Austin Harrouff, the Florida "cannibal killer" who killed a couple last year, has apologised for his actions in an emotional interview with TV show host Dr Phil. The former university student expressed shame and regret for killing 59-year-old John Stevens and his 53-year-old wife, Michelle Mishcon, and allegedly then eating part of Stevens' face.
A recording of the 22-minute interview was released to the media on Tuesday (28 February) after a judge allowed its release. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Dr Phil spoke with Harrouff in October from the hospital, days before he was moved to jail on multiple murder charges.
"Is it hard for you to imagine that you did this to these two people?" psychologist Phil McGraw, aka Dr Phil, asked the then-19-year-old.
"Yeah. It's the hardest thing I've ever gone through. Er, I never imagined that this would ever happen," Harrouff responded. He added that he had a difficult time recalling details of the killings, describing it as "a blur".
Harrouff told McGraw that he vaguely remembers taking off his clothes, drinking something that burned his throat and grabbing a weapon from the home of the couple he allegedly murdered. He said he thinks he grabbed a machete from the couple's garage but does not remember why.
When asked what he would tell the families of the two victims, Harrouff apologised while sobbing. "I'm so sorry and I never wanted this to happen," he said. "I'm so sorry."
The suspect told McGraw that he also has no recollection of attacking the couple's neighbour, who attempted to intervene. "I don't remember fighting or stabbing him. I don't remember how my hands got like this," he said.
McGraw later asked him how he felt after she saw a photo and realised he had killed the couple. "I felt terrible and I really don't have words to explain how I feel. It's like, it's like a nightmare," he said. He told McGraw there was no plan behind the attacks.
"And I'm deeply sorry to the family that was affected and I hope that something like this never happens again," he said. "I didn't ever want to consciously do something like this, er, I never planned it. I didn't want to do it."
Harrouff was visiting family and friends during his summer break from Florida State University last year when he reportedly got into an argument with his father and left a family dinner at a Jupiter sports bar. Authorities said he walked several miles before randomly killing the couple at their home.
At the time of the killings, authorities questioned whether Harrouff was under the effects of drugs such as bath salts, flakka or steroids. Tests later showed no traces of those substances in Harrouff's system.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Harrouff has pleaded not guilty to second and first-degree murder with a weapon, attempted first-degree murder and burglary. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.