Longform

Fatal Attraction: A Cop Gets Tangled Up With a Pair of Addicts, and Things Turn Violent

Christina Passi loved the camera.

Photos document the blue-eyed Latin beauty's win at the 2002 Sunshine Classic Bodybuilding, Fitness, and Figure Championships in Palm Beach Gardens. It was her debut in bodybuilding competition, lightweight class. The glistening, rock-hard muscles on her four-foot-11 frame lit up with each flash from cameramen jockeying for position at the Dwyer Auditorium.

Passi landed in Southern Muscle Plus magazine, the South's bodybuilding bible. For the cover shot, she flexed her left arm alongside her abdomen in a classic hunched-over bodybuilding pose.

Five years later, the 30-year-old was no longer the subject of admiration or awe — only morbid curiosity. Shortly after midnight on November 7, 2007, security cameras caught the last minutes of her life, a tragic end documented step by step.

Passi looked pathetic, drab, and crazed on the surveillance system inside the home of then-millionaire boyfriend Scott Iorillo. Visibly upset and naked, except for an untied dark-blue bathrobe, Passi can be seen on the tape frantically pacing back and forth between the master bedroom and the office across the hall.

In her right hand was a black Ruger MK II long rifle handgun loaded with .22-caliber rounds. At times, she placed the handgun tightly against her right temple. At other times, she wildly waved it around.

It wasn't the first time that the formerly musclebound divorced mother of one stared down the abyss. A year earlier at the same house on Charlee Street in unincorporated Lake Worth, she attempted to cut her own throat with a sharp piece of ceramic from a broken outdoor clock, then jumped in the pool. Passi missed the artery. When she heard sirens from paramedics, she ran away. K-9 sheriff's deputies found her hiding in the woods nearby.

Passi continued to lose control of her crack-fueled world. According to records, she had lost custody of her daughter, who was being raised by her brother in St. Petersburg. Her 80-year-old grandmother, one of Passi's rare lifelines, changed her phone and wouldn't give Passi the new number.

And Passi was still reeling from an arrest in a January 2007 traffic stop as she rode shotgun in Iorillo's Lexus. That day, West Palm Beach cop Sanjay Raja claimed he found 2.6 grams of crack in a McDonald's bag on her lap. Passi told him the drugs belonged to Iorillo. Raja didn't believe her and charged Passi with possession.

Things got complicated after that arrest. Iorillo claims Raja recruited Passi as a confidential informant in an attempt to bring down her dealer. The patrol cop, who wasn't supposed to use informants, also became her lover, Iorillo claims.

When Passi started acting crazy with one of Iorillo's two guns that November night, Iorillo first made sure the surveillance cameras were working. Then, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office report of the incident, Iorillo quickly replaced the battery in a small sound recorder while Passi sat in the master bedroom with the Ruger.

If Passi pulled the trigger, Iorillo wanted to be sure cops wouldn't blame him for her death.

Passi asked Iorillo: "Is your life going to be ruined if I kill myself?"

"Yeah," Iorillo replied. He tried to calm her down, to no avail. He warned her that the trigger was particularly sensitive. In frustration, he said: "If you're going to shoot yourself, I don't want to witness it."

Passi walked out of his office and returned to the master bedroom.

She pressed the Ruger against her head one final time and pulled the trigger. She fell to the ground, face up, head tilted slightly to the left, bathrobe wide open. She was so feather-light that Iorillo didn't hear the sound of her dropping. He heard only the shot.

Blood mixed with brain matter reddened the bedroom's cream-colored Berber carpet. A large tattoo of a butterfly underlined by the word Scott across her belly fluttered as her breath became more labored. Between her legs lay the Ruger. Within reach, her glass crack pipe and the spent casing.

An autopsy report would later reveal how the tiny bullet churned through Passi's brain, causing internal bleeding and multiple skull fractures as it bounced like a pinball inside her head before spinning out of her left temple.

On the surveillance tape, meanwhile, Iorillo can be seen dialing 911 while running to the master bedroom, then to the kitchen, then back to the bedroom. Deputies carefully approached the house, an unusual sight in the quiet Cypress Estates community. They had the 911 operator call Iorillo to have him meet them outside. There, deputies placed him in a prone position and cuffed him until they verified his claim that Passi shot herself.

Deputy Joe Korb started CPR. She still had a faint pulse. When Palm Beach County Fire Rescue pulled up, someone handed Korb a compression unit so he could keep forcing air into Passi's lungs.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jose Lambiet
Contact: Jose Lambiet