"I tried to reach him, but I just thought he killed himself,” said Ronald 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, 65, 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. Story continues below.
HOW YOU CAN 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.
According to the Miami Herald, Stuyvesant's records show Poppo enjoyed an above-average IQ of 129, and a former homeroom classmate said he enrolled at nearby City College before the pair lost touch.
Arrest records show Poppo spent some time in New Orleans before making his way to Miami, where he was shot in Bayfront Park by an unknown "John Doe" in 1976, spending five days at Jackson Memorial Hospital -- the same place he now lies in critical condition with much of his face gone and only one remaining eye.
“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.”
Assailant Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot dead by police after he ignored commands -- one delivered by bullet -- to stop attacking Poppo's face on the westbound downtown exit ramp of the busy MacArthur Causeway Saturday afternoon. Doctors say if his victim survives risk of infection, he faces multiple surgeries and a long, challenging recovery.
A City of Miami police officer stands watch near the scene where a naked man, far right, was shot dead on the MacArthur Causeway ramp onto Northeast 13th Street in Miami on Saturday, May 26, 2012. A witness said the naked man continued to chew on the face of another naked man on a Miami highway ramp and growled when a police officer tried to stop him. The victim remained hospitalized Monday. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Marsha Halper) MAGS OUT
First responders treat Ronald Poppo after the attack.
Rudy Eugene, undated photo
Westbound traffic on the MacArthur Causeway, approaching the Northeast 13th Street ramp in Miami, is backed up Saturday May 26, 2012, after a police officer fatally shot a naked man on the ramp who was chewing on the face of another naked man. The victim remained hospitalized Monday. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Marsha Halper) MAGS OUT
Photos Released of Face-Chewing Victim in Miami
Doctors release photos of Ronald Poppo, the 65-year-old homeless man who was the victim of a gruesome face-eating attack in Miami.
Miami Homeless Discuss Face-Eating Attack
Homeless men who live near where one man allegedly ate the face of a homeless man react to the crime. (May 30)
Gloria Allred, Yovonka Bryant
Yovanka Bryant, right, and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, show a photo of Bryant and her boyfriend Rudy Eugene, during a news conference, Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Miami. Bryant said she last heard from Eugene the day before he chewed off the face of a homeless man alongside a Miami highway. A police officer shot and killed Eugene. The homeless man remains hospitalized. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Gloria Allred, Yovonka Bryant
Yovanka Bryant,left, and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, discuss a recent attack on a homeless man by Brant's boyfriend Rudy Eugene, during a news conference, Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Miami. Bryant said she last heard from Eugene, the day before he chewed off the face of a homeless man alongside a Miami highway. A police officer shot and killed Eugene. The homeless man remains hospitalized. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)