Ronald Poppo, the 65-year-old man who had his face chewed off by human cannibal Rudy Eugene, 31, over Memorial Day weekend, was thought to be dead and gone according to his daughter, Janice Poppo DiBello, who couldn’t remember the father who abandoned her at age 2.
Dibello, 44, who lives in New Jersey, was stunned Thursday to discover her absentee dad was the homeless man victimized last weekend in a cannibal attack in Miami by a man who had feasted away most of his features.
Dibello told the New York Daily News:
"I’m really upset because I haven’t met my father...Since I was 2 years old, him and my mom got divorced and there was no — like how normal divorces are, where you see your father."
DiBello continued from behind a pair of sunglasses:
"Nobody ever heard anything from him, so I’ve never met him...I didn’t know if he was alive or dead."
She knows now that her dad is in critical condition at a Florida hospital, recovering from the savage assault, which left him missing 80 percent of his face.
Asked whether or not she’ll visit her dad, Dibello insisted that she’s unsure about making the trip to visit the man who left her 42 years ago saying, “I’m still in shock about everything."
After The News found Poppo DiBello, she called her mother to confirm the details about the victim — and her parent did just that:
"It was a complete shock, because like I said, I’ve never had a relationship with my biological father…I have never heard from him. I have no idea what happened to him."
Poppo dropped out of college in late 1966, two years before daughter Janice was born. He disappeared from her life for good two years later after a divorce that left a still-bitter taste in his ex-wife’s mouth.
Theresa Chesler, now living in the Catskills said:
"I have nothing to say….We were divorced, probably in 1970. And nobody’s heard from him since then."
Poppo's sister was also in shock after hearing the news of her brother's accident, telling CBS News:
"I tried to reach him, but I just thought he killed himself,” said Poppo's sister, Antoinette. "And we really thought he was no longer on this earth."
Antoinette Poppo said the family hasn't heard from Ronald in 30 years. Details of his life after he attended New York's prestigious Stuyvesant High School in the 1960s remain scarce, traced in a string of mostly petty arrests, hospital records, and a call to the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust last week from the Jungle Island zoo, where Poppo had been sleeping on the roof of the parking garage.
"I’m very upset," said Antoinette Poppo, who told CBS she only just learned of the gruesome attack on her brother. "I’m just glad my mother's not here to see this."
Poppo’s life soon descended into a hazy mess of alcohol and arrests after he relocated from the city to Florida, where he was lazing beneath an overpass when Eugene turned his face into a feeding frenzy.
He was already homeless in 1976, when he was treated for a gunshot wound — in the same hospital where doctors are trying to keep him alive once more.
Poppo’s attacker died after police shot him in a hail of bullets as he attacked the helpless man, ignoring repeated requests to end the carnage.
If you would like to help, The Jackson Memorial Foundation has set up a fund to assist Ronald Poppo in his recovery, which experts in facial reconstruction have said will include lengthy treatment, staged reconstruction, and psychological care.
Donations can be made by check or online at jmf.org.