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A former Florida college student accused of murdering a couple with a machete and "chewing" on one of the alleged victims’ faces didn't understand his alleged actions were wrong, a forensic psychologist claimed.
Austin Harrouff underwent an “acute psychotic episode” and was unable to “distinguish right from wrong” when he allegedly killed John and Michelle Stevens in their driveway with a machete, forensic psychologist Dr. Gregory Landrum wrote in a 12-page mental evaluation of the 23-year-old obtained by Oxygen.com.
“Mr. Harrouff experienced a decompensated mental state associated with an emerging mood and/or thought disorder resulting in an acute psychotic episode,” Landrum concluded in his evaluation. “As a result of this condition, it is opined that Mr. Harrouff was unable to distinguish right from wrong.”
A previous report from a forensic psychologist for the defense had claimed Harrouff believed he was "half-dog, half-man" at the time of the Stevens couple's deaths.
Harrouff's trial has now been postponed after the judge accepted the prosecution’s motion for a second state psychological evaluation, court documents show. The case was scheduled to head to trial on May 18.
On Aug. 15, 2016, Harrouff allegedly killed John Setevens III, 59, and Michelle Stevens 53, with a machete in the driveway of their Palm Beach County home. Responding deputies say they discovered Harrouff, a dental assistant, “chewing” on the side of John Stevens’ face and growling like a dog at the scene of the killing. The couple’s neighbor Jeffrey Fisher was also allegedly stabbed.
After Harrouff was arrested and taken to the hospital, law enforcement claimed Harrouff appeared to spit out human flesh, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com. Human hair was later recovered from his mouth, authorities said.
“Help me, I ate something bad,” he told authorities at the time according to the affidavit. When questioned what he had ingested, Harrouff allegedly responded, “humans.”
The man had no drugs in his system at the time, except for trace amounts of THC — the psychoactive compound found in marijuana.
The 23-year-old Florida State biology student also reportedly discussed a wide variety of delusions in his interview with the state forensic expert. Harrouff spoke about the devil, protective force fields, the fountain of youth, “dog spirits,” former NFL player and convicted dog-fighter Michael Vick, and repeatedly divulged his “special connection with animals.”
Landrum argued that Harrouff’s behavior prior to the killings was consistent with mood or thought disorder. The psychologist also stated that Harrouff’s account of the 2016 killings were consistent with statements he previously gave TV psychologist personality Dr. Phil McGraw.
The forensic psychologist also recommended that Harrouff — who is currently being treated for schizophrenia — be confined to a psychiatric facility indefinitely.
“It is recommended that if the court finds that Mr. Harrouff meets the criteria for legal insanity at the time of the offense, consideration should be given to his involuntary commitment to a secure forensic state hospital as he has a mental illness and, because of the illness, is manifestly dangerous to himself or others,” Landrum also wrote.
The man’s lawyers have also previously acknowledged the likelihood of such a scenario.
“This report, by the State’s own expert, Dr. Gregory Landrum, confirms what one of the country’s foremost forensic psychiatrists, Dr. Phillip Resnick, concluded a year ago: that Austin Harrouff was experiencing a severe psychotic illness on Aug. 13, 2016, and was legally insane at the time of the homicides," Nellie King, Harrouff's counsel, told Oxygen.com. "The experts, as well as the FBI’s own laboratory, found no evidence illicit drug use played any role in this terrible attack. I understand these findings may provide little comfort to the victims’ families. However, mental illness is very real and can lead to unintentional, yet tragic, outcomes.”
King also blasted the state's proposal for yet another psychiatric evaluation of her client.
“This process took a full year for the State’s expert to reach the same conclusion Austin was legally insane," King added. "I do not know what is to be gained by going through this process a third time.”
He faces two counts of first-degree murder, burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery while armed, and one count of attempted first-degree murder with a weapon.
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