Face-biting teen acted like he had schizophrenia

Face-biting teen acted like he had schizophrenia

Papers shed light on how Austin Harrouff went from quirky to face-biting killer


Austin Harrouff.
Photo: Associated Press
Around the time he started his freshman year at Florida State University last year, Austin Harrouff used his phone to jot down notes resembling reminders and to-do lists.
But by this August, his iPhone had become a near-daily outlet for statements and poems that often centred on his purpose in life. He typed phrases such as “keep running even when they say you crazy” and “I don’t want to be worshipped but I know that I will be.”
Harrouff is charged with murder in the brutal face-biting killings of a couple who lived in Jupiter, South Florida. Hundreds of pages of recently released court documents give a more detailed account of his troubles before the mid-August attack.

Parachute kids, alone and far from home

This summer, when the 19-year-old college student was home on summer break in South Florida, his erratic behavior had become so serious his family considered getting him evaluated for his mental well-being. It didn’t happen.

He had gone from being a youth whom friends knew as quirky to a teen making claims of immortality and being half-animal, according to authorities’ interviews with his friends and family.
On August 15, authorities say Harrouff killed John Stevens, 59, and Michelle Mishcon, 53, at the couple’s Jupiter home. The first Martin County sheriff’s deputies on the scene reported that Harrouff was found biting Stevens' face

Great upbringing

Harrouff was born December 21, 1996, in Palm Beach Gardens and while growing up, he lived in northern Palm Beach County, records show.
It was a “great upbringing,” his parents, Wade and Mina Harrouff, would tell an investigator on August 19, according to Martin County sheriff’s documents.
Wade and Mina Harrouff divorced in 2010. By August of this year, the family said, each parent had a significant other, but Mina Harrouff’s fiance said the split family got along. At that time, the two parents lived in separate homes in Jupiter, documents show, and Harrouff’s primary residence was with his mother.
The son of a dentist and pharmacist, Austin hoped to enroll pre-med at a four-year university and one day earn a doctorate, according to his test reports in high school. He took a test three times to improve his scores to meet college-prep benchmarks.
Austin’s grandfather was a doctor in a number of states, before moving to Tavares, northwest of Orlando, an obituary shows.

Teenage Facebook Live streams her and her friend's death

IB student

While enrolled at Suncoast Community High School in Riviera Beach, Austin never got a grade lower than a C through his participation in the International Baccalaureate program, which offers advanced classes that can lead to college credit.
He took courses on biology, chemistry, statistics and math analysis.
Austin did well in science. He wrote in an undated journal entry that he loved “science because it never stops; even though I may not be great at it yet.”
That balanced with another academic passion: art. As early as 2014, Austin  recognised his own creativity while taking IB art classes at Suncoast. He got all As in those courses, records show, and later told his mother he could write music to make money.
“I also see myself as creative,” Harrouff wrote in a January 2014 essay that may have been a school-type assignment. “I love imagining aything (sic).”

Mr Average

While studying exercise science and participating in the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, records show Austin had no disciplinary history at FSU. He had a 3.2 GPA at FSU, just shy of a B-plus average.
Austin had at one point worked at a dentist’s office in Broward County, his family told investigators.
On a September episode of Dr. Phil, Wade Harrouff called his son an “extremely nice, gentle person” who “cared a lot about people.”
Then “something went drastically wrong,” the elder Harrouff said.

Acting strangely

Speaking with investigators shortly after the killings, family members said Austin had been acting erratically. He wouldn’t sleep. He was obsessing over helping people.
And he even walked in front of a moving car earlier in the day of the killings, his sister said.
Austin’s behaviour was enough to alarm college friend Davis Yates, who said Austin was already somewhat prone to act strange. “For people that don’t know him, he seems kind of really odd to begin with,” Yates told an investigator.
Yates said he believed Austin had been smoking marijuana because he couldn’t sleep - a habit Yates suspected Austin  had recently quit.
Another friend, Samuel Polacek, called Austin a “funny, goofy kid” who “liked to make people laugh.”
Austin’s 18-year-old sister, Haley, told investigators something similar about her brother’s everyday persona.
“He usually says weird s---,” she told them, though she and Yates cautioned that Austin had been acting stranger than normal.

Family concern

But the teenager long exhibited some of the behaviour that concerned his family late this summer, his phone and journal records show.
A recent phase his mother said bothered her was Austin’s interest in performing rap songs.
Records of notes on his phone show Austin for months wrote songs and poems, which his mother called “disgusting.”
A number of his raps, writings and even internet searches dating weeks, months and in one case two years earlier, have common themes of his self-doubt and interest in self-improvement.

How do i know im not crazy

In the January 2014 essay, he expressed a desire to be someone different.
“What I want to be is to become more confident, and social,” Austin wrote. “I also want to be more well known because right now I feel as though I am unknown.”
In one poem written on his phone between January and June this year, Harrouff said he wanted to figure out what he wanted in life.
“Some people have it all planned out,” he wrote. “But me man I’m just filled with doubt. … It’s like sometimes I wish I was something more.”
Of the 53 videos posted to Austin’s YouTube account throughout 2016, a handful show him focusing on fitness tips and sometimes expressing his distaste for steroids. Others feature raps and Austin covering songs, such as Hound Dog, and the Beatles’ Let it Be.
In the month before the killings, records from Austin’s phone display his internet searches, such as “common traits of great people,” “i want something so bad it hurts” and “how do i know im (sic) not crazy.”

Immortal half-human

On the day of the killings, Austin told his sister and a friend he was “immortal” and a “half-human, half-horse,” according to an interview with Polacek included in records.
The behaviour was troubling to his sister, who told investigators “he made me uneasy because he was just being a different person.”
She told her brother he should get help, she recalled when talking to investigators. Other family members were making similar plans to help Austin, records show.

A history of mental illness

Wade Harrouff said on Dr. Phil that he consulted a psychologist. The fiance of Austin’s mother told investigators the family had thought about evaluating him under Florida’s Baker Act, which allows someone whose mental health is in question to be detained by health professionals or authorities for up to 72 hours.
Austin’s attorney, Nellie King, has said in a news release her client has “severe mental illness.”
She pointed out that FBI lab tests determined Austin was not under the influence of flakka, a highly addictive rocklike substance that can cause erratic behaviour, or hallucinogens known as bath salts.
Documents show tests did find minimal amounts of THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, in his system, along with drugs that were “medically introduced,” or given to him at the hospital.
Wade Harrouff said on Dr. Phil the family has a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia.
In a 911 call the night of the killings, Harrouff’s mother said her son was acting like he had schizophrenia. “It seems like he’s a little delusional,” she told a dispatcher.

Trouble brewing

Haley said her brother was receptive to her conversation about therapy the day of the killings.
That evening, Harrouff abruptly left his dad and others at a Duffy’s Sports Grill, according to court documents, and made it to his mother’s house. Mina Harrouff drove him back to the restaurant, she’d later tell an investigator.
When he returned, according to Martin County sheriff’s documents, Austin got into a dispute with his father.
After Wade Harrouff grabbed him by the shirt and questioned him about his behaviour, Austin positioned himself to seemingly punch his father, according to Martin County sheriff’s documents. Haley said her brother had been “slightly aggressive” and was “threatening” Polacek, his friend, that day.
Moments later, Austin was gone from the restaurant.
“I’m so sick and tired of doing what I’m told,” Harrouff had written in a note on his phone 10 days earlier, according to records of his phone. “I’m going to leave my mark before I get old.”


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