MIAMI, Fla. — A 27-year-old Miramar woman who described herself as the girlfriend of the man killed by police as he gnawed off the face of a homeless man stepped forward Wednesday to speak out against what her counselor called a growing scourge: cannibalism.
Yovonka Bryant's counselor? Los Angeles celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred.
"Yovonka and I are very concerned about the issue of cannibalism and the number of cases that are being reported …," said Allred, reading from a statement at a bizarre news conference at the Sofitel Miami.
"We are hopeful that ... Yovonka can help the public understand the dire consequences of cannibalism for its victims."
The emergence of Bryant into what she and Allred hope will be a spotlight on the issue of one human eating another comes less than two weeks after Eugene was shot to death after police found him on the MacArthur Causeway, naked and chewing the face of a helpless man.
But that Eugene was not the man she came to know after they began dating four months ago, said Bryant. Rather, he was a fun-loving, Bible-reading sports fan who hoped to start a car-detailing business and never showed any propensity for violence.
"We spoke about marriage and I thought that he would be a good father to my children," Bryant said. "There were no warning signs."
Allred, whose clients include a long list of stars and Hollywood wannabes, said Bryant contacted her because "this is a high-profile case and she wanted to truth to come out about Rudy Eugene."
"Jokes are being made about this issue on late-night television," said Allred, "… but cannibalism is a serious issue and is very dangerous to the health and well-being of both the cannibal and the victim.
"It is very important that the social taboo and stigma that have long been attached to this subject continues and that society condemns cannibalism, rather that trivializing it or glamorizing it."
Allred said that Bryant "is not a suspect in this matter," and that she and Eugene had never discussed cannibalism. Neither, Bryant added, did she and Eugene ever discuss voodoo.
"Had she had any indication that Mr. Eugene could or would engage in an act of cannibalism she never would have allowed him around her three children," said Allred.
Allred said she was not planning to sue anyone on Bryant's behalf. Bryant did not take questions.
But Allred did answer a few queries from reporters, many of whom wondered aloud why Bryant needed such high-profile counsel, or any lawyer at all, and why the news conference was held.
"This is a high-profile case, and she wants the truth to come out about Rudy Eugene," said Allred. "She suffered a loss of someone she truly loved. I make no apologies for being here to support her."
In news interviews last week, another Broward County resident, who has remained anonymous, told reporters she had a five-year, off-and-on relationship with Eugene during which he often smoked marijuana but was not violent.
Bryant, who works in the office of a public accountant, began dating Eugene, 31, in March. She said they read the Bible and the Quran together, regularly tuned in to a televised Christian ministry, and spent time eating out and watching movies.
She said her children, ages 11, 8 and 3, liked Eugene, calling him "Uncle Beard."
Bryant said she never saw Eugene drink and only saw him use drugs once — when he smoked marijuana.
"I felt safe with Rudy," she said. "In his presence, his smile alone just uplifted my spirit … I truly did not have a care in the world when I was with him."
Bryant echoed the anonymous girlfriend's supposition that Eugene was on drugs May 26 when he attacked Ronald Poppo on the MacArthur Causeway.
"I believe that he would never have knowingly and intentionally inflicted the harm that he did and that most likely there is a drug that he was given without his knowledge that caused him to do what he did," she said in the statement.
Ronald Poppo, 65, remains hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital after police say Eugene gouged out one of his eyes and destroyed most of his face.