A man who killed a couple and then ate part of the man's face was legally insane at the time of doing so, a psychiatrist has said.
Austin Harrouff, 23, attacked Michelle Mishcon, 53, and John Stevens, 59, outside their home on August 15, 2016.
Harrouff is alleged to have also wounded a neighbour who tried to save the couple.
Police say that when they arrived on the scene, in Palm Beach, Florida, Harrouff was attacking and biting the husband on the driveway.
He told deputies, “Help me, I ate something bad” before admitting it was “humans” as he spat out a piece of flesh, court documents show.
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He then begged deputies to kill him after they pulled him off of Mr Stevens, according to the records.
“Shoot me now; I deserve to die,” Harrouff said.
Now, Dr Gregory C. Landrum says Harrouff believed at the time that God and demons were talking to him, was suffering from increasing paranoia and other hallucinations.
He noted that Harrouff was being treated for schizophrenia while jailed.
As a result, Dr Landrum concluded, “Harrouff was unable to distinguish right from wrong” when he killed the couple – the legal standard in Florida for being found not guilty by reason of insanity.
If Harrouff is found not guilty by reason of insanity, that does not mean he would go free. He would be committed to a state mental hospital and his lawyers have previously conceded it is unlikely that he would ever be released.
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Harrouff “has a mental illness and, because of the illness, is manifestly dangerous to himself and others,” Dr Landrum wrote.
Defence lawyer Nellie L. King welcomed Dr Landrum’s finding, while understanding “it may provide little comfort to the victims’ families.”
“However, mental illness is very real and can lead to unintentional, yet tragic, outcomes,” Ms King said in a statement.
The defence examiner also found him legally insane.
At a pre-trial hearing Thursday, prosecutors asked Circuit Judge Sherwood Bauer for permission to have another psychiatrist examine Harrouff.
Judge Bauer said he would consider it, but warned prosecutors that if this doctor agrees with the first two their case would seem doomed.
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Evan Fetterman, an lawyer representing Michelle Stevens’ family in a lawsuit against Harrouff, said in a statement on Thursday that Dr Landrum’s “conclusions are inconsistent with the facts” because Harrouff abused drugs in the months preceding the attack and was drunk during it.
That usage caused any insanity Harrouff may have experienced and should not be legally considered, he said.
Dr Landrum wrote that Harrouff in an October interview told him that in the weeks leading up to the killings he had begun to feel “go go go” and experienced grandiosity during the day and paranoia at night.
He said it felt like he had Jesus’ “special abilities” while working at his job as a dental assistant and that he blessed the dental instruments by pouring water on them.
Harrouff told Dr Landrum that on the day before the killings he felt that “dog spirits” had become part of him and he had new strength and agility.
On the evening of the killings, his mother found him at her home drinking cooking oil mixed with Parmesan cheese – Michelle Stevens’ family alleges the concoction was spiked with hallucinogenic mushrooms.
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About 45 minutes before the attack, Harrouff argued with his father and stormed out of a restaurant 3.2 kilometres from the Stevenses’ home.
Harrouff later told the Dr. Phil television show that he was fleeing a demon he called “Daniel”.
He told Dr Landrum that he recalls having a machete in his hand and stabbing a woman – saying “it was like she was covered in darkness.”
He recalled seeing a man who was “glowing white” and began stabbing and biting him.
He remembers drinking a liquid, calling out to God to save him and feeling he was a dog before blacking out.
Harrouff was hospitalised for nearly two months recovering from injuries caused by drinking a caustic liquid found in the couple’s garage.
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