The suspect in Monday’s gruesome, cannibalistic double murder — made all the more horrifying by how random it was — appeared to be lucid when officers grabbed him.
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Authorities and neighbors are still piecing together details from the case that has stunned people nationwide, none more so than Martin County Sheriff William Snyder.
“That’s what makes this so difficult for all of us to process,” he said. “To all of us, none of this makes sense. There’s just not one thing in this case that seems to make sense.”
Why did Austin Harrouff, a 19-year-old Florida State University sophomore studying exercise science, turn from a seemingly normal, well-liked fraternity brother to a cannibalistic killer?
It all began with a family meal at Duffy’s, a popular chain sports bar not far from his parents’ homes. In a 911 call later in the night, his mother Mina said her son started saying “delusional” things about being immortal and a super hero while at dinner.
“It’s like he just — changed,” she said.
Security footage showed Harrouff calmly walking out of the restaurant, clad in a blue polo shirt, white pants and and a backward Make America Great Again hat around 8:30 p.m. He walked along Island Way for more than three miles. His final destination, Kokomo Lane, was one street shy of his dad’s home.
There, in a fit of rage, he attacked a couple lounging in their garage with the door open, deputies said. Autopsy results show he beat Michelle Stevens to death, then fatally stabbed her husband, John, with a switchblade he carried, as well as other “weapons of opportunity” found in the garage. Jeff Fisher, a neighbor, ran over to stop the violence. Fisher told police Harrouff said, “You don’t want any of this,” before stabbing Fisher five times.
Fisher and his wife called 911 at 9:20 p.m., frantically pleading for help. Fisher’s breathing was labored as he told police he saw a “young man beating up a woman across the street … in a garage.” He told the operator he saw an unresponsive woman lying on the ground. “I’m bleeding pretty bad,” he said.
By the time police arrived at 9:30 p.m., they said Harrouff was on top of John Stevens’ body, biting off bits of his face and stomach. After several shocks from a Taser and bites from a police dog, multiple officers were eventually able to haul the “growling,” “grunting” man off the body.
“Test me, you won’t find any drugs,” deputies said he told them.
As of Friday, Harrouff was in critical condition with a breathing tube, guarded by Martin County Sheriff deputies, but Harrouff is expected to be discharged early next week. He hasn’t spoken or seen his family since he arrived at the hospital.
When he is released and moved to jail, sheriff spokeswoman Trisha Kukuvka said he will be charged with one count each of first-degree murder for the deaths of the Stevens family, attempted first-degree murder for Jeff Fisher, armed burglary and resisting arrest without violence.
An initial test for common street drugs — including marijuana, cocaine and heroin — showed no traces of them in Harrouff’s system. Samples of his blood, hair and DNA were sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia, for further testing.
Hours after the slayings, Harrouff’s mother called 911 to report him missing at 11:45 p.m.
Mina Harrouff said her son stormed out of dinner and hadn’t been seen since. His friends, fellow fraternity brothers, couldn’t find him, she said, and her son wasn’t carrying his ID or phone.
But he wasn’t missing.
He was in Martin County Sheriff department custody under the fake name he gave them. During their search, Austin Harrouff’s friends showed up at the scene and asked after their missing friend, but after hearing the fake name they left, Snyder said.
Martin County deputies didn’t figure out the name was wrong until 11:30 p.m., moments before Mina Harrouff called the Jupiter police. She told police she didn’t believe her son was a danger to himself or others. An officer came by her home, only a three mile drive from the scene of the killings, to fill out a report.
The next time she heard from police was at 2:30 a.m., when officers told her they found her son chewing on the face of a man he stabbed to death.
Hours before the Friday memorial for the Stevens family, a lawyer representing the Harrouff family released their only statement so far.
“The Harrouff family expresses their deepest sympathy for the pain and suffering caused by Austin Harrouff,” it reads. “There are no words we can offer to give any real comfort for this tragic loss.”
“We love our son and know that he is not the person some are making him to be for their own purposes. We will allow the full legal process to find the facts and truth here.”