North Miami Beach mom Vivianne Perpignan remembers Rudy Eugene as just another good kid from the football team, who'd stop by her house while hanging out with her son Teddy. The Perpignans live on a residential street a five minute drive from North Miami Beach High, and the neighborhood feels like a village. "Everybody knew Rudy," says Perpignan. "But this is not the person we knew."
She's referring, of course, to the episode of unprecedented bat-shit insanity that earned Eugene the posthumous nicknames of "Miami Zombie" and the "Causeway Cannibal". Eugene was shot dead by police over the weekend while chowing, naked, on a homeless man's face. His victim, who is clinging to life, has been identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo.
What does a face-eater look like in high school? On Facebook, his classmates have echoed Perpignan's sentiments, saying that they didn't recognize Eugene in the actions of the monster on the MacArthur Causeway. "I had a class with him and he was such a sweet, kind guy and very respectful," wrote one female classmate. "What he did was because of whatever drug he took, not because he was a violent man."
Said another classmate: "We all knew Rudy and that wasn't him."
Eugene's rap sheet was mostly minor, consisting of several marijuana arrests and a 2004 battery charge in North Miami Beach. That same year, according to police, he reported an unoccupied car parked on the side of the street. North Miami Beach officers removed it. Again, it's tough to correlate those actions with what he did to Ronald Poppo's face.
Riptide visited the Perpignans' house because we were hoping to speak to Eugene's alleged smoking buddy. In 2007, he and Teddy were arrested for misdemeanor cannabis possession. The charges were dropped.
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We were told Teddy was at work, and he didn't respond to cell phone calls and an email. Vivianne said that she heard of the face-eating episode through the news, and then was stunned when it was revealed that was her son's childhood friend Rudy. "Everybody's in a state of shock," she says. "That's not normal human behavior. That was the drugs, or whatever they gave him, that made him do that."
More on Rudy Eugene, AKA the Miami Zombie:
- Miami Zombie Witness Called Police 17 Minutes Before Cops Shot And Killed Rudy Eugene
- Rudy Eugene to Mother In 2004: "I'll Put a Gun to Your Head and Kill You"
- Ronald Poppo, Face-Eating Victim, Had Been Shot in Bayfront Park Back in 1976
- Rudy Eugene Identified As Miami Zombie, Plus NSFW Photo of Attack's Aftermath
- Naked Man Shot by Miami Police After Eating Other Man's Face