Dean Riopelle didn’t just coach his son’s youth football team, but he taught them to win. His passion to help the players propelled them to undefeated seasons, a longtime friend said Friday.
“He believed in people, and wanted to see the best come out in people, more than everyone else,” Matt Kunz told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He was a good man in the community, and his family and friends miss him sorely.”
Months after his funeral, Riopelle’s death has made national headlines because his girlfriend is accused of killing another man. Alix Tichelman, 26, was arrested in California and is accused of delivering the lethal injection of heroin that killed Google executive Forrest Hayes aboard his yacht in November. When Riopelle died in September, Tichelman was in his home.
Riopelle, 53, of Milton, died after spending a week in a coma, and at the time of his death, friends accepted that he had suffered a heart attack. Riopelle, owner of the Masquerade music club in Atlanta, was well known in the community for his business endeavors and love of monkeys that lived in his home. An autopsy later determined that Riopelle’s death was the result of “heroin, Oxycodone and ethanol toxicity.”
“Nobody that knew Dean knew him to use drugs,” Kunz said.
Kunz met Riopelle on the youth football field, where Riopelle coached his son. Kunz, who played college football, offered to help Riopelle’s son improve his play. The two men became fast friends, Kunz said.
Still, there was another side to Riopelle, who also was the lead singer of a rock ‘n’ roll band with wild stage shows and sexually explicit lyrics.
Riopelle went to the University of Florida and got a degree in construction engineering, his sister told the Associated Press. But when he was told by a boss to cut his hair and wear a bigger tie, he decided engineering wasn’t for him, Dee Riopelle said. He opened his first bar, also called the Masquerade, in Tampa, Florida, and about 25 years ago, he moved to Atlanta and opened the Masquerade here. Over the years, he also opened several sports bars and a fetish bar, his sister said.
“He was very, very wise when it came to business sense,” Dee Riopelle said. “Everything Dean touched turned to gold.”
Dean Riopelle’s relationship with Tichelman was at times a tumultous one, Kunz said. Riopelle had kicked Tichelman out of his home more than once due to her drug use, Kunz said.
“He didn’t want his kids to get involved with that,” Kunz said.
Because Tichelman was linked to both Hayes and Riopelle, and both deaths involved heroin, Milton police plan to reopen the investigation into Riopelle’s death.
“We’re just making sure we didn’t miss anything,” Capt. Shawn McCarty said Thursday. “There’s a possibility that nothing in our case changes. But we would be remiss if we didn’t go back and look at it.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.