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'Face-biting attack' student facing murder charges

Published 19/08/2016

The Florida State University student is conscious but heavily sedated and under armed guard in hospital, according to the sheriff's office
The Florida State University student is conscious but heavily sedated and under armed guard in hospital, according to the sheriff's office

A US college student caught trying to bite the face off a victim after stabbing the man and his wife will be charged with first-degree murder, Florida sheriff's office said, meaning he will face capital punishment or life without parole.

Austin Harrouff, 19, will be charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted murder and burglary, according to a statement from Trisha Kukuvka, a spokeswoman for Martin County sheriff William Snyder.

He will also face an attempted first-degree murder charge for allegedly stabbing their neighbour, Jeff Fisher, who came to their aid.

The Florida State University student is conscious but heavily sedated and under armed guard in hospital, according to the sheriff's office.

Mr Snyder suggested earlier in the week that he is in no hurry to make the charges official, since the man's family or insurance must pay his hospital bills until he is formally charged.

Mr Snyder has also said that investigators "know the who, the what, the when, the where and the how" of the attack, but the why remains a mystery.

Solving that mystery does not matter so much to the children of John Stevens III, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon, 53, who were stabbed in the garage and driveway of their house in a quiet community north of Jupiter.

Mr Stevens' children said they want him to face execution.

"It is not super important to me what his mindset was," John Stevens IV told the SunSentinel on Thursday. "I just want to see the prosecutor ask for the death penalty. I want him to go through that process and to pay for what he did."

Ivy Stevens agreed: "I hope he makes a full recovery so he can be put through the justice system."

Mr Snyder said tests for substances in Harrouff's system may help explain why the student with no history of criminal behaviour became extraordinarily violent.

Hospital blood tests showed no signs of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin or other common drugs; it will take longer to test for less common hallucinogenic drugs such as flakka or bath salts.

In a video he recently posted online, Harrouff suggested he may have taken steroids in the past, but said he does not use them now.

Lawyer Robert Watson, who said he is representing Harrouff, told TC Palm that the student's parents saw "indications of odd and unusual behaviour" in him recently, but he declined to elaborate on possible mental health issues.

Officials have pieced together a timeline of events that led up to the Monday night attack.

The sheriff said Harrouff was having dinner with his father and sister at Duffy's, a popular sports bar about three miles from the crime scene, and stormed out, apparently agitated about slow service.

His parents were so worried about his behaviour they called police and some of his friends in a futile attempt to find him.

His mother, Mina Harrouff, still unaware of the attack, told Jupiter police officer Luis Rocha that her son had been acting strangely for about a week, claiming he had superpowers and that he was "here to protect people", the report said. She also said her son had no history of mental illness nor heavy drug use.

Ms Mischon's screams alerted Mr Fisher, who told investigators they were both alive when he tried to intervene, but that he ran home to call emergency services after Harrouff stabbed him repeatedly.

Mr Fisher was released from hospital on Thursday, his brother-in-law told news outlets.

The sheriff said Harrouff was growling like an animal and was abnormally strong.

Despite being stunned by a Taser, it took multiple deputies and a police dog to pull him off Mr Stevens' body.

AP

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