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Killer of Jilly Rizzo, Sinatra's right-hand man, battles for parole

July 18, 2010 |  2:46 pm
Michelle Perrotte

Jilly Rizzo had spent hours preparing for his 75th birthday party, a soiree the next day that was to include his friend Frank Sinatra and other Rat Pack luminaries. A few minutes after midnight, he got into a white Jaguar and headed for his girlfriend's house.

As his car slowly crossed Gerald Ford Drive, Rizzo probably didn't see the Mercedes blazing down the rain-slick street. The driver was Jeffrey Perrotte, a 28-year-old alcoholic, a local man with a rap sheet of DUIs who had the papers for court-ordered alcohol rehabilitation sitting in the glove box of his car.

The Mercedes struck the right side of Rizzo's car, which burst into flames. Perrotte climbed out of the Mercedes and did something that is hard to imagine, even nearly two decades later: He ran home as Rizzo burned to death.

The 1992 collision and resulting murder trial gripped this affluent, star-studded community. Today, it pits the Riverside County district attorney's office, angry members of Rizzo's family and Sinatra's heirs against an inmate serving a life sentence who begs forgiveness, hoping one day to return to his wife and four children.

It's a story of the devastating toll of drunk driving but also a modern-day parable of loss, celebrity and one man's quest for redemption.

Read the full story here: "Parole Battle Pits Sinatra Family Against Killer of Singer's Right-Hand Man."

-- Scott Kraft

Photo: Michelle Perrotte stands in a park near her home in Palm Desert. Her husband, Jeffrey Perrotte, has been in prison for 18 years, convicted of killing Frank Sinatra's close friend Jilly Rizzo in a drunk-driving collision. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times