On the Saturday morning before he would make headlines for chewing off a mans face before he would come to be known tragically as the Miami Zombie Rudy Eugene held his Bible and kissed his girlfriend goodbye.
Eugenes on-again, off-again girlfriend said he woke her up at 5:30 a.m. to say he was going to meet with a homeboy. She said she found it strange he was rummaging the closet so early in morning. He didnt 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.
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, said the girlfriend, who spoke to The Miami Herald on Wednesday but asked that her name not be disclosed. She said that she thought it unusual that he was leaving the house so early, but didnt press him on it.
An hour after he left, Eugene called her cell phone. He called me and told me his car broke down. He said, Ill be home, but Im going to be a little late. Then he said, Im going to call you right back. That was the last time Eugenes girlfriend heard from him.
Around noon Saturday, she said she felt uneasy. She got into her car to search for Eugene, thinking he might still be stranded somewhere. She drove through North Miami and Miami Gardens, familiar neighborhoods Eugene frequented to visit with friends and family.
I was worried. I couldnt do anything. I just kept calling the phone, she said. I left messages saying, Rudy, call me, Im really worried.
She said Eugene never told her where he was going that morning, and she was surprised to hear reports that hed been in South Beach in the hours before he attacked a homeless man, Ronald Poppo.
As a matter of fact, she said, the previous day he told her he didnt want to go to South Beach because of the heavy police presence for Urban Beach Week. Eugene, who had been arrested in the past for possession of marijuana, told her he didnt want to get arrested.
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, thats crazy, she said. I didnt know that it was Rudy.
All day Sunday she placed phone calls to friends asking if theyd 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 Eugenes family.
The caller shouted terrible news into the phone: Rudys dead, Rudys dead.
I immediately started to scream, she said. I dont know when I hung up the phone, I was hysterical.
But it was not until the afternoon, when she left her home to grieve with the rest of Eugenes family in North Miami Beach, that she heard even worse news: The man everyone was calling the Miami Zombie was her boyfriend.
Her reaction: Utter disbelief. Thats not Rudy, thats not Rudy, she remembered saying aloud in shock.