An 88-year-old man accused of using a 2½-pound magnet to pummel his roommate to death at an assisted living facility last year has been found by two experts to be mentally competent to stand trial.
Erie County Judge Michael F. Pietruszka on Wednesday provided lawyers in the case the reports from a forensic psychologist and a psychiatrist.
Clad in orange jail garb, Chester Rusek appeared in the Buffalo courtroom in a wheelchair. He faces a first-degree manslaughter charge.
Police said Rusek repeatedly beat his 86-year-old roommate, Salvatore Trusello, with the magnet Nov. 26 as Trusello lay in his bed in Kenwell-DePaul Senior Living Community on Delaware Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda.
Pietruszka granted defense attorney Barry Dolgoff time to seek his own expert to examine Rusek.
Dolgoff said he doubted Rusek even knew why the experts examined him. “He has no idea why he’s there,” Dolgoff said.
Even one of the reports indicated Rusek seemed confused about his criminal charge, Dolgoff said.
“I don’t know what the charges are. No one told me,” Rusek said during one expert’s interview, according to one report that Dolgoff quoted.
Rusek heard the charge against him at his January arraignment, Dolgoff said.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Dolgoff had to stop Rusek from trying to speak.
“Chester, stop. You’re a good guy,” Dolgoff said. “I know you want to talk.”
Dolgoff said Rusek’s assessment did not go “deep enough or far enough.”
Prosecutor Paul E. Bonanno of the Erie County District Attorney’s Office called any further evaluation unnecessary.
“Both find the defendant is not an incapacitated person,” Bonanno said of the experts’ reports. “In other words, he’s competent to stand trial.”
Pietruszka scheduled the next court proceeding for Nov. 18.
In the attack, Trusello suffered a broken rib, a punctured lung and damage to his kidneys, police have said.
Trusello spent the next month in the intensive care unit at Erie County Medical Center, where he died Dec. 27, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office.
In the meantime, Rusek has been in the Erie County Holding Center when he has not been hospitalized.
Dolgoff indicated to the judge that Rusek has spent time in the hospital since his arraignment.