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Judge accepts Florida face-biting killer's insanity plea

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- The former Florida State University student accused of killing a couple in their garage and chewing on the husband's face will be placed in a secure mental hospital after a judge accepted his insanity plea.

Austin Harrouff, 25, was found gnawing on the face of one of his victims, 59-year-old John Stevens, after killing him and his wife, Michelle Mishcon Stevens, in their garage in 2016.

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On Monday, Martin County Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer Jr. said that county prosecutors agreed to a plea deal, foregoing a criminal trial.

"When it all gets said and done, the state and the defense have made the determination that mental intent was not formulated," Bauer said. "It wasn't there and therefore the defendant is technically not guilty by reason of insanity."

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Harrouff, who was 19 at the time of the killings, also was accused of injuring a neighbor of the Stevenses who tried to intervene.

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"I didn't really know you could brutally murder two people, attempt to kill another and not even have a trial," said Jodi Bruce, sister of Michelle Mishcon Stevens, in a statement to the court Monday. "That was news to me."

Police suspected Harrouff was on some kind of hallucinogenic drug such as bath salts or flakka, but he reportedly told the arresting officers they would only find alcohol and marijuana in his system.

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His insanity defense relied largely on the results of a toxicology report which confirmed his statement.

The results strengthened the defense's argument that Harrouff was suffering from a "severe mental illness."

According to Harrouff's sister, Haley, he had been having delusions of grandeur, saying he had super powers and was immortal before the night of the killings. He had also been in a series of fights with his parents before killing the Stevenses.

Michelle Mishcon Stevens' sister, Cindy Mishcon, criticized the insanity defense and read several text messages Harrouff sent leading up to the killings. The messages included him reporting being drunk and regularly blacking out, as well as detailing his drug use.

Cindy Mishcon also shared the details of phone calls Harrouff made to family members while in jail. Some of which she described as disparaging to the victims, the Palm Beach Post reported.

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"I quickly realized from listening to those calls that you don't care -- about how your actions have affected my family. You don't care that you murdered my parents' firstborn child," Cindy Mishcon said.

"You don't care about anyone but yourself. In fact, the only victim that you and your family see in all of this is you and the Harrouff name."

Cindy Mishcon also dismissed Harrouff's father Wade Harrouff's account of his son showing symptoms of mental illness for at least two weeks before the killings. She said Wade Harrouff bought Austin the knife he would use in the killings at a gun show the day before.

"He let you buy a knife when he thought you were crazy?" she said. "It's just not believable."

Ivy Stevens, John Stevens' daughter, called Harrouff a "disgusting animal."

"The last words that my father spoke were used to beg for his life," she said.

She also turned her attention to Harrouff's parents, Wade and Mina.

"Why didn't you intervene if you were so worried about your son?" she asked. "You shouldn't have let him leave your house the night of Aug. 15 if he was acting so strange -- you should have stopped him and reasoned with him, asked him what was wrong and how you could have helped him."

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By the judge's order, Harrouff was to be remanded to Florida's Department of Children and Families to be placed in a mental health facility.

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