This time, the suspected flesh-eater was reportedly high on flakka, a Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) in the cathinone stimulant class.
While toxicology results revealed that the 2012 “zombie” was not actually high on the NPS dubbed “bath salts,” which had been widely blamed for his crime, the media does not appear to have learned a lesson.
In this year’s brutal iteration, a couple was stabbed to death in a double homicide. When Martin County sheriffs arrived, their alleged attacker—a 19-year-old Florida State University student named Austin Harrouff—was reportedly pulling the skin off of one of his victim’s faces with his teeth.
Headlines like “FSU Student Allegedly Ate Victims Face While High on Flakka” have since proliferated, with reports linking the crime to flakka without any evidence but a sheriff’s speculation. It was a cop’s incorrect hunch that caused the 2012 bath-salts-zombie headlines, too.
CBS News Miami quotes Sheriff William Snyder:
“When we see a case like this, when someone is biting off pieces of somebody’s face, could it be flakka, the answer is it absolutely could be flakka case, we don’t know…It will be some time before we get any kind of toxicology report, but I would not be surprised, though, if we end up finding out that is the case.”
It’s pretty unconvincing stuff. And while it is possible that the alleged murderer was under the influence of some substance, if 2012 taught us anything, it’s that a sheriff’s gut is hardly hard evidence.