Officials suspect that the new drug “flakka” might be connected to the murders of a Florida couple found fatally stabbed on Monday. The 19-year-old suspect in the case was trying to eat one of the victims, it has been reported.
Austin Harrouff, a Florida State University fraternity brother, is named as the primary suspect in the murders of John Joseph Stevens III, 59, and his wife, Michelle Karen Mishcon, 53, in Tequesta, authorities said.
Harrouff, 19, was “abnormally strong” when he was apprehended, Sheriff William Snyder told reporters in a news conference, according to The Associated Press.
A former football player and wrestler, Harrouff was able to withstand stun gun shocks. Meanwhile, he was making “animal-like noises,” Snyder said.
His mother, Mina Harrouff, called police in Jupiter, Fla., three hours after he left a restaurant on Monday night following an argument. She said her son was acting strangely for around a week and said he had superpowers and was “here to protect people,” a police report said.
Toxicology results for Harrouff are pending, but Snyder said he wouldn’t be surprised if he was on flakka or possibly another type of drug known collectively as “bath salts,” the Palm Beach Post reported. One indicator of flakka use is a raised core-body temperature, which he didn’t have.
“When you see a case like this where someone is biting off pieces of somebody’s face, could it be flakka?” Snyder asked, according to People magazine. “The answer is it absolutely could be a flakka case.”
Flakka, known as gravel, is alpha-PVP, a synthetic cathinone. It’s most commonly used in Florida, but news reports indicate that its popularity is increasing in other parts of the United States.
“Alpha-PVP is chemically similar to other synthetic cathinone drugs popularly called ‘bath salts,’ and takes the form of a white or pink, foul-smelling crystal that can be eaten, snorted, injected, or vaporized in an e-cigarette or similar device,” says government website DrugAbuse.gov.
Flakka can cause one to experience a sort of “excited delirium,” involving a combination of paranoia and hallucinations that can lead to aggression and self-harm.
“The drug has been linked to deaths by suicide as well as heart attack. It can also dangerously raise body temperature and lead to kidney damage or kidney failure,” the website states.
“Bath salts” typically refer to the drug mephedrone or MDPV, which, like flakka, are also synthetic cathinones. Cathinone is naturally found in the plant khat, which is consumed heavily in the Middle East and North Africa for its mild euphoric effects.