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Caregiver accused of beating WWII veteran

What happened inside Michael Tristano's North Port home is enough to make anyone sick.

"It is a despicable act to do that to anybody," said North Port Public Information Officer Josh Taylor.

At 91, Tristano survived fighting in World War II. But he almost lost his life, and police say it was at the hands of his own care giver, Elena Erickson.

"This wasn't somebody that was found in a phone book. This was somebody that was a confident and a friend for some time," Taylor said.

Officers said Erickson called for help after she found Tristano unconscious and laying in a pool of blood.
She speculated he fell, but once doctors at the the Venice Regional emergency room said his injuries were not consistent with a fall.

That's when they called North Port Police.

"She left them there. I believe she fully thought he would die, and I think she is probably pretty surprised that he didn't, and I think she is going to pay the price for it," said Taylor.

Tristano told officers Erickson showed up one night, at her usual time, to check on him. He said she began to argue with him about her payment, and demanded a blank check.

Tristano said, when he refused, she began repeatedly hitting him in the had with his oxygen tank.

Tristano said he was bleeding and begged for help, but was only given a paper towel. He said she pinned him to the floor with a chair and left.

"He probably survived because his mind told him he had to, just like in the military. He is trained in that. Survival of the fittest," said VFW Post 8203 Commander Carol Robison.

Robison knows Tristano and said he cannot imagine why anyone would try to harm him.

"He used to come in here with two or three other pilots, and they used to talk at the table, and I would listen to their stories because I was amazed at what they did," he said.

He knows willpower helped Tristano survive.

"I would never count out a 91-year-old World War II veteran," he said.

Erickson was held in the Sarasota County Jail with a $300,000 bond and faces charges of attempted murder and tampering with evidence.