Jupiter stabbings were at ‘drug recovery’ center, HOA says

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Olivia Hitchcock and Jorge Milian

Published September 28, 2017

JUPITER -- Two people were stabbed early Tuesday at a high-end Jupiter townhouse that has been operating as a sober home without the knowledge of either the rental agent or the homeowners’ association, authorities said.


The stabbing — which led to two arrests — is the latest in a string of complaints surrounding 1460 Corbison Point Place, also known as the Christian Recovery Center, said Carla Sponito, manager of the Antigua Homeowners Association. Antigua is a neighborhood within Abacoa, a collection of communities on the south side of Jupiter.

Neighborhood leaders and the real-estate company have been working to evict the residents for the last several weeks, Sponito said Tuesday. Sponito stressed that the neighborhood association did not know about — much less approve — the residents in that townhome.


“We thought we were renting to a nice woman,” Sponito said. She interviewed the renter, a single woman who claimed she would be living alone in the three-story, coral-colored house just west of the St. Louis Cardinals practice fields at Roger Dean Stadium, the baseball team’s spring-training home.

Torres (left) and Darigo

It was unclear Tuesday whether their efforts would prevail. The Americans with Disabilities Act protects addicts in recovery. The federal Fair Housing Act bars housing discrimination against the disabled, essentially trumping local zoning laws that would bar businesses such as sober homes from neighborhoods.

That lease started in July. By early September, neighborhood leaders knew something was off, and that the renter had apparently allowed the sober-home group to use the house.

Kathleen Walter had people coming to her home nearby asking if a sober home had opened in the area, said her attorney, Cathy Lively. Some found an ad on the website Craigslist for Christian Recovery, advertising “a top-notch faith-based 12-step sober living environment” with a photo of Walter’s house and vehicle.

“(Walter) has been harassed by neighbors complaining about what’s going on,” Lively said, stressing that Walter is not running a business of any kind out of her home.

Lively said Walter, the spokeswoman for the city of West Palm Beach, will file a cease-and-desist order this week against the operator of Christian Recovery – one of whom was arrested following a fight at the home that followed Tuesday’s stabbings. Walter had already taken legal action, including filing a complaint with the Antigua Homeowners Association, “but the situation has now escalated,” Lively said.

“How would you feel if you woke up and found out that your home and your vehicle are being advertised as a direct recovery center when you have absolutely nothing to do with it?” Lively said.

Tensions between four roommates at the sober home escalated early Tuesday, leading to the stabbings that sent two people to a hospital and a third to require medical treatment, Jupiter police said.

Joseph Bacigalupo, 34, told police he got into a fight shortly before 4 a.m. with Ruben Torres, 44, who cut him in the torso with a knife. Robert Darigo – who on Facebook described himself as the owner and operator of Christian Recovery — then began punching Bacigalupo while Melinda Higgins, 38, tried to grab the knife. In doing so, Higgins sustained a serious cut to one of her hands and was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, police said.

After being cut, Bacigalupo ran to a neighbor’s home and called police. He sustained only minor injuries, police said. Torres was taken to Jupiter Medical Center because of an “unrelated medical episode.”

Torres was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, and Darigo, 46, faces a simple battery charge, according to police. Both could make their first appearances before a Palm Beach County Judge on Wednesday.

One area resident said Tuesday that they were surprised and upset to discover a sober home had opened in their neighborhood. The house in question, with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, would sell for about $300,000 on the open market.

“Living in a community like this and as much money as we pay to live here, that something like this goes on without anybody checking … I am very shocked,” said resident Michael Viner. “When you move in here you are very well-vetted.”

Records show that Darigo was released from prison in 2016 after serving nearly 15 months of a two-year sentence following his conviction on burglary and fraud charges. Darigo has been arrested 26 times in Florida since 1998, including on June 15 when his former mother-in-law accused him of stealing her car. The State Attorney’s Office chose not to file charges against Darigo on Aug. 18.

Darigo also was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison and 3 years of probation after he was convicted in June 2006 for running a phony credit repair business in Philadelphia.

Torres has an extensive arrest history and has been to prison at least three times. He has been arrested in Palm Beach County 17 times since 2002 and was released from custody on May 19, 2016, after serving more than two years for burglary. He has also served time for armed robbery, grand theft of a vehicle and trafficking in stolen property.

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 Craigslist ad for the center posted about a month ago reads: “This is a sober living environment. This is not a halfway house nor is it affiliated with any (intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization programs) or detox center.” The rate is posted as $250 a week, “no insurance necessary.”

“The best part about Jupiter Abacoa is there are no drug dealers riding around on bicycles looking for victims,” another ad for the home reads. “There are no prostitutes walking up and down the street. Everything about Abacoa is positive and there is nothing but opportunity here. It is the perfect place to start over.”

Sponito knows the appeal of the Antigua community, set on tree-lined streets blocks away from schools, parks and employers. She knows it’s safe.

“Just not for you,” she said about the sober home.