Face-biter said he fled demon-like figure before killings
STUART, Fla. (AP) — A Florida college student accused of randomly killing a couple in their garage and chewing on the dead man’s face told television psychologist Phil McGraw he was fleeing a demon-like figure named Daniel and only had a vague recollection of the slayings.
In a 22-minute interview released Tuesday by prosecutors, Austin Harrouff said he lost his wits as he walked back to his father’s home after storming out of a restaurant where they had an argument.
McGraw asked about “the devil talking to you,” and Harrouff went on to describe a “dark figure” he called Daniel.
“I got scared out of my mind,” Harrouff told McGraw, who interviewed him by computer when the former high school wrestler and football player was still hospitalized last fall.
Harrouff, 20, was arrested upon release from the hospital for the Aug. 15 deaths of John Stevens, a 59-year-old landscaper, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53. Both had been beaten and stabbed. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
The interview, which is now evidence in the case, was scheduled to air on McGraw’s “Dr. Phil” show last Oct. 28 but was pulled at the last minute without explanation. Prosecutors released it without comment after NBC affiliate WPTV hired lawyers to seek its release under the state’s public information law.
His defense team said the video is yet more evidence showing the deterioration of his mental health, but criticized its release as prejudicial. “Sensationalizing the details of this case pre-trial does nothing to advance justice in the courtroom,” attorney Nellie King said in the statement.
Harrouff, a bodybuilder who majored in exercise science at Florida State University, said he stripped off most of his clothes as he tried to run away from Daniel. McGraw asked what he was thinking.
“I just need to find someone to help me, to figure out where I am,” said Harrouff, speaking in a steady, even voice as his father, dentist Wade Harrouff, stood just off camera. “I don’t even remember what I said to myself. I just remember being afraid, scared.”
He said he doesn’t remember how he came face-to-face with Mishcon in the couple’s garage. He said she screamed, and “then it’s a blur.”
“I don’t remember what she said — I just remember being yelled at,” Harrouff said. He said he grabbed a machete he found in their garage, but doesn’t remember why he killed her and her husband.
“It’s like it happened but I wasn’t aware of it at the time,” Harrouff said, crying. “I don’t know, I don’t know. If I knew, I would tell you.”
Harrouff said he drank something he found in the garage after the attack. He refused to say what it was, but it severely burned his esophagus. He denied ever using steroids or hallucinogenic drugs such as flakka or bath salts. None showed up in his blood tests.
When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found Harrouff on top of Stevens, chewing his face. It took numerous deputies, jolts from an electric stun gun and bites from a police dog to pull him off. They said they didn’t shoot Harrouff because they feared hitting Stevens.
McGraw ended the interview by promising to work with Harrouff’s father to learn why he snapped.
“You keep hanging in there and we are going to look for answers,” McGraw told him.
Harrouff’s family has said he had been acting strange for weeks before the attack.
His mother, Mina Harrouff, told police he claimed to have superpowers and that he had been sent to help people. She said his bed had been moved to the garage because he thought there were demons in the house, and that a few hours before the attack, she stopped him from drinking cooking oil from the bottle, only to find him eating a bowl of cooking oil and cheese.