The attorneys for the former Florida State University student accused of fatally stabbing a couple and biting off parts of a man’s face contend in recently-filed court papers that Austin Harrouff is “insane”: They say he was unaware of what he was doing or that what he was doing was wrong.
On Tuesday, Nellie King, one of the lawyers representing Austin Harrouff, filed a notice of intent for an insanity defense. The two-page court filing, obtained by PEOPLE, claims Harrouff is “insane” and was “suffering from a full-blown psychotic episode” at the time of the Aug. 15, 2016, attack.
Harrouff, 20, is charged with two counts of murder for allegedly killing John Stevens, 59, and his 53-year-old wife, Michelle Mishcon, outside their Tequesta, Florida, home. The couple was attacked shortly after Harrouff stormed out of a dinner where he was eating with his father and others.
His parents told police he had been acting strangely in the weeks before the attack.
He is additionally charged with attempted first-degree murder for attacking a neighbor, who suffered minor injuries while trying to stop Harrouff.
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When police arrived at the scene, officers had to pull Harrouff, who was in his underwear, off of Stevens. As he was biting Stevens, police kicked Harrouff in the face several times, with no effect. Investigators claim Harrouff was biting Stevens’ face and had bitten into his abdomen.
Police say that before the killings, Harrouff consumed unspecified chemicals that he’d found in the couple’s garage. The chemicals scorched the lining of Harrouff’s throat.
Soon after his son was arrested, Wade Harrouff appeared on The Dr. Phil Show and said Austin exhibited signs consistent with schizophrenia in the weeks before the killings.
Prosecutors say that Harrouff’s internet search history includes queries suggesting he may have been questioning his own sanity.
Harrouff: ‘It’s a Blur’
Harrouff also appeared on Dr. Phil and expressed remorse for his actions.
“I never imagined this would ever happen and I am deeply sorry to the family that was affected,” Harrouff told the show’s host, Phil McGraw. “I hope that something like this never happens again. I never wanted, consciously, to do something like this or I never planned it. I didn’t want to do it.”
Harrouff told Dr. Phil McGraw that he only remembers fragments from the evening: He can recall holding a machete at one point, and remembers the victims yelling at him, but not what they said.
“It happened but I wasn’t aware of it at the time,” Harrouff said. “At the end, I remember saving a dog and hijacking a car. It’s a blur.”
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Asked how he feels about the deaths of Steven and Mishcon, Harrouff started to sob.
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“I felt terrible and … I really, really don’t have words to explain how I feel,” he said. “It’s like a nightmare … It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I never imagined this would ever happen and I am deeply sorry to the family. I’m sorry for their loss and I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. I’m so sorry and I never wanted this to happen. I’m so sorry. I don’t know how to put it into words. I never wanted this to happen.”
During the interview, Harrouuff also acknowledged he suffers from paranoia and delusions of grandeur, and said he recognizes he needs professional help.
“I’m just so sorry,” Harrouff said. When asked why he did it, he told McGraw, “I don’t know.”