TEQUESTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Deputies arrived at a Tequesta home Monday night to find a gruesome and horrifying scene, a Florida State University student biting the face of a gravely injured man, who was lying in the driveway of a home.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said FSU student, Austin Harrouff, 19, attacked John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon, 53, as they sat in their garage with the door open.
“It looks like an unprovoked and random attack on two people sitting in a garage,” said Sheriff Snyder, who outlined the disturbing details of the attack during a news conference on Tuesday morning.
Snyder said that at 9:20 p.m. on Monday, 911 dispatchers received a call from a neighbor who said he was stabbed while trying to stop an assault at a home across the street from him.
A deputy arrived to find Harrouff on top of Stevens who was lying on the driveway of the home. “He was biting the victim on the face and removing pieces of his face,” said Snyder.
Additional deputies responded and stung Harrouff multiple times with tasers. They also instructed a deputy K9 to attack Harrouff, who showed “abnormal levels of strength.”
“Nothing was working,” said Snyder, referring to the effort to subdue Harrouff.
Snyder said deputies did not fire their guns to try to stop Harrouff because the bullets could have hit the Stevens.
Deputies were able to subdue Harrouff and he was transported to a local hospital where he remained sedated on Tuesday morning. The sheriff said Harrouff was making animal noises and grunting and growling. He is expected to survive.
However, the man who he is accused of attacking did not survive. John Stevens died at the scene. The body of his wife Michelle Mishcon was found in the garage.
Sheriff Snyder said Harrouff used multiple weapons during the attack. Some appeared to have been weapons of convenience, which were inside the garage. A large switchblade knife was also found at the scene.
The sheriff said there was “an enormous amount of violence inside the garage” and the victims suffered from massive lacerations and an unusual amount of trauma. “It does seem apparent our male victim was fighting back,” said Sheriff Snyder.
Snyder said that Harrouff lived with his mother a few miles away and is enrolled at FSU where he is a member of a fraternity. Harrouff was in town with members of his fraternity.
The sheriff said about an hour before the attack, Harrouff was having dinner with his mom and dad at a restaurant and became agitated and left abruptly. His parents called the Jupiter Police Department asking for help finding him.
Sheriff Snyder refused to speculate about if Harrouff may have been on a drug like Flakka or bath salts during the attack. But, he did say that people under the influence of Flakka or bath salts have been known to attack and bite victims. Snyder also said that Harrouff had taken off some of his clothes, but did not have an elevated body temperature, which can happen after taking Flakka or bath salts.
Snyder said that tests will determine if Harrouff was under the influence of drugs. Initial tests conducted after he arrived at the hospital showed that he did not have cocaine, opioids, pot or methamphetamine in his system.
The sheriff said a motive for the attack is not known. Harrouff does not have a criminal record.
A neighbor says the couple killed in the attack was friendly and outgoing, and she’s not surprised that another neighbor tried to save them.
Amy Lourie said Tuesday that Mishcon and Stevens would sit in the garage of their home with the door up while watching television. They would wave and talk to neighbors as they watched their Labrador retriever play in the yard. They and their dog would drive around the neighborhood in a golf cart and chat.
She said “it would be typical” for neighbor Jeff Fisher to try to rescue them. Fisher’s father, Steve Fisher, told WPTV-TV his son suffered a stab wound to the neck, three to his back and one to his side. He is expected to recover.
Tequesta is a small, affluent community about 20 miles north of Palm Beach.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.