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MIAMI (AFP) – A teenager bit off pieces of the face of a slain man at the scene of a double homicide in Florida that may be linked to an addictive synthetic drug.
Police said they found Florida State University student Austin Harrouff, 19, grunting and growling as he removed the victim’s flesh with his teeth late Monday in the driveway of a house in Tequesta, less than 150km north of Miami.
Harrouff allegedly had knifed the man and his wife to death and wounded their neighbor.
Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said the “perplexing, inexplicable” attack was random and the teenager was probably roaming the area under the effect of synthetic drugs known as bath salts, “flakka” or gravel.
The southern Florida region, a popular tourist spot, has been hit hard by the cheap, potent and deadly drug – also known as alpha-PVP – manufactured in China that is similar chemically to bath salts.
John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michelle Mishcon, 53, died at the scene. A neighbor who tried to intervene and rescue them was stabbed in the attack, but managed to call the emergency hotline and is now recovering in a hospital.
Harrouff, the student, had no history of violence. He belonged to the Phi Delta Alpha fraternity. But several police officers, dogs and a stun gun were needed to get Harrouff off the victim and to stop biting him.
“The suspect in this case was abnormally strong,” Snyder said, adding there was no known connection between the victims and the suspect.
“There were multiple weapons of opportunity inside the garage… sharp objects… It seems apparent that the male victim was fighting back,” the sheriff added.
“There were so many injuries and (such) massive trauma that it will probably take the medical examiner some time to give us an exact description.”
Blood tests have so far ruled out cocaine and heroin use.
“I’m not going to speculate except to say that we know in our business that people on flakka would do this type of behavior where they attack their victim and they do the biting and actually remove pieces of flesh,” Snyder said.