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Suspect in 2016 double murder, face-biting case found not guilty by reason of insanity

By Melissa Alonso, CNN

Austin Harrouff, the 25-year-old accused of stabbing a Florida couple to death and biting the face of the male victim in 2016, will be sent to a mental hospital instead of prison, according to court documents.

Harrouff was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the killings of John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53, according to his attorney Nellie L. King.

Florida Judge Sherwood Bauer, of the 19th Judicial Circuit, found Harrouff not guilty by reason of insanity and ordered him to be sent to a mental hospital after the prosecution and the defense reached an agreement to avoid trial, according to court documents.

“We have two people — middle-age people — sitting on their couch enjoying the night and out of nowhere for reasons we may never know, they are attacked by a man with a knife who overcomes them both and kills them,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said after the killings in 2016.

Harrouff, then 19-years-old, was having dinner with his family when he stormed off in an agitated state, officials said at the time. Hours later, authorities responded to the Stevens’ home and found the teen stabbing the couple to death and then biting John Stevens’ face, CNN has reported.

Harrouff purchased hallucinogenic mushrooms a few days before the attack, investigators have said, but they found no traces of the drug in his blood that night, according to CNN affiliate WPLG.

On Monday, victim impact statements were read in the courtroom, a court manager told CNN. Mishcon Stevens’ sister, Cindy Mishcon, was the first to address Harrouff in court, according to WPLG.

Mishcon read numerous bizarre conversations Harrouff had via text message leading up to the killings, directing them at Harrouff in court, WPLG reported.

“Your dad asks you on the afternoon before you killed my sister, ‘Did you throw the drugs out? Did you throw the drugs out?’ You didn’t answer ‘yes,'” Mishcon said. “Do you know what you said to him? ‘Learn.’ What does that mean? Are you ever going to tell us what that means,” according to WPLG.

“But here we are, opening the prison doors for a double murderer. Four words come to mind: white, rich boy justice,” Mishcon said, according to WPLG.

The “false narrative advanced by the State that the homicides were the result of” her client “ingesting Flakka, or bath salts, was debunked repeatedly,” King said in a statement to CNN.

“Not only did defense experts refute this theory, but the State sent evidence specimens to two different drug testing facilities on three different occasions only to have negative results tendered each time,” according to King.

Although the result of the “case fails to bring comfort to the families of the victims, this finding brings this matter to its right and lawful end,” said King.

“Two experts, one for the defense and one for the State, determined Austin was experiencing a psychotic break at the time of the homicides and lacked the intent necessary to be criminally responsible for his conduct,” said King.

CNN has reached out to the prosecutor for comment.

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