Miami Beach

Crime

Victim in ghoulish flesh-eating attack on the MacArthur Causeway identified

 

The victim of the vicious attack has been identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, who remains in critical condition at Ryder Trauma Center

dmoskovitz@MiamiHerald.com

The victim of the vicious flesh-eating attacker on the MacArthur Causeway on Saturday has been identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, The Miami Herald has learned.

Poppo remains in critical condition at Ryder Trauma Center with horrific facial injuries.

His attacker, killed by Miami police at the crime scene, has also been identified as Rudy Eugene, who as a teenager in the late 1990s played high school football at North Miami Beach High.

How the men's paths crossed in such a violent act remains unclear.

More recently, court records show that Eugene was married in 2005 and divorced in 2007. According to the filing, he had no income and his assets included $2 cash and $50 for a cellphone.

His former wife, Jenny Ductant, agreed to take on the couple's debt, which included the power and phone bills.

"I don't want to talk about it," she said Tuesday when reached on her cellphone.

The man Eugene attacked remained in extremely critical condition Monday at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Much of his face was gone, the skin ripped away, the nose bitten and the eyes gouged.

What remained was his goatee and little else.

Photos of the scene with Eugene and his victim quickly went viral on the Internet Monday.

“We’re hoping that he pulls through, for his well-being, but also so he can tell us what happened,” said Sgt. Javier Ortiz, vice president of the Miami police union. “Only he knows.”

Details about Eugene's life in South Florida were emerging on Tuesday.

As a teenager, he lived in North Miami-Dade, attending North Miami Beach High and North Miami High, where he was on the football team.

The Miami Herald has obtained photographs of Eugene from North Miami Beach High yearbooks. One photograph was taken in 1997; the other was taken in 1998 when he was a junior. A group shot of the high school football team incudes Eugene.

Eugene transferred to North Miami Senior for his final year of high school, North Miami Beach Principal Raymond Fontana said on Tuesday.

He was killed by police on Saturday as a macabre scene unfolded about 2 p.m. on the MacArthur Causeway’s off-ramp to Biscayne Boulevard just south of the Miami Herald building. A Road Ranger spotted Eugene and his victim in what appeared to be a violent struggle and shouted on his loudspeaker for the naked attacker to back away.

One witness said he was riding his bicycle on the MacArthur when he saw a man tearing off pieces of the victim’s flesh with his mouth. After an officer approached, Larry Vega told WSVN-FOX7, “The guy just stood, his head up like that, with pieces of flesh in his mouth. And he growled.”

Eugene left behind few clues as to what could have prompted the attack.

“I wouldn’t say he had mental problem but he always felt like people was against him . .. No one was for him, everyone was against him,” his ex-wife told WPLG.

He had just one arrest to suggest serious violence. Miami Beach police arrested him on a battery charge when he was 16, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The charge was later dropped.

He was arrested seven other times over five years. Court records show that one was for misdemeanor battery, one was for vending near a school, one was for trespassing and four involved marijuana.

The last case came in September 2009. In January, the charge was dropped.

During Saturday’s attack, an officer approached and told Eugene to get off his victim, but Eugene ignored the order and kept chewing, even after the officer shot him once.

The officer fired again, hitting him several more times, eventually killing him. The name of that officer was not released.

Security video from the adjacent Miami Herald building captured snippets of the violence as the two men — one dead, the other gravely injured and wearing only a shirt — lay on the sidewalk as officers arrived. .

Days later, the chatter, theories and questions continued. The ghoulish event even spawned a Twitter account, dubbed The Miami Zombie.

An emergency room doctor at Jackson Memorial Hospital said Eugene’s attack could have been induced by bath salts, a drug nicknamed after the bathroom product it resembles.

Police theorized earlier that it was “cocaine psychosis,” a drug-induced craze that bakes the body internally and often leads those it affects to strip naked to try to cool off.

Investigators asked any witnesses who have not stepped forward to call the Miami police homicide unit at 305-603-6350.

Miami Herald writers Luisa Yanez and Daniela Guzman contributed to this report, which includes information from Miami Herald news partner WFOR CBS 4.

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