Austin Harrouff, the man accused of killing two people and biting off pieces of one of their faces, has obtained a second attorney who is known for another high-profile double-murder case in Palm Beach County.
West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney Nellie King filed court documents Oct. 24 announcing she would be representing Harrouff, 19, alongside Stuart-based attorney Robert Watson. King represented Amy Kern, a mentally ill woman who used a tire iron to beat her 80-year-old grandmother to death in Jupiter and fatally shot her aunt’s boyfriend in Palm Beach Gardens in 2009. She was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2012.
On Aug. 15, Harrouff allegedly stabbed to death John Stevens III, 59, and Michelle Mishcon, 53, at the couple’s home on Southeast Kokomo Lane in Martin County. A neighbor tried to intervene but was attacked in the process. When deputies arrived, they found Harrouff on top of Stevens, biting his face. Authorities used a Taser, several kicks to the head and a police dog to get the 19-year-old off Stevens and into handcuffs.
At the hospital, Harrouff spat out what investigators described as a piece of human flesh. Harrouff told deputies he ate something bad.
"What did you eat?" a sergeant asked.
"Humans," Harrouff replied.
While Harrouff remained at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, his father went on the syndicated TV talk show "Dr. Phil" and said he believed his son was suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness.
"(Austin) must have some psychological break. … I’m not trying to excuse what happened. He cared a lot about people. Something went way wrong," said Dr. Wade Harrouff, a Jupiter dentist.
Wade Harrouff told the Palm Beach Post his son had shown signs of schizophrenia in the weeks prior to the fatal stabbings. Austin Harrouff’s mother told police that her son had said he was immortal and had superpowers.
After Harrouff made his first appearance in court on charges of second-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in October, Watson told reporters outside of the courtroom that it does appear his client, who lives in Jupiter, has some kind of mental illness, but was unsure of the circumstance the night of the attack.
"Whether that mental illness was also coupled with other behavior, I don’t know," Watson said.
During the Amy Kern case, King argued her client may have never committed the violent acts if she had been under proper mental health care.
According to King, Kern was institutionalized in Savannah, Ga., a month before the murders because she had attacked her boyfriend with an ax. But when her insurance ran out, the hospital released her and she drove down to Florida where her family lived. In 2012, Kern was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and this year, she was released from a mental-health institution and moved to a residential treatment center in Miami.
Neither King nor Watson returned calls Wednesday or Thursday.