NEAR TEQUESTA, Fla. (WSVN) — A 19-year-old man allegedly stabbed a married couple at their home in Tequesta and partially bit off one of the victim’s faces, Monday night.
According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, 59-year-old John Stevens and his wife 53-year-old Michelle Mishcon Stevens were brutally stabbed to death in a random attack by 19-year-old Austin Harrouff at their home located along Southeast Kokomo Lane, at around 9:20 p.m.
In a press conference, Tuesday afternoon, Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told reporters that Harrouff may have been on hallucinogenic drugs when he attacked the couple, late Monday night.
The sheriff explained Harrouff was last seen by his family, at around 8:30 p.m., storming out of a nearby restaurant after complaining about slow service. His parents, concerned by his behavior, contacted police and even some of his fraternity brothers to help find him.
The attack, according to the sheriff, happened about 45 minutes later.
“It’s inexplicable,” Snyder said. “One of the first things we try to do at a crime scene is try to understand the motive of the offender, because it is the motive of the offender that gets us going in the right direction. In this case, we can’t establish a motive. It’s, ‘I don’t know.”‘
Officials said a neighbor witnessed the horrifying act and called 911 at around 9:20 p.m. This neighbor had tried to intervene but was stabbed by the attacker and retreated, seriously injured.
He was later rushed to Good Samaritan hospital where he underwent surgery and is expected to survive. “He was trying to break the fight up,” the neighbor’s father, Steven Fischer, said. “The guy turned on him, and thank God Jeff had enough sense to get back in the house.”
A portion of the 911 call goes as follows:
Operator: “Fire Rescue. What’s your emergency?”
Caller: “Young man beating up a woman across the street.”
Operator: “OK, are they outside or in a house?”
Caller: “It’s in a garage.”
Operator: “OK. Can you tell if they have any weapons?”
Caller: “Um, I think he had a knife, but I’m not positive.”
Operator: “OK. Can you tell us if she’s injured or if he’s injured?”
Caller: “Say again?”
Operator: “Are either of them injured, can you tell from where you are?”
Caller: “Yes. There’s a girl laying on the ground. He beat her up. I ran over there. I’m bleeding profusely here at the moment. I don’t know what happened.”
Once Martin County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived to the scene, they found the attacker on top of the husband outside on the driveway of the home. Police said Harrouff was biting off pieces of the victim’s face.
A deputy then tried to remove the attacker from the body of Stevens by using a stun gun, but this was not effective.
“The deputy, when she arrived, observed the offender on top of the male victim who was laying on the driveway leading into the garage,” said Snyder, earlier in the day. “She immediately closed the gap between herself and that fight and deployed her Taser. When she got there, she realized the offender was biting the victim in the face and causing substantial trauma to his face from bite marks.”
Then, a K-9 officer was sent to subdue the suspect, but this did not work, either. Eventually, it took a total of four deputies to tackle the offender in order to remove him from the body and take him into custody.
The wife was found soon after, deceased, inside of the garage.
“It was very obvious that there was an enormous amount of violence inside that garage, and both victims sustained massive trauma on multiple portions of their body,” Snyder said.
Stevens’ wife was the daughter of Jeffrey Mishcon, a popular former Mayor of North Miami Beach. Mishcon and his family are well-known in the South Florida community, making the sudden murder of his daughter even more shocking.
“It’s shocking. I’m still shaking from it still,” said neighbor Melissa McElree.
Once in custody, according to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, the attacker falsely identified himself to police as 23-year-old Austin Michael Moore.
However, the suspect was later correctly identified as 19-year-old Harrouff. Snyder described him as muscular and “abnormally strong.”
According to the sheriff’s office, Harrouff has no criminal record.
“This seems like a rational, normal guy with a lot of aspirations, a lot of dreams,” said neighbor Rob Cywes. “Everybody’s a victim in this case, and that’s very, very sad.”
Harrouff apparently wrestled and played football at Suncoast Community High School in nearby Riviera Beach, where rosters listed him at 6-feet-tall and 200 pounds. He is also a sophomore at Florida State University, majoring in exercise science.
A profile on a football recruiting page showed Harrouff had hopes of studying pre-med in college. “I have learned to discipline myself on and off the field,” his profile said.
His Facebook page features several photos, most of which show a smiling Harrouff.
His fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi, released a statement that partly read, “The Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity and its members learned this morning of the horrendous attack on two individuals at their home in Jupiter, Florida that occurred late Monday evening more than 400 miles from the Florida State University campus; we will cooperate fully with law enforcement authorities and with any legal investigation if asked. We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims.”
In an earlier press conference, Snyder said he would not be surprised if Harrouff was on a drug like flakka.
“When we see a case like this, where we see someone biting off pieces of someone’s face, could it be flakka?” said Snyder. “The answer is, it absolutely could be a flakka case. We don’t know. It could be some time before we get any kind of toxicology report. I would not be surprised if we did find out that that is the case.”
“This is just a lesson to, number one, stay the hell away from drugs if you can, especially these toxic synthetics,” Cywes said. “Secondly, if any of your family members, any of your friends are involved in this, get them help sooner before something like this happens.”
A preliminary drug test at the hospital found no trace of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin or other common drugs in Harrouff’s system. A test for rarer hallucinogenic drugs, like flakka or bath salts, will take longer to yield results.
This attack bears a resemblance to a similar Miami attack in 2012 when, police said, Rudy Eugene started biting the face of Ronald Poppo, a homeless man, before Eugene was shot and killed by police. Poppo survived the attack.
Harrouff is currently hospitalized and fighting for his life after sustaining various injuries. Officials said that if he does survive, there’s a chance he may not have any memory of the incident.
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