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Friend of victims killed by Austin Harrouff says insanity decision 'shocking' and 'disappointing'

WPTV legal expert says both sides 'felt that this was the just thing to do'
Nicholas Leone, friend of victims killed by Austin Harrouff
Posted at 11:47 PM, Nov 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-29 08:25:54-05

MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — After Austin Harrouff was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the attack and killing of a Martin County couple, a friend of the victims said the agreement by defense and prosecution was "shocking" and "disappointing."

Harrouff, now 25, randomly attacked and killed John Stevens, 59, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53, in 2016.

The agreement between the defense and prosecution avoided a trial that had been scheduled to start Monday before Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer.

Harrouff, who at one point chewed on one of the victim's faces and attacked a third person, is now set to go to a mental hospital.

Austin Harrouff found not guilty by reason of insanity
Austin Harrouff sits in court as he listens to statements from family members of his victims, Nov. 28, 2022, in Stuart, Fla. He has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

"It's crazy that something would go down in a neighborhood like this," Nicholas Leone, who grew up knowing the victims, recalled. "They had parties — Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving — and anyone in the neighborhood was welcome."

Leone had strong opinions about the verdict.

"Honestly, I think someone like that that's taken the lives of two people and nearly almost killed a third with the neighbor across the street, I think his life should be over," Leone said.

Leone said after the incident, his family installed security cameras around their house for safety.

"Not guilty by reason of insanity doesn't mean you get to go home," WPTV legal analyst Michelle Suskauer said. "He's not going home. He's being involuntarily committed to a mental health facility — a secure facility — that he cannot leave."

Harrouff will undergo treatment, where he'll be monitored by doctors and health experts.

"This resolution doesn't bring anyone back and it doesn't undo anything that has been done, but the case needed to come to an end and both sides felt that this was the just thing to do," Suskauer said.

Michelle Suskauer discusses verdict of Austin Harrouff
"Not guilty by reason of insanity does not mean you get to go home," WPTV legal analyst Michelle Suskauer says. "He's not going home."

But Harrouff could be released.

Suskauer said if, in the future, those experts rule he's mentally fit, there would then be a hearing before the court for a judge to decide if he can be set free.

Originally, two mental health experts — one hired by the defense and another by prosecutors — examined Harrouff and found he suffered an acute psychotic episode during the attack and couldn't distinguish between right and wrong.

The judge said Harrouff will stay in the Martin County jail until he's taken to a secure mental health facility.

"I think it's disappointing that someone like that could go through mental rehabilitation and then be back out on the streets like nothing ever happened, like they never did anything wrong," Leone said. "Very disappointing from a justice perspective and for those of us that cared about them."