Cops: Caregiver hit 91-year-old WWII veteran on head with oxygen tank

Elena Erickson, Sarasota County Jail booking photo

NORTH PORT, FL (WFLA) — Police say a tough 91-year-old World War II veteran survived a brutal attack by his caregiver who is accused of hitting him on the head with an oxygen tank and then leaving him to die in a pool of blood when he refused to give her a blank check.

Elena Erickson, 45, of North Port, is charged with two counts of attempted murder and tampering with evidence.

Investigators say North Port Fire Rescue crews responded to the home of Michael Nicholas Tristano, age 91, at 8:12 a.m. on May 16. Erickson, who is Tristano’s caregiver, told paramedics that she found Tristano lying in a pool of blood and urine near the dining room table. He had a laceration on his head. Erickson told paramedics that Tristano was home alone from about 10:30 p.m. on May 15 to 8:10 a.m. on May 16 when she arrived to check on him.

North Port police released this photo of an oxygen tank that is similar to the one used in the alleged attack.
North Port police released this photo of an oxygen tank that is similar to the one used in the alleged attack.

According to an arrest affidavit, Tristano had a laceration above his left eye and multiple lacerations to the top and back of his head. He also had skin tears on both of his wrists and forearms.

Tristano was transported to a local hospital. Four days later, detectives interviewed him at the medical center where he was being treated for his injuries. Tristano told detectives that Erickson arrived at his home at 7:45 p.m. on May 15 to care for him as she has done for many years. He said that during the evening, they had been arguing about payment for his care and how he would not give her a blank check for her services. Tristano said that at about 9:30 p.m., Erickson took a portable, aluminum oxygen tank and struck him twice on top of his head while he was sitting at the dining room table.

He immediately started bleeding onto the floor and the table and then began wrestling the oxygen tank away from Erickson. During the struggle, Tristano’s wrist and forearms were bruised.

After the initial attack, the affidavit said Tristano sat back down at the table and begged Erickson to call 911. She refused and started wiping up some of the blood from the floor and offered him a paper towels to stop the bleeding from his head. Tristano said this went on for about an hour.

At one point, he asked Erickson to let him go to the bathroom to treat his head wound. He was hoping to get his Life Alert necklace to send help, but Erickson refused to let him leave the table, according to the affidavit.
Tristano told detectives that at 10:30 p.m. Erickson hit him on the head two more times, which knocked him to the floor. She then allegedly held him down on the floor with one of the chairs, so he could not get up. By this time, he was very weak and drifting in and out of consciousness.

Tristano told detectives that Erickson left his residence between 5 and 6 a.m. on May 16. He said he remembered seeing Erickson back at his house calling 911 and then his daughter and paramedics arrived.

Erickson was arrested on felony charges and booked into the Sarasota County Jail.

The North Port Police Department released the following statement when announcing Erickson’s arrest.

“Mr. Tristano, a World War II veteran, knows what toughness is all about. He was able to survive the night. When he could not be reached by family in the morning they knew something wasn’t right. After emergency care and a brief stay in the hospital, he is recovering and has already returned home.”

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