Face-Eating Victim Speaks

Mug shot of Ronald Poppo taken in 2004.
Mug shot of Ronald Poppo taken in 2004. (Image credit: State of Florida)

Two months after he was viciously attacked by Rudy Eugene, the so-called Miami Zombie, a healing Ronald Poppo spoke to police detectives about the night he lost his eyes and much of his face. The testimony provides gruesome details about the incident, but no new clues as to what might have provoked it.  

"He attacked me," Poppo said, referring to Eugene. "He just ripped me to ribbons. He chewed up my face. He plucked out my eyes."

Poppo, who was homeless before the attack and now lives in a long-term assisted care facility in South Florida, said he did not understand why Eugene went after him.

"For a very short amount of time I thought he was a good guy," Poppo said, according to a police transcript obtained by CBS Miami. "But he just went and turned berserk. He apparently didn't have a good day at the beach and he – he was coming back. And I guess he took it out, took it out on me or something. I don't know."

Poppo added that Eugene expressed frustration at not being able to "score" anything on Miami Beach, presumably referring to drugs. Just before the attack, Eugene began talking "funny talk" about how he was going to kill Poppo, and how they were both going to die. Poppo had said nothing to provoke the aggression. "He must have been souped up on something," Poppo told police.

"He mashed my face into the sidewalk," he said. "My face is all bent and mashed up. My eyes, my eyes got plucked out. He was strangling me in wrestling holds at the same time he was plucking my eyes out." [CDC: 'The Zombie Apocalypse Isn't Coming']

Because police shot Eugene dead at the scene, likely saving Poppo's life, and because the toxicology reports performed on his body turned up nothing but marijuana, we may never know what, exactly, Eugene was "souped up" on.

Experts say the marijuana in his system definitely could not have triggered his cannibalistic attack. The notion that pot could be responsible "is outrageous, and out of the question," said Dr. Bruce Goldberger, professor and director of toxicology at the University of Florida. "Marijuana will not cause this type of behavior."

Amphetamine-related drugs known as bath salts more likely triggered it. Although toxicology tests ruled out the presence in Eugene's blood of at least six chemicals commonly found in bath salts, Goldberger and others have said they suspect he might have taken a lesser-known variant of bath salt chemicals, of which there are more than 100 types. Bath salts can induce a state of paranoid fearfulness and aggression known as "excited delirium."

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