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Former Hilo mortician indicted in murder-for-hire plot

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 1:12 p.m. HST, Dec 23, 2011

HILO >> A Hawaii man who is in jail on charges of nearly killing a coin dealer with a hammer has been accused of trying to hire someone to finish what he started, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Friday.

A grand jury this week indicted Robert Diego, 69, on two counts each of attempted first-degree murder and criminal solicitation of first-degree murder. The former mortician has been incarcerated at Hawaii Community Correctional Center since allegedly attacking Don Nigro, owner of an antiques and coins shop in Hilo, on June 13.

The solicitations took place around June 16 and Aug. 10, according to the indictment. Hawaii County Police Lt. Greg Esteban of the Criminal Investigations Section declined to say whether Diego allegedly tried to hire an inmate or guard.

Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa declined to comment.

“You just don’t expect to be marked for assassination for no good reason, you know,” Nigro told the newspaper about learning of the murder-for-hire plot.

The attack left Nigro, 65, hospitalized for days. Police have said robbery was the motive. Nigro said at the time the attack happened at his apartment during what was supposed to be a transaction to buy Hawaiian coins from Diego.

“The only thing he could possibly be mad about is that I didn’t die easily the first time he tried to kill me,” Nigro said.

Diego was co-owner of Memorial Mortuary, which closed in 2006 after he pleaded no contest to charges of stealing from a trust fund for mortuary plans. Diego, his wife and daughter were ordered to pay $8 million in damages to some 100 customers.

The Diegos were arrested in 2002 by investigators from the state attorney general’s office looking into allegations of bodies being buried in bags instead of caskets purchased by relatives.

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