Family slams ‘white, rich boy justice’ after Florida cannibal killer escapes jail sentence

Family slams ‘white, rich boy justice’ as cannibal, 25, who murdered a Florida couple and chewed the man’s face while believing he was ‘half-dog, half-man’ escapes jail on grounds of insanity

  • Austin Harrouff will be sent to a mental facility instead of prison for the double murders of John and Michelle Mishcon Stevens at their Florida home in 2016
  • A Florida judge ruled that Harrouff, 25, was not guilty by reason of insanity
  • Mishcon’s sister Cindy slammed ‘white, rich boy justice’ after the ruling Monday 
  • Harrouff has said that cannot remember the details of the murders but believed God and demons were talking to him as attacked the Florida couple  
  • He and his parents have asserted that he was mentally ill at time of the killings

Family members of a Florida couple who were brutally murdered in a gruesome attack, slammed ‘white, rich boy justice’ after the alleged cannibalistic killer was found not guilty by reason of insanity. 

Austin Harrouff, 25, is accused in the 2016 slayings of John Stevens, 59, and Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53, in the garage of the couple’s Florida home where he was found chewing on John’s face after allegedly attacking them with a machete.

Relatives and friends of the couple had waited six years for the case to reach trial after multiple delays, but were shocked when the judge on Monday accepted an insanity plea deal. Instead of being sentenced to life in prison, Harrouff will be sent to a mental hospital.

‘Here we are opening the prison doors for a double murderer,’ Cindy Mishcon, sister of victim Michelle Mishcon said. ‘Four words come to mind. White, rich boy justice.’ 

Harrouff said he could not remember the details of the murders, but believed God and demons were talking to him as attacked them. He and his parents claim that he was mentally ill at the time of the incident. 

Families of the victims angrily rejected this defense, arguing Harrouff was a drug addict who was well-aware of what he was doing when he committed the crime. 

Cindy Mishcon, the sister of murder victim Michelle Mishcon, slammed 'white, rich boy justice' after Austin Harrouff was found not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday

Cindy Mishcon, the sister of murder victim Michelle Mishcon, slammed ‘white, rich boy justice’ after Austin Harrouff was found not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday

Austin Harrouff, 25, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the 2016 murders of John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53, at their home in Florida

Austin Harrouff, 25, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for the 2016 murders of John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53, at their home in Florida

Michelle and John Stevens were murdered in their garage in 2016 when Harrouff allegedly entered a mental episode and thought he was 'half dog, half man'

Michelle and John Stevens were murdered in their garage in 2016 when Harrouff allegedly entered a mental episode and thought he was ‘half dog, half man’

In court on Monday, several family members presented victim impact statements directed at Harouff, his family, the defense team, and prosecutors.

Cindy Mishcon, who is also an attorney, laid out a methodical case of why she does not believe that Harrouff was insane when the killings occurred.

‘You can’t even look at me?’ she asked Harrouff, who was sitting at the defense table, wearing a red and white striped prison uniform and glasses. 

She said that she had begun writing her victim impact statement when she was ‘naive enough’ to think there would be justice.

Cindy Mishcon said that reality set in for her as she listened to tapes of Harrouff’s jailhouse phone calls with family members and the reading of pages of text messages in the year prior to the killings, which were part of the court record. 

The text messages with his friends outlined the life of a student who was smoking marijuana, taking other drugs and abusing alcohol during the year before killing the couple.

She said she realized ‘you don’t care about anyone but yourself’ and that ‘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,’ she asked.

‘I ask myself, why are we here today?’ she said. ‘Why is there no trial? Why is my family being denied justice?’ 

Other family members echoed her sentiments.

‘I didn’t really know you could brutally murder two people, attempt to kill another, and not even have a trial,’ Jodi Bruce, another sister of Mishcon, said. ‘That was news to me.’

Two years after entering a not guilty plea on the grounds of insanity in 2020 it was accepted by Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer in Martin County, Florida on Monday.

His ruling meant that Harrouff would be involuntarily committed into the custody of the Department of Children and Families for placement in a secured mental health facility. 

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. 

'I didn't really know you could brutally murder two people, attempt to kill another, and not even have a trial,' Jodi Bruce, another sister of Mishcon, said. 'That was news to me'

‘I didn’t really know you could brutally murder two people, attempt to kill another, and not even have a trial,’ Jodi Bruce, another sister of Mishcon, said. ‘That was news to me’

Jodi Bruce, sister of murder victim Michelle Mishcon, gives her statement in court on Monday

Jodi Bruce, sister of murder victim Michelle Mishcon, gives her statement in court on Monday

The decision was made during the first and final day of a trial that was expected to last three weeks.

