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Daughter defends dad after nursing home hammer attack on mom

Martin J. Turkiewicz left his Cheektowaga home late Saturday afternoon with a hammer.

Before the 88-year-old exited the house, he told his 64-year-old son what he had in mind.

"He advised him, 'I am going to kill your mother,' " Assistant District Attorney Danielle D'Abate said.

After attacking his wife of 60 years at a Cheektowaga nursing home, he thought she was dead, according to attorneys on both sides of the case.

"I just wanted to end it for her," Martin Turkiewicz told police of his 86-year-old wife, Rita, as recounted by his defense attorney in court Wednesday.

Diane Cline, one of the couple's daughters, said the crime is out of character for her father, who was the primary caregiver for her mother and brother, who was born blind.

"What my father is accused of is not the man he was," she said.

The family and his defense attorney portrayed his actions as those of a compassionate husband who had been watching his wife suffer.

Cline said her mother's health has deteriorated in recent years, but her father remained by her side. She said her mother's health issues became even more serious recently, as she had refused to eat or participate in physical therapy in her latest stint in rehab. She wasn't building any strength to come home, and her dementia was worsening.

"He was her caregiver 24-7 at home, along with cooking and cleaning," she said. "It was his hope to keep her at home, where she was most comfortable. Mom always came first, even before his own medical issues."

Rita Turkiewicz suffered two skull fractures but is out of the intensive care unit at Erie County Medical Center and is expected to be released "within the week," said Rodney O. Personius, Martin Turkiewicz's defense attorney.

Saturday's attack happened inside the Garden Gate Health Care Facility on Union Road in Cheektowaga. (Aaron Besecker/Buffalo News)

Less than an hour after he repeatedly bashed his wife's face and skull, Martin Turkiewicz was sitting down with Cheektowaga detectives admitting to what he did, authorities said.

He planned to visit the nursing home when patients and staff were at dinner, according to prosecutors. Aside from the police, he also admitted it to other people at the nursing home, they said.

"I hope I didn't make it worse for her," Martin Turkiewicz told investigators, according to Personius, the defense attorney.

An hour after police were called to Garden Gate Health Care Facility on Union Road, he told police, "I felt so sorry for her. She suffered."

He made a phone call five minutes later. "I think I killed your mother," he told his son.

Personius called his client "just a likable, good guy who is 101-percent committed to his wife" and to whom he displayed "God-like devotion."

"I think it's fair to at least be open to the conclusion that what he did, as nasty and grisly as it was, was an act of compassion," Personius said. "And he's there for his wife ahead of himself, his own health is not the best."

The elderly man has a heart issue and has possible skin cancer on his head that needs to be taken care of, Personius said.

"The reason he hasn't done it is because he's been too busy taking care of Rita," he said.

Cheektowaga Town Justice Paul S. Piotrowski, who had denied Turkiewicz bail at his arraignment, agreed with the family's pleas and set bail Wednesday at $10,000 cash or $50,000 bond.

In the courtroom Wednesday, Martin Turkiewicz responded to several questions from the judge, at one point starting to cry. He also turned to look at his two daughters and son-in-law who sat in the second row of seats in the courtroom.

"That's my baby," he said of his daughter, Diane, while the judge explained bail conditions.

Martin Turkiewicz spent five years in the Navy and planned to make a career in the service, according to his attorney. When Rita had their son, Martin Jr., he was born blind. So Turkiewicz left the Navy in order to help care for his son. He spent 15 more years in the Naval and Coast Guard reserves.

For 30 years, he worked at his father's Buffalo-area factory that manufactured wooden frames for boxsprings, the attorney said. When the company was sold, he retired. He was about 60 at the time.

Martin Turkiewicz has had one interaction with law enforcement – a 1986 arrest on charges of driving while intoxicated. He pleaded guilty to driving while impaired, his attorney said.

As a condition of bail, Piotrowski ordered Diane Cline to stay at her father's home to care for him and her brother. The judge also issued a "complete stay away" order of protection barring contact between Martin and Rita Turkiewicz.

A conviction on a second-degree attempted-murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 5 to 25 years in prison, according to prosecutors.

Husband, 88, accused in hammer attack against the wife he put 'first before anything else'

Police: Cheektowaga man, 88, admitted hammer attack on wife at nursing home

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