The day before Rudy Eugene made international news for chewing the face of homeless drifter Ronald Poppo, he held his Bible and kissed his girlfriend goodbye.
According to Eugene’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, she said he woke her up at around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and told her he was going to meet with a “homeboy.”
She said she found it strange he was rummaging through the closet so early in the morning. He didn’t name the friend or say where he was going.
He planted a kiss on her lips and said, “I love you.”
Shortly after, he left the central Broward apartment he shared with her.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Eugene’s girlfriend, who asked that her identity be protected, said:
"I told him be safe and I love you too. When he walked out the door I closed it, locked it and went back to sleep."
An hour after he left, Eugene called her cell phone:
"He called me and told me his car broke down. He said, “I’ll be home, but I’m going to be a little late. Then he said, I’m going to call you right back."
By Saturday evening she still had not heard from the man she calls “my baby, my heart.” She turned on the TV to watch the late night news and heard an unreal story: A nude man near the Miami Herald building pounced on a homeless man, chewing off his face.
The man with pieces of flesh hanging from his teeth was shot dead by police.
"I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God, that’s crazy,’ she said. “I didn’t know that it was Rudy."
All day Sunday she placed phone calls to friends asking if they’d seen Eugene and again she searched North Dade streets for her boyfriend.
At 11 a.m. Monday she got the call from a member of Eugene’s family.
The caller shouted terrible news into the phone:
"Rudy’s dead, Rudy’s dead...I immediately started to scream,’’ she said. “I don’t know when I hung up the phone, I was hysterical."
However, Eugene’s girlfriend didn’t realize until later that afternoon that the man everyone was calling the Miami Zombie was her boyfriend.
The man being depicted by the media as a “face eater” or a “monster” is not the man she knew, she said. He smoked marijuana often, though had recently said he wanted to quit, but he didn’t use stronger recreational drugs and even refused to take over-the-counter medication for simple ailments like headaches, she said. He was sweet and well-mannered.
Eugene’s girlfriend has her own theory on what happened that day. She believes Eugene was drugged unknowingly. The only other explanation, she said, was supernatural — that someone put a Vodou curse on him. The girlfriend, who unlike Eugene is not Haitian, said she has never believed in Vodou, until now.
Ruth Charles, Eugene’s mother, said on Wednesday that despite the incident, she and her son had a warm relationship: “I’m his first love...he’s a nice kid...he was not a delinquent.”
Charles told the station she was speaking up for the first time to defend her dead son.
“Everybody says that he was a zombie, but I know he’s not a zombie; he’s my son…I don’t know what they injected in him to turn him into the person who did what he did."
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.”