Family fears release of 'cannibal killer' who pled insanity

Joe Harker

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Family fears release of 'cannibal killer' who pled insanity

Featured Image Credit: ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

The family of the victims of a brutal double murder committed by a 'cannibal killer' have poured scorn on the verdict of his trial after he pleaded insanity.

In August 2016, Florida-based couple John Stevens and his wife Michelle Mishcon Stevens were murdered in the garage of their house by Austin Harrouff.

When police arrived to apprehend the then 19-year-old student they found him biting chunks off the face of John Stevens, he had also drunk chemicals in the garage which caused burns to his digestive system.

An investigation into the killings found that Harouff had bought magic mushrooms a few days before the attack but there was no trace of them in his system, while his Google searches in the days before the killings included 'how to know if you are going crazy'.

Harrouff claimed he was being 'chased by a demon' at the time of the murders, while his mother had called police to tell them she thought her son was delusional.

The now 25-year-old claims the moment of the killings was 'a blur' and that he 'wasn't aware' of doing it.

Austin Harrouff was found not guilty by way of insanity. Credit: ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
Austin Harrouff was found not guilty by way of insanity. Credit: ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

According to AP, a judge yesterday (28 November) accepted a plea deal claiming Harrouff was not guilty on the grounds of insanity before the case went to trial.

Prosecutors had waived the possibility of the death penalty, but had his plea for insanity as a defence not succeeded he would have been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

A pair of mental health experts for the defence and prosecution determined that Harrouff had suffered a psychotic mental episode during the time of the killings and was unable to distinguish between right and wrong.

He will instead be committed to a mental institution until doctors and a judge agree that he no longer poses a danger to the public, which may also amount to a life sentence as that may never be the case.

The family of the victims slammed the verdict with Cindy Mishcon, sister of Michelle Mishcon Stevens, claiming that they had been 'denied justice'.

Austin Harrouff at the time of his arrest. Credit: Martin County Sherriff's Office
Austin Harrouff at the time of his arrest. Credit: Martin County Sherriff's Office

Addressing Harrouff, she said she had been 'naive enough' to think she might get a verdict she saw as justice.

She said: "You don’t care about anyone but yourself. The only victim you and your family see is you, and the Harrouff name.

"Is it really so hard for you to understand that you are a cold blooded murderer and not a victim?"

According to the New York Post she slated the verdict as 'white rich boy justice', while another sister Jodi Bruce asked how someone could 'brutally murder two people, attempt to kill another, and not even have a trial'.

Judge Sherwood Bauer explained accepting the insanity plea on the grounds that three doctors had deemed Harrouff to be insane, describing the affair as a 'sad' and 'awful' case but insisting that 'the state and the defense have made a determination that mental intent was not formulated'.

Topics: News, US News, Crime

Joe Harker
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