MIAMI — The world is calling Rudy Eugene, who chewed off a homeless man’s face, a cannibal — but an autopsy shows there was no human flesh in his stomach.
The post-death examination did reveal a number of undigested pills in his stomach, but investigators have not identified them yet, a law enforcement source told McClatchy Newspapers.
A Miami police officer shot and killed Eugene, 31, on May 26 as he attacked a homeless man in broad daylight off the MacArthur Causeway, tearing off his face with his teeth. By the time police arrived, most of the victim’s face was gone. Police found pieces of torn skin on the concrete sidewalk where the attack occurred.
Fueled by the Internet and widespread interest in the macabre case, some media reports have dubbed Eugene the “Causeway Cannibal” and the “Miami Zombie.”
The chatter even led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a statement last week denying the existence of a zombie virus, and Los Angeles celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred to hold a much-panned news conference in Miami decrying the ills of cannibalism.
Eugene’s autopsy records have not been released to the public, and will likely not become available until Miami-Dade prosecutors finish their review of the shooting. That could take more than a year.
A preliminary review found the presence of marijuana in Eugene’s system, a law enforcement source said, which was no surprise because Eugene’s family and friends widely reported that he was fond of smoking pot.
But marijuana doesn’t usually spark violent attacks. Whether the pills found in his stomach played a role in Eugene’s outburst of violence is unknown. Toxicology tests will take weeks to complete.
Investigators assume some type of drug fueled Eugene’s bizarre behavior, but they have no indication that he may have used “bath salts,” a synthetic stimulant that in some cases can lead to psychotic episodes, paranoia and violence. Miami’s police union has speculated that Eugene might have been acting under the influence of bath salts.
Detectives are still trying to piece together Eugene’s final hours. He was last reported parking his car in South Beach, where partiers from across the nation had gathered for Urban Beach Week, about four hours before the attack.
But his whereabouts in that four-hour gap are unknown. Shortly before Eugene pounced on Ronald Poppo, a motorist called 911 to report a man on the causeway shedding his clothes and swinging from a light pole.
The autopsy finding that Eugene had no human flesh in his stomach jibes with the crime scene investigation, which found chunks of Poppo’s flesh on the ground, as if they had been spit out. The autopsy also found human flesh lodged between the teeth of Eugene, who did not have his two top front teeth, the law enforcement source said.
Eugene is known to have lost his two front teeth in an accident as a child.
Police found a set of gold teeth in the pockets of his pants discarded on the causeway.
Poppo is recovering at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where a source told McClatchy Newspapers he has already undergone some skin grafts to help repair his mangled face. Photos of his face after the attack made their way to the Internet, fueling public curiosity in the case.
The torn-off skin from Poppo’s face — dead tissue that lay on the concrete sidewalk under the hot sun after the attack — could not be used to help reconstruct his face, the source said.
Poppo has so far been unable to tell Miami detectives what happened.
The crime scene probe also found torn up pieces of a Bible — Eugene was religious and read the Bible regularly, his family and friends have said — scattered along the MacArthur Causeway. Detectives impounded Eugene’s Chevrolet sedan, which had been towed from South Beach, and discovered several water bottles and a Quran.
©2012 The Miami Herald
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