Girlfriend felt 'safe' with Miami face-eating attacker

MIAMI Wed Jun 6, 2012 4:37pm EDT

1 of 3. Yovonka Bryant (L) speaks during a news conference with her attorney Gloria Allred in Miami, Florida June 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Andrew Innerarity

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MIAMI (Reuters) - The girlfriend of Rudy Eugene, the Miami man killed by police after he chewed off a big chunk of another man's face, said on Wednesday she always felt safe with him and that he must have been drugged without his knowledge before the ghoulish attack.

"I felt safe with Rudy," said Yovonka Bryant, 27, who spoke at a news conference alongside Gloria Allred, the celebrity lawyer who said she had been hired by Bryant to represent her.

"Rudy never drank alcohol or used drugs around me. I only saw him smoke a marijuana cigarette once," said Bryant, who told reporters she had been seeing Eugene regularly since March and spoke to him by text message the day before the attack.

"Rudy and I never discussed cannibalism or voodoo," said Bryant, who added that they took bible class together and liked to watch a morning TV religious show together.

"There was no warning sign," she said. "I believe that he never would have knowingly or intentionally inflicted harm ... Most likely he was given a drug without his knowledge."

Police are still investigating the attack, which occurred over Memorial Day weekend on the off-ramp of a bridge in downtown Miami. They have speculated that a synthetic stimulant known as bath salts, which the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has linked to side effects ranging from impaired perception of reality to agitation and delusional behavior, may have been involved.

Police shot and killed Eugene, who was naked when he staged the horrific attack, after he failed to respond to orders to stop attacking a homeless man later identified as 65-year-old Ronald Poppo.

Poppo remains in critical condition in a Miami hospital after suffering the loss of most of his face including the mouth, nose and ears.

Bryant, who declined to take questions at the news conference organized by Allred, is the second woman to come forward and identify herself as a girlfriend of Eugene since the attack.

The other woman told the Miami Herald that she too believed Eugene, who she described as deeply religious, had either been drugged or was acting under the influence of a voodoo curse.

He left her home before dawn on the morning of the attack clutching his Bible, the woman said.

"Something happened out of the ordinary that day. I don't want him to be labeled the Miami Zombie," the woman, who asked not to be identified by name, told the newspaper.

Allred and Bryant declined to comment on the other woman, except to say that she definitely was not Bryant.

(Reporting By Tom Brown; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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