Hilo woman pleads guilty to armed robbery of clothing boutique


A 24-year-old Hilo woman who robbed a downtown clothing boutique at gunpoint in January pleaded guilty on Monday.

Under terms of a plea agreement, Tia Menino will receive a 10-year prison term for second-degree robbery and illegal place to keep a firearm when she is sentenced on Dec. 2 before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura. She also pleaded guilty to several misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges. All sentences will run concurrently. In exchange for her plea, prosecutors dropped charges of first-degree robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, both Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

At previous court appearances, several of Menino’s family members were present. At Monday’s change-of-plea hearing, however, she was accompanied only by her attorney, Kanani Laubach.

Menino robbed Rainbow-Jo women’s clothing boutique and Tiny Bubbles baby clothing boutique on Jan. 31 at about 11:50 a.m.

The stores are separate businesses with different owners at the same location, 291 Keawe St.

According to court documents filed by police, the store clerk, Rachel Conder, told officers that a woman entered the store alone, walked up to a cash register, threw a reddish-brown purse on the glass counter, brandished a handgun and demanded all the money from Rainbow-Jo’s cash register. Conder said she took $137 from the cash register and gave the money to the suspect. Conder reported that the suspect then demanded money from Conder’s purse behind the counter and “wanted to know who she was.” Conder reportedly refused to give the suspect her name but gave her another $100 from Tiny Bubbles’ cash register.

In court on Monday, Nakamura revealed that Menino also took a small amount of cash from Conder’s purse.

Conder took a cellphone photo of pickup truck Menino was driving as she turned right from Furneaux Lane onto Keawe Street, and got the truck’s license plate number. She also later identified Menino from a photographic lineup, documents state.

Documents state a civilian listening to a police scanner saw a pickup truck matching the description on Makaala Street and called police. An officer then spotted the truck and the suspect at Hilo Propane on Makaala, arrested Menino at about 12:30 p.m. and seized the truck as evidence. An unloaded .22 caliber revolver was in plain sight in an infant seat on the rear passenger seat and a red purse was also recovered as evidence.

Menino, who has no prior criminal record, told police she “just did something stupid” because “she owed her boyfriend money,” documents state.

Nakamura told Menino, who is free on $18,750 bail, to come to her sentencing prepared to go to prison.

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