A month after he was brutally beaten at a Tonawanda assisted living facility – allegedly at the hands of his roommate – Salvatore “Sam” Trusello died Thursday at Erie County Medical Center, his family and police said. Trusello was 86.
An autopsy was conducted Friday morning to determine whether the injuries caused his death, and more serious charges are possible against the 87-year-old roommate, authorities said.
Trusello’s daughter said Friday that she has no doubt that they did.
“He was in excellent health until this happened,” Lisa Trusello Snow said in a phone interview from California.
Her father suffered a punctured lung and damage to his kidneys on the morning of Nov. 26, according to police, when his roommate at the Kenwell De-Paul Senior Living Community attacked him, repeatedly swinging at the man with a 2½-pound magnet attached to a string.
The roommate, Chester Rusek, has already been charged with first-degree assault and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He remains at the Erie County Holding Center in lieu of $10,000 bail. A judge had ordered a psychiatric evaluation to be conducted.
The case will go before a grand jury and may a result in even more serious charges, Erie County District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III said.
The State Health Department has also opened an investigation into the incident.
Snow said she still doesn’t know what to think of how her father died. He had been in various long-term care facilities since 2000. The first one, in Niagara Falls, closed. He then went to a nursing home but grew strong enough to need less round-the-clock care and had recently moved to Kenwell on Delaware Avenue.
Trusello wasn’t on any prescriptions at the time of his death, his daughter said. He used a walker because of hip problems, she said.
Trusello had shared a room with Rusek for less than two months when the incident took place. Snow said no one in her family had heard about any problems between her father and Rusek.
Police said Rusek told them that he attacked Trusello because he believed he was stealing from him, but family members disputed the claim.
Snow said the attack came as a surprise to everyone in her family.
At first, family members thought he would survive. “Then he got an infection in his lungs,” Snow said.
Trusello remained in intensive care, unable to speak because of a breathing tube.
Snow remembered her father, born May 30, 1926 in Niagara Falls, as a hardworking man who loved to read and travel. During the end of World War II, he served in the Army. He was stationed in Germany during the Occupation. When he completed his military service, he went to four colleges on the GI Bill – the University of Havana in Cuba, New York University, Pomona College in California and the University of Buffalo, where he earned a degree in history.
He ended up going into business with his family at Trusello’s Bakery, a beloved Niagara Falls business famous for its Italian bread and pizza.
Trusello’s wife of 34 years, the former Ida Leo, died in 1991. Trusello is survived by his daughters, Snow and Mary Christina, and a sister, Edith Colton. A private funeral service was to be held.