Set a timer and lie back on the couch for eighteen minutes and you will realize what an eternity that would be if someone held you down for that long while ripping your face apart with their teeth.
Equally, if not more horrific, is the thought of being that individual who spent eighteen of the last few minutes of his earthly life chewing the lips, nose, cheeks, forehead and eyeball off of another human being’s face.
Bad things happen in this world that are seemingly inexplicable. They happen a lot. But for some reason, this bad thing has really freaked me out.
I’m thinking that if even one of Rudy Eugene’s family, friends, co-workers or acquaintances said something like, “Yeah, we really saw this coming,” or “He was always a nutcase,” it wouldn’t make this story any easier to know about, but it would at least make it fit somewhere in that mental box that holds my ideas about how unfathomable evil comes alive in a person.
I don’t know where to put this.
Police at the scene said they suspected “bath salts” (a hallucinogenic designer drug that can result in erratic and violent behavior) was the cause of Eugene’s sudden cannibalistic rage. But, those closest to him said he only occasionally smoked marijuana and was not known to indulge in any hard drugs of any kind. Friends say Eugene felt guilty about his marijuana use and had been asking God for the strength to quit.
And, speaking of the Lord, the last time Eugene’s girlfriend saw her man, he was on his way out of the house holding a Bible in his hand.
Yovanka Bryant told reporters she was not aware of any mental illnesses her boyfriend may have had and said she only saw him smoke marijuana once. Although his ex-wife Jenny Ductant says she ended their brief marriage in 2007 due to increased violence from Eugene, and police had to intervene when he verbally threatened his mother in 2004, Bryant’s reputation among friends, family and coworkers is that he was a “really nice guy.” His girlfriend says she “felt safe” with him. She insisted he was trying to grow closer to God and said that they watched a Bible ministry television show in the mornings and read the Bible and the Koran together.
He had attended a Bible study with his friend Bobby Cherry less than 48 hours before the incident:
“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…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.”
Eugene left his girlfriend’s house in the early morning hours on the last day of his life, but not before planting a kiss on her lips and saying, “I love you.”
An hour after he left, he called her cell phone. “He called me and told me his car broke down. He said, ‘I’ll be home, but I’m going to be a little late.’ Then he said, ‘I’m going to call you right back.’”
He never did.
What on earth happened in the next few hours that would cause this man to brutally attack 65-year-old Ronald Poppo, leaving the homeless man clinging to life with 75% of his face missing?
I’m hoping the police were right. I’m hoping they do find evidence of “bath salts” in Eugene’s system. I’m hoping his death and Ronald Poppos’ tragic injuries might serve as a warning to those who think there is anything “recreational” about messing around with synthetic drugs. I’m hoping that there’s a reasonable explanation why someone whom family members describe as “happy,” “kind,” “generous,” “spiritual” and “loving,” would suddenly behave like a vicious, ravenous animal.
I need a box to put this incident in that doesn’t leave me wondering if the human beings in proximity to me and my family–human beings whom I depend on to remain relatively sane, normal and predictable–are capable of this kind of sudden, unforseen and inexplicable evil.
Until then, I’ll be giving a lot of folks that suspicious side eye.
Note: Experts on facial reconstruction say Ronald Poppo faces a lengthy recovery, including months of treatment to rebuild his features. He remains hospitalized. A fund has been set up in his name by the Jackson Memorial Foundation.