A friend says the Michelle Mishcon and John Stevens were the "couple that everybody went to"
Credit: Michelle Mischon and John Stevens

The very garage that a Florida couple transformed into a neighborhood hangout for friends and family became the place they’d spend their last moments.

John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon, 53, often spent warm nights in the garage of their Tequesta, Florida, home with the door open. That’s what they were doing when 19-year-old Austin Harrouff allegedly approached them on Monday and fatally stabbed then before trying to eat Steven’s face what the local sheriff called a “random” and “unprovoked” attack on two people he’d never met before.

“They were the couple that everybody went to at the end of the day. They had an open-door policy and they had their garage set up like a living room,” their friend, 54-year-old Denise Andersen, tells PEOPLE.

“Their garage was set up with a TV and a bar and a stereo and couches, and they welcomed everybody in the community and it was a place where people could connect and relax after a day of work.”

On Monday night, Harrouff allegedly stormed out of a restaurant, complaining of “slow service,” and “inexplicably” turned down the street where the couple lived – about a 15-minute walk from the restaurant – Martin County Sheriff William Snyder previously told PEOPLE.

“[He] apparently attacked both of them with a knife that he was known to carry,” Snyder said. “He began stabbing and assaulting both the husband and the wife.”

Snyder said that Harrouff allegedly used many objects in the garage as weapons and wrestled with Stevens until both men were in the driveway. He said that it took up to four officers and a police dog to subdue Harrouff, who was allegedly clutching Stevens and trying to eat his face.

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Andersen recalled a “huge dinner of lobster tails” the couple once threw in their garage for the community.

“They must have baked easily three or four dozen lobster tails for me, my family and friends they had because we would all fit into their garage and just gather,” Andersen tells PEOPLE.

“It was almost like happy hour in somebody’s garage and they cooked all these lobster tails for everybody. They were generous and giving people.”

Andersen describes Mishcon as a “very special person” and called Stevens “one of the sweetest, mild-mannered men you’d ever meet.”

She added that she was “devastated” when she learned what had happened to her friends.

“It’s crazy how someone could be there one moment and gone the next,” she says. “Someone said to me, ‘Wow, you hear about things like this one the news … and you think, wow that’s crazy.’ But when you actually know the person it just makes you think about your own mortality.”

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Andersen held back tears as she spoke about the couple who took her elderly, widowed father “under their wing” until the day he died.

Much like the Tequesta community, Andersen is looking for answers. And she says that if she could ask Harrouff one question, it would be, “Why?”

“Why would you do something so incredibly horrible to other people and yourself?” she says.