Homicide

Face-biting suspect's apology is 'elaborate lie,' victim's son says

Austin Harrouff.

Austin Harrouff.

The son of a man who fell victim to a gruesome face-biting attack -- allegedly by a college student -- said he was rejecting the suspect’s recorded apology, chalking it up to be nothing more than an “elaborate lie” to support a possible insanity defense.

“He’s not crazy. He’s just not. He’s an evil person and he deserves to be in jail,” John Stevens Jr. told Fox 29. “If he acknowledged that, we can start there. But this apology, I absolutely reject it.”

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Austin Harrouff, 20, was arrested upon release Tuesday from the hospital for the Aug. 15 deaths of John Stevens, a 59-year-old landscaper, and his wife, Michelle Mishcon, 53, of Martin County. Both had been beaten and stabbed. He could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.

Harrouff also faces an attempted murder charge following an attack on Jeff Fisher, a good Samaritan who was critically injured while trying to save the couple, Fox 29 reported.

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In a 22-minute interview released Tuesday by prosecutors, Harrouff told television psychologist Phil McGraw he was fleeing a demon-like figure named Daniel and only had a vague recollection of the slayings.

"I got scared out of my mind," Harrouff told McGraw, who interviewed him by computer when the Florida State University student was still hospitalized last fall.

McGraw asked about "the devil talking to you," and Harrouff went on to describe a "dark figure" he called Daniel.

"I just need to find someone to help me, to figure out where I am," added 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.

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.

But Stevens Jr. believes Harrouff was being “coached” through the interview to support a possible insanity defense when the case heads to trial.

“All of this is an elaborate lie,” Stevens Jr. told Fox 29, in addition to accusing Harrouff of being self-centered.

“Austin is someone who I haven’t heard say our names yet. So, I don’t think he cares. I think Austin feels primarily sorry for himself now that his life of privilege has come to an end,” he said.

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 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.

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.

Stevens Jr. told Fox 29 he is not ruling out forgiveness, but that it will take more time and a different statement from the suspect.

Click for more from Fox 29.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.