the death penalty.
“Austin is a monster, and he deserves to pay with his life or, at a minimum, to be locked up in prison for the rest of his life, but, again, we have no control of that,” said Jodi Mischcon Bruce, the victim’s sister, at a news conference in Stuart. “Our only recourse at this point is to file a civil lawsuit against him and show the world exactly who Austin is.”
Harrouff’s father, Wade Harrouff, said Tuesday that he expects the lawsuit to be settled, something the estate’s lawyer, Evan Fetterman, denied.
Harrouff’s criminal defense attorney, Robert Watson, said that although his client may have experimented with drugs, he was not a chronic user and the negative tests prove he had a mental breakdown. He said Harrouff has no assets and will be spending the rest of his life jailed or in a mental hospital, so he won’t be acquiring any. Fetterman said the family understands he has no money.
Prosecutor Jeff Hendriks did not respond to an email.
Austin Harrouff told the “Dr. Phil” television show two months after the attack that he was fleeing a demon he called “Daniel” when he ran to the Stevenses’ home. About 45 minutes before the attack, he had stormed out of a restaurant where he had argued with his father. Earlier, his mother had found him at her home drinking cooking oil mixed with Parmesan cheese — the lawsuit alleges the concoction was spiked with hallucinogenic mushrooms. Harrouff told host Phil McGraw that he doesn’t clearly remember the attack.
According to court documents, deputies arrived to a horrific scene at the Stevenses’ home. Michelle Stevens, 53, lay mangled and dead in the garage and Harrouff, then a Florida State University exercise science major, was attacking her 59-year-old husband in the driveway. Harrouff is alleged to have also wounded a neighbor who tried to save the couple.
One deputy ordered Harrouff off at gunpoint while another used an electric stun gun on him, but he wouldn’t let go. Deputies say they didn’t shoot Harrouff because they feared hitting Stevens.
Finally, a deputy with a dog arrived and its bites enabled deputies to subdue Harrouff, who had no previous arrest record. He told deputies, “Help me, I ate something bad” and then admitted it was “humans” as he spit out a piece of flesh, court documents show. He begged deputies to kill him after they pulled him off Stevens, according to the records.
“Shoot me now; I deserve to die,” Harrouff said.
He had to be hospitalized for two months as he ingested an unknown chemical from the Stevens’ garage, burning his esophagus.
No trial date has been set for Harrouff’s criminal charges.