Sheriff: Florida face-biting suspect may have ingested chemical

YouTube image of Austin Harrouff via WPEC/CNN.
Photo of John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon (WPTV)
Photo of John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon (WPTV)

STUART, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff says a college student caught biting a victim’s face after stabbing and beating the man and his wife to death in a random attack may have ingested “caustic” chemicals from the couple’s garage.

Martin County Sheriff William Snyder told news outlets that Austin Harrouff remains in critical but stable condition at a West Palm Beach hospital a week after the attack that killed 59-year-old John Stevens and 53-year-old Michelle Mishcon outside their home near Jupiter.

Snyder says hospital officials “speculated” the night of the attack that Harrouff could have ingested the chemicals based on what they were seeing in his body fluids.

The FBI is running tests to determine whether Harrouff, who had finished his first year at Florida State University and was home for the summer, was under the influence of either bath salts or a drug called flakka, both of which have been linked to violent outbursts. But Snyder said there were no traces of street drugs — including cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — in Harrouff’s system immediately after the attacks.

 In a video he recently posted online, Harrouff suggested he may have taken steroids in the past, but said he doesn’t use them now

Snyder says the toxicology reports will provide “a big piece of the unknown.”

 Austin Harrouff (WPTV)
Austin Harrouff (WPTV)

Harrouff, 19, faces two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder and burglary in connection with the attack.

Before the attack, Harrouff was having dinner with his parents about four miles from the couple’s house. Video surveillance from the restaurant shows him calmly walking out about 45 minutes before the attacks. Investigators said he apparently had words with his parents. His mother later reported him missing, telling police he had been acting strangely for about a week before the attack.

The couple, who lived a short distance from Harrouff’s father, were known to sit in their garage with the door open, watching television. Their bodies were found in the garage and driveway. Investigators say Harrouff also stabbed neighbor Jeff Fisher, who heard a commotion and tried to help.

Fisher has since been released from the hospital and is recovering from his wounds.

Harrouff’s parents, Wade and Mina Harrouff, issued a statement last week expressing their condolences to the Stevens family and their apologies to Fischer.

Attorney Robert Watson, who is representing Harrouff, said last week that the student’s parents saw “indications of odd and unusual behavior” in him recently, but he declined to elaborate on possible mental health issues.

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