South Beach Cannibal attack: Girlfriend says Rudy Eugene wasn't a 'zombie'

1:25 PM, May 31, 2012   |    comments
Rudy Eugene (left) and victim Ronald Poppo (Credit: CBS/Miami-Dade Police Dept.)
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The man at the center of one of Miami's most horrific crimes, a cannibal attack on the MacArthur Causeway, has left his on-again, off-again girlfriend thinking that Rudy Eugene was drugged unknowingly, or cursed.

Eugene's girlfriend, who requested our news partners CBS4 News not use her name or show her face, said the attacker on the causeway was nothing like the man she knew and loved.

"Rudy Eugene was not no zombie or 'Miami Zombie' like they're saying. He was a human being and that wasn't him," she said.

She described him as a "sweet loving gentleman" and a "hard working man" who worked at a car wash and dreamed of owning his own business.

Eugene, police said, ripped the face off 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, a homeless man who encountered Eugene on Saturday next to the Miami Herald building.

A witness described Eugene ripping at Poppo's face with his mouth and growling at a Miami police officer who ordered him to get off the homeless man. The officer then shot and killed Eugene.

GRAPHIC PHOTOS: South Beach cannibal victim photos

The head of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, Armando Aguilar, speculated that he may have been high on LSD or "bath salts," which can cause psychosis as the body overheats.

Eugene did strip off all of his clothes as he walked from Miami Beach to the mainland over the MacArthur Causeway before encountering Poppo and beginning the unprovoked, savage attack.

Eugene's girlfriend said she believes he was drugged unknowingly. The only other explanation, she said, was supernatural, that someone put a Voodoo curse on him. The girlfriend, who unlike Eugene is not Haitian, said she has never believed in Voodoo, until now.

"I don't know how else to explain this," she told CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.

Toxicology reports on Eugene's body have not been completed. Results could take between two weeks and two months.

Eugene's girlfriend said she has no idea what caused the vicious attack but she saw no signs of any violence in the nearly five years they lived together.

"That wasn't him, that was his body but it wasn't his spirit.  Somebody did this to him," she said.  She described Eugene as religious.

"He loved God he always read the Bible he would give you knowledge on the Bible. Everywhere he went his Bible went. When he left he had his Bible in his hand." She said Eugene left her home about 5:30 Saturday morning.

She said his last words to her were, "I love you and I'll be back."

She never saw him again.

A friend of Eugene's since they were teenagers told The Herald on Wednesday that Eugene had been troubled in recent years. Joe Aurelus said Eugene told him he wanted to stop smoking pot, and that friends were texting Eugene Bible verses.

"I was just with him two weeks ago,"' he said. They were at a friend's house watching a movie and Eugene had a Bible in his hand.

"He was going through a lot with his family," Aurelus said, and jumping from job to job.

"Rudy was battling the devil."

According to the girlfriend, she didn't know the man behind the cannibal attack was her boyfriend until Monday morning.

She told the Herald when Eugene left their home early Saturday morning, he was going to meet with a "homeboy." An hour later, Eugene called her and said his car broke down. He told her "I'll be home, but I'm going to be a little late. Then he said, I'm going to call you right back." That was the last time she heard from him.

Saturday afternoon, when she hadn't heard from him, she searched for him in North Miami and Miami Gardens where he has family and friends.

"I was worried. I couldn't do anything. I just kept calling the phone," she said. "I left messages saying, 'Rudy, call me, I'm really worried.'"

She said Eugene never told her where he was going that morning, and she was surprised to hear reports that he'd been in South Beach for Urban Beach Weekend.

She said he told her he didn't want to go to South Beach because of the heavy police presence.  Eugene, who had been arrested in the past for possession of marijuana, told her he didn't want to get arrested.

When she heard about the horrific attack on TV Saturday night, she had no idea it was Rudy.

Sunday, she searched for him again.

At 11 a.m. Monday, one of Eugene's family members call her to tell her Rudy was dead.

"I immediately started to scream,'' she said. "I don't know when I hung up the phone, I was hysterical," she told the Herald.

But it was not until the afternoon, when she left her home to grieve with the rest of Eugene's family in North Miami Beach, that she heard even worse news: The man everyone was calling the 'Miami Zombie' was her boyfriend.

She didn't believe it. "That's not Rudy, that's not Rudy," she remembered saying aloud in shock.

"I'll never be the same," she said.

Despite the fact that he smoked marijuana, she said he didn't use stronger recreational drugs and even refused to take over-the-counter medication for headaches, she said. He was sweet and well-mannered, she said.


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