Former Hilo mortician convicted of attempted murder, robbery dies in prison

  • DIEGO

A former Hilo mortician convicted in 2013 of a near-fatal hammer attack on a Hilo coin dealer has died in prison.

Robert Diego, who was in his late 70s, died earlier this month at Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona, according to a source close to Diego.

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No cause of death was given.

Diego was convicted of second-degree attempted murder and first-degree robbery for the June 13, 2011, attack on Donald Nigro, who owned the Antiques & Coin Shop in downtown Hilo.

Nigro testified at Diego’s trial that Diego went to Nigro’s Hualalai Street apartment in Hilo on the pretense of selling Nigro rare Hawaiian coins. He said Diego then struck him repeatedly on the head with a hammer in an attempt to kill him and rob him of the money and jewelry he had to exchange for the coins.

Neighbors heard Nigro’s cries for help and called police. When officers arrived, Nigro was severely injured and Diego was still inside the apartment.

Nigro died in 2017 at age 70.

At Diego’s sentencing, Nigro told Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, who has since retired, “Robert Diego’s criminal profile literally reveals that he has no respect for the living and the dead.”

Diego was the owner of Memorial Mortuary, which closed in 2006 after he pleaded no contest to a felony theft charge for stealing from pre-need funeral plan funds. He served two months in jail.

More than 100 plaintiffs filed a 2004 civil suit against Diego, his then-wife Momi and a daughter, Bobbie-Jean Crivello. The Diegos never answered the suit.

In 2008, a Honolulu judge ordered that each plaintiff be reimbursed $10,000 for the lost funeral plans and assessed $2.7 million against each of the three Diegos in punitive damages for a total sum of $9 million.

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Then-Gov. Linda Lingle in 2009 authorized a $142,000 payout by the state to the plaintiffs to settle an allegation that the state failed to properly regulate the funeral home.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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