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Man, 89, charged with killing elderly roommate, dies

An 89-year-old man accused of fatally beating his 86-year-old roommate at an assisted-living facility more than two years ago has died.

Chester A. Rusek died Wednesday in the lockup at Erie County Medical Center, where he was being treated for medical problems, according to his attorney, Barry S. Dolgoff.

Once a death certificate is filed, Dolgoff said, prosecutors will ask Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka to dismiss the first-degree manslaughter indictment that was filed against Rusek in January 2013.

Rusek was accused of repeatedly pummeling his roommate, Salvatore S. Trusello, with a 2½-pound magnet Nov. 26, 2012, as Trusello lay in his bed in Kenwell-DePaul Senior Living Community on Delaware Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda.

Trusello suffered a broken rib, a punctured lung and damage to his kidneys, police said. He was struck on his head, face, chest and wrist.

Trusello, a retired Niagara Falls baker, spent a month in the intensive care unit at ECMC where he died from his injuries Dec. 27, 2012, according to prosecutors.

Trusello and Rusek had shared a room for less than two months when the attack took place. Rusek allegedly beat Trusello because he believed his roommate was stealing from him, according to investigators.

The victim’s family said Trusello wouldn’t steal from anyone.

After the attack, Rusek used his walker to go down the hall and tell an attendant to get help.

“He’s going to need medical attention,” Rusek told the attendant, according to police reports.

“I didn’t want to kill him,” Rusek later told police. “I just wanted to get even.”

After Rusek was indicted, a forensic psychologist and a psychiatrist found him mentally competent to stand trial, and Dolgoff later filed a motion for a psychiatric defense, which the judge granted.

Dolgoff said an expert in geriatric psychiatry hired by the defense to examine Rusek determined that he suffered from a frontal temporal brain disorder that meant he was unable to control his urges.

As a result, the defense attorney contended his client should not be held criminally responsible for the fatal beating.

The prosecution hired a psychiatric expert from Rochester to examine him, Dolgoff said.

Both experts filed their reports. Dolgoff said he and Assistant District Attorney Paul E. Bonanno had been scheduled to meet with the judge to discuss the reports.

“It’s a sad case for both Mr. Rusek and the victim,” Dolgoff said. “Mr. Rusek lived a desolate life, all alone in the world, with no nobody to turn to.

“He was an older person in our society who people tend to forget about until something tragic happens,” he added.

Dolgoff noted that his client had no prior criminal record and had served in the military, receiving an honorable discharge.

The victim’s family has filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against DePaul Adult Care Communities. The suit is expected to go to trial later this year before State Supreme Court Justice John M. Curran.

One of Trusello’s two daughters, Lisa Trusello Snow, who lives in California and is the administrator of his estate, could not be reached to comment.

email: jstaas@buffnews.com