Daughter Of Ronald Poppo, Miami Zombie Attack Victim, Comes Forward

on June 04 2012 4:18 PM
Ronald Poppo
Janice Poppo DiBello never got the chance to know her father, Ronald Poppo, who abandoned her when she was just two-years-old. But on Thursday, the New Jersey native discovered that her father was the victim of the bizarre and brutal Miami zombie attack. Miami-Dade Police Department

Janice Poppo DiBello never got to know her father, Ronald Poppo, who abandoned her when she was just two. But on Thursday, the New Jerseyan discovered to her horror that her father was the victim of the bizarre and brutal Miami zombie attack.

Since I was two-years-old, him and my mom got divorced and there was no -- like how normal divorces are, where you see your father, Poppo DiBello told the New York Daily News last week. Nobody ever heard anything from him, so I've never met him. I didn't know if he was alive or dead.

Now her father clings to life in critical condition at the Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, with about 75 percent of his face missing after the brutal attack by zombie cannibal Rudy Eugene.

Ronald Poppo was a successful student at New York City's prestigious, elite Stuyvesant High School in the 1960s and went on the college before dropping out in late 1966, according to CBS News. Two years later, his daughter, Janice, was born. In 1970, he disappeared from the lives of Janice and her mother, Theresa Chesler. The mother and daughter moved to New Jersey and Theresa remarried.

I have nothing to say, Theresa, who now lives in the Catskills, told the Daily News. We were divorced, probably in 1970. And nobody's heard from him since then. She would not reveal to the publication how she and Ronald Poppo met.

After Poppo deserted his family, he relocated to Florida. He had big plans for himself. He signed his friend Dan Ruvin's Class of 1964 yearbook: First Italian in the White House, 1984.

Unfortunately Ronald Poppo's life spiraled downward in a haze of alcohol, vagrancy, burglary and trespassing, reported the Daily News. In 1976, he was treated for a gunshot wound.

About 15 years ago, his daughter attempted to find him using public records and help from a friend's police officer husband, but to no avail. Nothing ever came up, so I thought he was dead, she told the newspaper.

Ronald Poppo had been living in a rarely used stairwell of a parking garage near the Jungle Island Zoo, off the MacArthur Causeway in Miami, before he was attacked by Eugene on May 26, reported The Daily Beast.  

Employees at the Homeless Assistance Program in Miami attempted to help Poppo.

We have to search them out, Giancarlo Venturini, a 29-year-old working with the program, told The Daily Beast. Most people, they feel sorry for them, so they try to not even see them. Or sometimes they're afraid: 'If I don't look at them, they aren't going to see me.' But it's our job.

Venturini tried to keep track of Poppo and get him help, but the homeless man refused, according to The Daily Beast. The last time Venturini saw him was on May 24, around 9:30 p.m. He saw Poppo walking across the grass to his spot in the stairwell.

Just two days later, Ronald Poppo would be the victim of a gruesome crime that would shock the nation.

Rudy Eugene was shot and killed on May 26, after police found him naked, chewing on portions of Poppo's face on the MacArthur Causeway. Surveillance video captured the brutal 18-minute zombie attack, in which Eugene cannibalized [PHOTOS NSFW] Poppo's eyes, nose and mouth. The incident has been compared to something out of The Walking Dead, a popular series on AMC about a world dominated by walkers, or zombie-like creatures.

Janice Poppo DiBello has not considered Ronald Poppo her father since the day he left 42 years ago; and she does not know if she will go to Miami to visit him.

I'm still in shock about everything, she said. 

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