NewsTreasure CoastRegion Martin County


Non-jury trial set for face-eating suspect Austin Harrouff

Trial to begin in late November for Jupiter man accused of killing Martin County couple, wounding neighbor during 2016 attack
Austin Harrouff in Martin County courtroom, June 21, 2022
Posted at 11:58 AM, Jun 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-21 21:01:28-04

STUART, Fla. — A new trial date has been set for the 25-year-old Jupiter man accused of killing a Martin County couple in their garage and then biting the face of one of them.

Judge Sherwood Bauer Jr. on Tuesday set the non-jury trial for Austin Harrouff to begin Nov. 28, more than six years after the 2016 killings.

Harrouff is charged with first-degree murder in the Aug. 15, 2016, deaths of Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens. He also faces a charge of attempted first-degree murder in the attack on Jeffrey Fisher, who was stabbed while trying to help his neighbors.

Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens, victims of Austin Harrouff
Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were attacked and stabbed to death Aug. 15, 2016, at their Martin County home.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said deputies arrived to find Harrouff on top of Stevens in the driveway, biting and chewing on his face. Snyder said the first deputy who arrived tried to stop Harrouff with a Taser gun, but that didn't work. More deputies arrived and eventually overpowered him.

Harrouff, who was a 19-year-old Florida State University student at the time of the attack, has pleaded not guilty.

Austin Harrouff 2016 arrest photo
Austin Harrouff is accused of killing Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens in August 2016.

Defense attorneys have indicated they would seek an acquittal by reason of insanity.

Harrouff's attorneys are seeking to strike Dr. Michael Gamache, a Tampa psychologist, from the witness list after he concluded last year that Harrouff didn't meet the legal standard of insanity.

But two other psychologists – one hired by the defense and the other for the state – claim Harrouff was having an "acute psychotic episode" when he killed Mishcon and Stevens and was "unable to distinguish right from wrong."

A forensic psychologist in 2019 concluded that Harrouff believed he was "half-dog, half-man" during the attack. Dr. Phillip Resnick described in his 38-page report how Harrouff was "fearful and in a panic state" in the moments before the attack.

"Mr. Harrouff has a vague recollection of picking up a 'machete or something' and stabbing the woman and biting her," Resnick's report said. "He believed he was a dog at the time of biting her. He was unsure of the sequence of events in the garage. His best recollection was that he drank a bottle of alcohol 'or something' while in the garage after stabbing the woman. He next recalled seeing a 'guy in the doorway' and a dog."

"I think I stabbed him too," Harrouff told Resnick, according to the report.

Gamache said although documents may show he is schizophrenic and clinically insane, he's concerns the symptoms are self-reported.

"My testimony is to explain that it is not closed and shut, that this was inevitably the product of an endogenous psychotic disorder, and I offer the possibility and the probability of other conditions that could result in the exact same symptoms," Gamache testified.

Bauer didn't make a final decision on whether an insanity defense is applicable.