- Olivia Hitchcock Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
A bout of early-morning drinking at a Christian sober home in Jupiter led to a fight and stabbing early Tuesday and the owner’s arrest, town police records state.
Robert Darigo, who describes himself on Facebook as the owner and operator of Christian Recovery Center, reportedly threatened the client who’d been stabbed during a fight at the townhome on Corbison Point Place in Antigua, a neighborhood within the Abacoa development on the south side of Jupiter.
Darigo, 46, reportedly told Joseph Bacigalupo he had two choices: Forget the fight and stabbing happened or move out.
The sober home, which advertised as “a top-notch faith-based 12-step sober living environment,” had been operating without the knowledge of either the rental agent or the homeowners’ association, authorities said.
According to a police report released Wednesday morning, Bacigalupo, 34, got into an argument with Ruben Torres, who asked Bacigalupo if he wanted to go outside and fight. Torres had been drinking with Bacigalupo and Melinda Higgins, 38, early Tuesday, Bacigalupo told Jupiter police.
Bacigalupo agreed to fight. Torres, 44, straddled him and cut him with a large kitchen knife, according to the police report. The cuts were superficial but left wounds on Bacigalupo’s torso. The men agreed to stop fighting, and Bacigalupo went to his room to call his father.
After learning what happened, Bacigalupo’s father asked to speak with Darigo, according to the report.
Bacigalupo ran into Torres and Darigo in the living room. Torres reportedly told Darigo that Bacigalupo had been disrespecting Higgins, the mother of one of Darigo’s children, the report said. Darigo’s teenage children live in the sober home, police said.
Darigo reportedly punched Bacigalupo. Torres then hit Bacigalupo in the ribs and held the knife to the man’s throat and threatened to kill him, records state.
Darigo allegedly twisted Bacigalupo’s arm behind his back and threatened that if he didn’t forget what happened, Bacigalupo wouldn’t have a place to stay.
According to the police report, Higgins grabbed the knife, blade first, from Torres, causing a deep cut to her right hand. Torres and Darigo tended to Higgins and ordered Bacigalupo to clean up the blood.
Torres reportedly took Bacigalupo’s cellphone at some point to keep Bacigalupo from contacting his father again, police said.
Bacigalupo left the bloodied paper towels in the living room and ran to a neighbor’s home for help. The neighbor contacted police.
Higgins and Bacigalupo were taken to hospitals for their wounds. Torres also was transported to a hospital for an unrelated medical issue, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue crews said. He remained in the hospital as of Wednesday morning.
Torres faces two counts of aggravated battery, as well as a charge of obstructing justice. He will make his first appearance for a bond hearing once he is released from the hospital.
Darigo was arrested on a simple battery charge. He was released from the Palm Beach County Jail on his own recognizance Tuesday.
Records indicate both Torres and Darigo have criminal histories. Torres has been arrested in Palm Beach County 17 times since 2002 has been to prison at least three times. Darigo last was released from prison in 2016 after serving nearly 15 months of a two-year sentence following burglary and fraud convictions.
He also was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison and three years of probation after he was convicted in June 2006 for running a phony credit repair business in Philadelphia.
Christian Recovery Center is not certified by the Florida Association for Recovery Residences, according to the Boca Raton-based nonprofit. Certification is not required in Florida unless the sober home is affiliated with a detox or outpatient facility.
The sober home was operating without the knowledge of either the rental agent or Antigua Homeowners’ Association, and the town has no record of it ever being approved for business use. The homeowners’ group says it is trying to evict the tenants after receiving multiple complaints. The Americans with Disabilities Act, however, protects addicts in recovery, and the federal Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination against the disabled, essentially overriding local zoning laws.