Harrouff was a 19-year-old student at Florida State University when he killed the couple and stabbed a neighbor that came to help them, prosecutors say.

Bauer heard through documents filed in the court that in 2016 Harrouff entered a psychotic episode that left him thinking he was ‘half-dog, half-man’ when he attacked the couple near his Florida home. 

Harrouff’s attack made national headlines for its extreme brutality. He had been out for dinner at a restaurant with his father when he began acting erratically and left. 

Harrouff is pictured here being taken in custody after the murders. He begged deputies to kill him after they pulled him off John Stevens and told them 'I ate something bad'

Harrouff is pictured here being taken in custody after the murders. He begged deputies to kill him after they pulled him off John Stevens and told them ‘I ate something bad’ 

Evidence provided to the court as the mental state of Austin Harrouff was being determined

Evidence provided to the court as the mental state of Austin Harrouff was being determined

He then walked two miles to his mother’s house where he mixed cooking oil with parmesan and attempted to drink it before his mother took him back to the restaurant.

After another altercation with his father, restaurant security footage showed Harrouff calmly leaving the restaurant 45 minutes before the attack. 

He then walked four miles toward the Stevens’ home where he entered their open garage and used their own tools to murder them.

Harrouff told TV psychiatrist Dr Phil he was escaping a demon he called Daniel and that he had only vague recollections of the killings.

He said he encountered Michelle Stevens in the couple’s garage. She screamed, and ‘then it’s a blur,’ he said.

‘I don’t remember what she said – I just remember being yelled at,’ Harrouff said.

He said he grabbed a machete but doesn’t remember why he killed her and her husband. He drank a range of additional chemicals in the couple’s garage that caused him critical injuries.

When police arrived at the house they found the couple dead and Harrouff biting at John’s face. Police said that they were threatening Harrouff with a dog, tasing him, and kicking him in the head to get him to stop. 

Harrouff was a 19-year-old student at Florida State University when he killed the couple (pictured) and stabbed a neighbor that came to help them, prosecutors say

Harrouff was a 19-year-old student at Florida State University when he killed the couple (pictured) and stabbed a neighbor that came to help them, prosecutors say

Since the incident in 2016, Harrouff has said that cannot remember the details but believed God and demons were talking to him as attacked the couple in the brutal attack

Since the incident in 2016, Harrouff has said that cannot remember the details but believed God and demons were talking to him as attacked the couple in the brutal attack

In his judgment, Bauer said that two mental health experts, one hired by the state and one for the defense had concluded Harrouff was not sane when he killed the couple.

Bauer noted that the Harrouff defense team and state prosecutors ‘agreed to this particular outcome, I’m sure based upon all the facts and circumstances that they had.

‘It’s a sad case, it’s an awful case,’ Bauer said.

‘But when it all gets said and done, the state and the defense have made the determination that mental intent was not formulated. It wasn’t there and therefore the defendant is technically not guilty by reason of insanity.’

Dr. Ohillipo Resnick, an expert for the defense, determined in 2019 that Harrouff was ‘actively psychotic,’ because he kept on attacking even when cops tased him and kicked him multiple times in the head.

Resnick claimed that the defendant suffered from ‘clinical lycanthropy,’ which involves believing you are a dog and explained Harrouff’s dog-like behavior. 

A knife from the scene of the brutal murders was presented as evidence

A knife from the scene of the brutal murders was presented as evidence

A wine bottle opener retrieved from the scene of the Stevens' murder in August 2016

A wine bottle opener retrieved from the scene of the Stevens’ murder in August 2016

Workers at the crime scene remove furniture from garage where Michelle Stevens was found

Workers at the crime scene remove furniture from garage where Michelle Stevens was found

If found guilty, Harrouff would have been sentenced to life in prison without parole as prosecutors had already chosen not to pursue the death penalty.

This comes almost two years after Harrouff entered his not guilty plea back in 2020. 

At the time, prosecution psychiatrist Dr. Gregory C. Landrum said Harrouff was legally insane when he fatally attacked Michelle and John Stevens outside their home in August 2016.

Landrum noted at the time that Harrouff was being treated for schizophrenia when he was jailed.

The psychiatrist’s finding bolsters the case of Harrouff’s attorneys, who are planning to argue the 23-year-old should be found not guilty by reason of insanity at his murder trial, which is scheduled for May.

Landrum’s conclusion was that Harrouff was ‘unable to distinguish right from wrong’ when he killed the couple – the legal standard in Florida for being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

The trial was significantly delayed by the pandemic and Harrouff’s slow recovery from critical injuries he sustained while drinking chemicals at the time of the attack.

He will now be committed to a state mental hospital and his attorneys have previously conceded it is unlikely that he would ever be released. 

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