Hamden lawyer active in local politics, but whose entrepreneurial spirit
led him to start a business that connected foreign men with "young,
beautiful, sexy Latin women," was slain in a hail of bullets in the
South American city of Cali, Colombia, Thursday night.
Robert Marshall Vignola, 50, a Hamden native, was shot
by two men on a motorcycle while driving to Cali’s airport, police
His 33-year-old Colombian wife, Beatriz Ramos, was also
hit and hospitalized with bullet wounds in the shoulder.
Sources here say Vignola was shot while shielding Ramos from an assassin’s
bullet linked to her father’s political involvement in Colombia. Her
father is an elected official, the source said, but his title was
Cali’s police chief, Gen. Alberto Moore, said authorities do not yet
know why Vignola was killed, but said he had a casino in Cali that went
bankrupt, leaving him with considerable debts. He also had financial
problems here at home, Moore said.
"So it’s said that possibly people could have been demanding
money, and he didn’t pay and so they took this reprisal," he
Aside from his matchmaking business and law practice, Vignola had a
mortgage company, American Heritage Mortgage, at 2404 Whitney Ave.
Hamden Mayor Craig Henrici said Saturday he considered Vignola a dear
friend and he was saddened to learn of his death.
"He had his faults but he was a good friend of mine," Henrici
said. "He was a good person with a good heart, and gentle."
Henrici said Vignola helped on his father’s Christmas tree farm each
year. Henrici added Vignola was a good father.
Vignola adopted a child from Colombia with his first wife, an American, and
that’s when he fell in love with the country, friends said. After
getting divorced, Vignola returned there and married a Colombian woman.
They moved to Hamden and had a child, then divorced. Ramos is his third
wife and they have no children.
A friend in Hamden, Marina Cordeau, who is engaged to one of
Vignola’s closest friends, said he always spoke of how peaceful the
cities were and urged them to visit.
She said Ramos is a beautiful and nice woman.
Another longtime friend, Vincent Cimino, said Vignola was an extraordinary
athlete and musician who played several instruments and once belonged to
two popular area bands. Cimino said Vignola was smart, hardworking, driven
"Bobby was always trying to take another bite of the apple; he was
never afraid to try anything," Cimino said. "I don’t think
you could find anyone to say a bad thing about him."
Vignola graduated from Hamden High School in 1973 as Robert Marshall, his
birth name. He later changed his last name to Vignola, to reflect the name
of his adoptive parents who raised him from birth.
He had college degrees from Oklahoma City University School of Law and was
a 1981 graduate of University of New Haven.
Sources said Vignola got into trouble with the law several years ago for
misreporting income, and spent time in jail. He was disbarred but later,
with the help of supporters, regained his right to practice law, sources
His Web site claims he is a licensed attorney in Connecticut and in U.S.
Federal Court. He is also a licensed real estate broker in Connecticut and
a licensed mortgage originator in Connecticut, according to his Web site.
His Web site claims he has been a real estate and mortgage financing
attorney for 22 years.
The Web site [web site no longer active] claims the Cali-based company, in
business since 1999, "has assisted hundreds of clients in the search
for the Latin woman of their dreams."
A friend of Vignola in Cali, who spoke on condition he not be identified,
said Vignola visited the city three or four times a year.
Vignola’s personal testimonial on the Latin Women Connection site,
which describes him as its "former owner and original founder,"
recounts how he met his wife in Colombia after deciding he had "almost
no chance of finding the woman of my dreams here in the United
In addition to offering contact with Cali women pictured in bikinis in its
photo gallery for 15 euros ($20) each, the Web site promotes vacation
packages to Cali, including a "private tour" accompanied by
Vignola for 450 euros ($600) per day, plus airfare.
The site promotes the sale of a book penned by Vignola, "Secrets of
Romancing Latin Women."
It describes Latin females as "the type of women that make a
man’s heart race, blood boil and libido accelerate into
Cali, home to Colombia’s dominant cocaine cartel in the 1990s,
remains among the country’s most violent major cities.
(Click here to
read a follow-up article on April 8, 2007)
The Associated Press
contributed to this story.