About 800 people gathered in Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon to honor John and Michelle Mishcon Stevens, the couple whose lives were cut short in a bizarre and brutal murder Monday evening. Their parents, children, siblings and friends who’d known the pair for decades spoke from the stage of the Parker Playhouse, describing two people who were kind, loyal, down to earth and, above all, loving.
Police say the couple were bludgeoned and knifed to death in their Tequesta home by 19-year-old Austin Harrouff in an incident so sudden and inexplicable that the Stevens’ loved ones could make no sense of it.
A friend “told me ‘it will never get better, it will only get different,’” said Michelle’s father, Jeffrey Mishcon, a former mayor of North Miami Beach who lost his wife in 1997 and is now struggling with the loss of their daughter, who was 53. “But with the love and strength of the people in this room, we’re gonna make it. John and Michelle were two of the most special people who ever walked this earth. But if you knew either of them you knew that already.”
Stevens’ son, John Stevens IV, 28, frequently broke down as he described how his father, who was 59, would take him fishing, and how he would leave work to rescue his daughter Ivy, standing next to her brother, when she climbed too high in a tree. The younger Stevens, who lives in Kansas and was there with his wife and their three-month-old daughter, said his father was exhilarated when he became a grandfather.
“He couldn’t wait to meet her, and he couldn’t wait to take her out on the water,” Stevens said, as the crowd sobbed audibly. “He was so proud of us.”
Harrouff, who remains sedated and under armed guard at a Palm Beach County hospital, stormed out of a Jupiter restaurant where he was having dinner with his parents Monday night, and appears to have encountered the Stevens by accident, as he walked by the garage lounge the couple called their “Garage-Ma-Hall” in a well-to-do suburban development, near Harrouff’s father’s home. The Stevens spent most evenings there, relaxing with friends, neighbors and each other.
The couple met 19 years ago at a financial firm in Miami, where they both worked.
“You could see they were made for each other,” said Bucky Singer, lifelong friend of Jeffrey Mishcon and Michelle’s godfather. He was in the hospital with him when Michelle was born. “You could see them more and more in love the more they were together.”
Friends spoke of the couple’s love of fishing, the ocean and being out on their boat. “My only hope now is that they are on a boat, smooth seas, wind in their hair, laughing together,” said Rich Goodman, who became friends with Michelle when they were in the fourth grade, was married to her for three years, and remained close even after they divorced and she married Stevens.
The sadness was leavened with appreciative stories of the couple’s quirks and character. As a child, Michelle, who grew up in North Miami Beach, used to enthusiastically ride the family’s German shepherd, and once mooned Singer, her “Uncle Bucky,” as he prepared to take the family’s children swimming. Mishcon Stevens’ sisters, Cindy Mishcon and Jodi Bruce, alternately laughed and sobbed as they read off a long list of what they loved about their sister: She never missed a family birthday party, could eat two hearty breakfasts, reserved the time after 5 p.m. for cocktails, and loved her husband’s two children from his first marriage like her own.
Chip Kreps, introduced as John Stevens’ best friend, said that he’d been unconditionally kind and loyal since they met in 1976.
“His family took me in and made me one of them,” Kreps said. “If you needed him to be your best friend, he was there. He really was the best friend anyone could ever have.”
But over and over, people returned to how much the couple loved each other — a love which emerged vividly through the letters they wrote to each other, and which Mishcon Stevens’ two sisters and two brothers read aloud.
“Each year with you gets better and better,” Mishcon Stevens wrote to her ‘husbuddy.’ “Each time I turn into Kokomo Lane I smile thinking I’m going to see you. You are my everything.”
“I’m just giddy thinking about what our new life together will bring,” Stevens wrote in 1997, as they were about to get married. “You bring me happiness just by being by my side. All we have to do is love each other from this day forward.”