FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The father of a Florida college student accused of randomly killing a couple and biting the dead husband’s face said Thursday that his son’s condition is deteriorating.
Dr. Wade Harrouff said his 19-year-old son Austin Harrouff “is not doing well” and remains hospitalized nearly four weeks after the Aug. 15 beating and stabbing attack that killed John Stevens, 59, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53, at the couple’s Tequesta home. The couple’s neighbor was also injured. Harrouff said his son can open his eyes and squeeze his hand, but has pneumonia and can’t talk.
Harrouff, a dentist, believes his son had a mental breakdown, which is why he stripped off most of his clothes before the attack. He thinks his son drank poison before the attack, which would explain his burned esophagus and the animal noises he was making during the attack.
“He was very dehydrated and wanted to drink something,” Wade Harrouff said during two short phone interviews with The Associated Press.
It took several Martin County sheriff’s deputies, shocks from an electric stun gun and bites from a police dog to pry Austin Harrouff off Stevens. The Florida State University exercise science major was a body builder, had played football and wrestled in high school and could bench press over 300 pounds, but football teammates have said their coaches criticized him for not being aggressive.
Wade Harrouff said his son had no history of violence before the attack.
The interviews came one day after Wade Harrouff appeared Wednesday on an episode of the “Dr. Phil” television show, where he gave his first detailed account of the case.
Austin Harrouff had been acting strangely for about a week before the attack — his mother told police before she knew about the killings that he had been claiming to have superpowers and to have been sent to help people.
Wade Harrouff told host Phil McGraw that his son had left a restaurant where they had been eating without explanation, walked to his mother’s house two miles away and tried to drink a bottle of cooking oil. She stopped him, but he poured it into a bowl with parmesan cheese and ate it.
She brought him back to the restaurant. Harrouff said he grabbed his son by the shirt and said, “What is wrong with you?” He said his son reared back and raised his fist, but Wade Harrouff’s girlfriend told him to stop. Austin Harrouff turned and left, his father said. Video from the restaurant shows Austin Harrouff walking calmly as he exits about 45 minutes before Stevens and Mishcon were attacked. He apparently walked the four miles to their home.
Wade Harrouff said he first got a call from deputies about 2 a.m., about five hours after the attack. He told McGraw his first thought was “he’s dead.”
They told him they had found his son and he was relieved, but then two deputies arrived at his house and showed him a photo of his battered son taken after his arrest. They told him his son was in the hospital and that “he’s killed two people and eaten them,” adding “that blood you see isn’t his own.”
He said he was stunned because that’s not something he could believe his son could do.
“He’s always been the kindest, caring kid I’ve seen. He always wanted to help people. He was always great. I called him the ‘happy boy,'” a tearful Harrouff told McGraw. “When he wakes up, he’s not going to be able to believe this but he will deal with it. I want to talk to him because he will tell the story, even if he is guilty.”
Hospital blood tests showed no signs of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin or other common drugs in Harrouff’ system. Detectives are awaiting tests for less common hallucinogenic drugs such as flakka or bath salts, whose abusers have been known to become suddenly and irrationally violent.
Martin County Sheriff Wayne Snyder has said Austin Harrouff will be charged with murder if he recovers. The sheriff’s office had no immediate comment on Wade Harrouff’s television appearance.