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Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, July 14, 1959

July 14, 2009 |  2:00 pm

July 14, 1959, Watts Towers

Confidential File

Life Must Go On, Even After Murder

Paul CoatesOn Feb. 19 of this year, Robert L. Mason, 40, went wild with a gun.

He entered the Glendale home of jazz musician Johnny Zorro. He shot Zorro's wife, 31-year-old Mrs. Rona Porrazzo, critically wounding her. And, with two more bullets, he killed Zorro's mother-in-law, Mrs. Susan Jamerson, 52.

At the time of the shooting, Zorro was working in Las Vegas. His son, Page, 5, was the man of the house, and a witness to the murder.

These facts have all been reported and recorded -- by the police, by the press and by the courts which eventually decided that Mason should die for his crime.

But what hasn't been reported is the lingering aftermath of the headline case of murder in the first degree.

Yesterday I met Johnny Zorro for the first time since we were together in the Glendale Police Station, where Mason was being booked following his return from Winslow, Ariz.

July 14, 1959, Welfare Zorro was crying at Mason, an acquaintance of five years: "C'mon and face me. Aren't you man enough?"

He was pounding the table in front of Mason's chair and shouting: "You've ruined my wife's life, my son's life. My mother-in-law is gone."

Zorro's conversation with me yesterday bore out too much of his prophecy. A front-page murder may be forgotten by the public, but its aftermath is still there to be lived out.

Zorro told me, first of all, about his wife.

"You'll remember," he said softly, "that nobody expected her to live. The bullet had lodged behind her right ear.

"She was six weeks in the hospital and in bed three months. One side of her face is still paralyzed. Now, we'll just have to wait."

The young musician added: "Already she's done so many things the doctors said were impossible."

July 14, 1959, Racing Today, Mrs. Porrazzo walks unaided. But the vision in one eye blurs frequently. She becomes dizzy quickly. There's always the noise of a roar in her right ear.

"She wants to get back in her church work. She was real active in it before the shooting," Zorro told me. "More than anything, though, little Pagie's the reason she's alive today. She wants to live for the boy, for his sake."

Pagie, named by his parents for their friend, Page Cavanaugh, has his memories of the tragedy, too.

"Like in our telephone number list, we had Mason's name and phone number. Written in a long time ago," Zorro said. "Without saying anything to us, little Pagie got a pencil the other day and scratched it out.

"The kid talks about what happened sometimes and he asks me, 'Daddy, do you think he can break out of jail?'"

There's also a price tag on tragedy, the musician admitted -- a tag way out of line with the family's income. Zorro's wife has undergone three operations.

"We had two cars," he said. "I sold one. I sold some furniture. Right now, I guess I still owe about $2,500. I'll just pay it off little by little."

Family Must Be Preserved

Zorro, a singer who plays the electric guitar, added that he's worked only a couple of times since the shooting.

"Naturally, I had to be both mother and father to Page when Rona was in the hospital. I still like to stay home a lot, to be around if I'm needed.

"I know I've got to get back working," he added. "I've been trying, looking around. But things sure seem quiet now. It's tight.

"I'll stay in the music business," Zorro explained. "I've been supporting myself in it since I was 16. But I don't know about all the traveling.

"The main thing now," he concluded, "is to keep my family together."

Note: Here are some clippings on the Daily Mirror about the Porrazzo case.