Friends and family say he was a nice guy who carried a Bible around, loved quoting scripture, and wanted to become a better person. Police records show he was a repeat offender who once allegedly threatened to kill his mother while smashing up her home.
And because his life ended in a hail of bullets as he crouched naked on a busy causeway off-ramp, savagely gnawing off the face of a homeless man, it's likely 31-year-old Rudy Eugene will not be remembered the way those who knew him would prefer.
"He was a fine man," stepdad Melimon Charles told Miami New Times. "He was working very hard to make his life better."
Friends insist it's impossible to reconcile the former high school football player they knew with the gruesome, bloody assault Saturday in broad daylight on the MacArthur Causeway -- so much so that his girlfriend, who asked to remain nameless, said she now believes he was either drugged unknowingly or was under a Haitian Vodou curse.
“I don’t know how else to explain this,” she told the Miami Herald, insisting that though Eugene did smoke marijuana he never touched other recreational drugs and didn't even take over-the-counter medication.
(Though Charles can't explain what did happen, he gave the Vodou theory no weight: "Nobody went to Haiti and did anything to him.")
"His last words to me were that he wanted to get his life right and that he wanted to get closer to God. And he wanted to stop smoking pot. That’s it," friend Bobby Chery, who attended a Bible Study with Eugene Thursday night, told CBS Miami. “It had to be some sort of drug that somebody must have slipped on him, because Rudy wouldn’t so much as pop a Tylenol pill."
Police reportedly suspect Eugene may have been suffering from drug-induced delirium -- possibly from an amphetamine cocktail called "bath salts" -- which often causes people to overheat and take off their clothes. Toxicology reports are pending.
Records show Eugene had been arrested 8 times since the age of 16, including a battery charge which was later dropped and 4 instances involving marijuana. He earned the dubious distinction of being the first person tased by North Miami Beach Police during the battery incident in 2004, during which, police said, he told his mother "I'll put a gun to your head and kill you" and told police officers he would "kick your ass."
"She told me that her son had broken several items within the home and pushed her out of the kitchen area," wrote an arresting officer in a report obtained by New Times. "[Eugene's mother] stated 'Thank God you're here, he would have killed me.'"
An ex-wife told Local10 earlier this week that Eugene became violent during their short-lived marriage.
"I wouldn't say he had [a] mental problem but he always felt like people was against him type of attitude," said ex-wife Jenny Ductant. "No one was for him, everyone was against him."
Ductant has since refused all requests for interviews, and declined to elaborate.
Eugene's victim, 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, remains in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Gruesome photos circulating the web suggest that if he survives, he may do so without much of his face and only one eye.
“Something happened out of the ordinary that day. I don’t want him to be labeled the Miami Zombie,” Eugene's girlfriend told the Herald. “He was a person. I don’t want him to go down like that.”
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.
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