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Florida man accused of killing couple and biting victim’s face to go to trial as judge weighs insanity plea

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A former Florida State University student who randomly killed a couple in his garage six years ago, biting a victim’s face off, will go on trial Monday.

Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer will decide whether Austin Harrouff, then 19, was insane when he killed John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon Stevens, 53, in August 2016.

The 25-year-old also seriously injured a neighbor who came to the couple’s aid.

Police found him, nearly naked, biting off chunks of John Stevens’s face and it took several officers, a taser and a police dog to subdue him.

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Harrouff has pleaded not guilty by insanity to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges for their murders.

FILE – This Oct. 3, 2016, file photo provided by the Martin County Sheriff’s Office shows Austin Harrouff. Harrouff, a former college student who killed a Florida couple in his garage six years earlier and then bit into the face of a victim, will finally go to trial on Monday, November 21, 2022.
((Martin County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File))

The trial had been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as legal disputes and Harrouff’s recovery from critical injuries sustained while drinking a chemical during the attack.

If convicted, Harrouff will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors waived the death penalty.

If he is found to be insane, he will be placed in a secure psychiatric hospital until doctors and a judge agree that he is no longer dangerous.

Under Florida state law, defendants are presumed to be sane.

The entrance to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.

The entrance to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Fla.
((Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

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Harrouff has said she was running from a demon she called Daniel when she attacked the couple, and mental health experts hired by prosecutors and defense discovered she suffered an acute psychotic episode during the attack.

They also noticed that he could not distinguish between good and evil.

Prosecutors recently removed a second expert who said Harrouff was sane, saying he has serious health problems.

A third expert believes Harrouff was taking a drug that did not show up in post-arrest tests, but has not tested him.

Austin Harrouff is transported by detectives to the Martin County Jail from St. Mary's Hospital in Stuart, Florida.

Austin Harrouff is transported by detectives to the Martin County Jail from St. Mary’s Hospital in Stuart, Florida.
(Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach Post via AP)

Investigators discovered that he bought some hallucinogenic mushrooms a few days before the attack, but his friends said that he destroyed them and no traces were found in his blood.

Harrouff also did Google searches for “how to tell if you’re going crazy.”

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His parents said their son had been acting strangely for weeks and made an appointment to have him evaluated, but the seizure happened first.

Harrouff said he has only vague memories of the killings, including screaming and grabbing a machete.

He doesn’t remember why he did it.

“It’s like it happened, but I wasn’t aware of it,” he said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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