Tonawanda News

September 19, 2013

Rusek's mental state probed

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Chester Rusek, the 88-year-old man accused of brutally beating his roommate at a Town of Tonawanda assisted living facility, is competent to stand trial, Erie County psychiatrists determined after an evaluation. 

But in court Wednesday, defense attorney Barry Dolgoff disagreed with the doctors, arguing Rusek is not in a proper mental state to assist with the trial. As part of his argument, he cited statements that Rusek provided during the evaluation. 

“I don’t know why I’m here,” Rusek told the psychiatrists. “I don’t know what the charges are. No one told me.”

Rusek, who was brought into court in a wheelchair Wednesday, also told the psychiatrists he had spoken to two lawyers about the case, while Dolgoff insisted that he was the only one to speak to his client. 

“He doesn’t even remember me ... that doesn’t sound like a guy who knows what is going on,” Dolgoff said in court Wednesday. 

Dolgoff argued that the evaluation of Rusek, who has pleaded not guilty to first-degree manslaughter, did not delve deep enough. 

“Competency is very loosely defined ... by these so-called experts,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Bonanno stood by the evaluation. 

“The defendant has been evaluated multiple times now and repeatedly found competent. We are ready for trial,” he said. 

But Erie County Court Judge Michael Pietruska granted Rusek the opportunity to obtain another evaluation by his own doctor. Rusek, who has recently been in the hospital, will be back in court Nov. 18 to review that assessment. 

Rusek was initially charged with first-degree assault after the alleged attack, which took place Nov. 26 at the Kenwell De-Paul Senior Living Community. The charge was upgraded to first-degree manslaughter after the victim, Salvatore Trusello, 86, died from his injuries a month later. 

Trusello was still in bed when Rusek allegedly attacked him at 9:30 a.m. with a homemade weapon, fashioned from a 2 1/2 pound magnet from a speaker, attached to an 18 inch piece of string.

Rusek said Trusello had gone through his records and paperwork, police said. 

After the assault, Rusek, with the assistance of a walker, shuffled down to the front desk and told an employee to call for medical help for Trusello, telling her, “I just beat his (expletive).”

Police reported to the scene shortly thereafter. Trusello, in a semi-conscious state, was able to identify Rusek as his attacker.

The victim was sent to the hospital with serious injuries, including a broken rib, punctured lung and severely bruised face.

Meanwhile, Rusek remained in the foyer area of the center, located at 3456 Delaware Ave. According to police, he fully cooperated with authorities and even asked an officer where his patrol car was so he could get into it.

Wednesday’s appearance came after a pretrial hearing in June, when Dolgoff challenged the admissibility of statements Rusek made to police after the attack.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to kill him, I just wanted to get even,’” police officer Mark Muscoreil, who arrested Rusek, said at the June hearing. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.