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Somerset man charged with punching 88-year-old mother in face

FALL RIVER — When police broke into Michael J. Kostek’s Somerset home Thursday, they found him lying in bed, speaking incoherently, with bottles of whiskey and prescription pills surrounding him. In the next room lay the bruised body of his 88-year-old mother.

Kostek, 62, pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of being a caretaker who wantonly and recklessly permitted serious bodily injury to an elderly person.

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More charges could be filed when the autopsy results return, said both the defense lawyer and the assistant district attorney in Fall River District Court.

An argument over money took a dark turn when Kostek twice punched his mother, Sophie, in the face, then tossed her onto her bed, where officers found her, Bristol Assistant District Attorney Courtney Cahill said in court.

Cahill said police went to the Kostek home at 857 Wilbur Ave. after a friend alerted officers that Michael Kostek had not responded to phone calls in days. When he did not answer the door, police circled the building, saw his mother’s inert body through a window, and broke in.

They found her lying topless, her mouth and eyes ringed with dark bruises, and more dotting her hands and arms, according to their report. They found Kostek in the next room with nine bottles of whiskey and numerous pill bottles, and blood on his hands and sheets, according to the report.

Cahill said Kostek was initially adamant in interviews that his mother had fallen down the stairs, that he cleaned up the blood, and he thought he could take care of her.

But when he was told her injuries and other evidence clashed with that claim, Cahill said, another story emerged: He had lost his temper, punched her twice, and placed her in the bed.

“Kostek believed that his mother’s injury may have bled for several days,’’ Somerset Police Detective Jason Matos wrote in a report filed in court. “He indicated that he was ashamed by what he had done and that he never should have laid a hand on his mother.’’

According to both the prosecution and Kostek’s defense attorney, Frank D. Camera, Kostek was drunk when police arrived and has a history of substance abuse.

“As well as the severe substance abuse problem . . . he obviously and clearly suffers from mental health issues,” Camera said in court. He told the court that Kostek denies culpability.

“Mr. Kostek’s mother’s demise was not at his hands, and I’m confident that at some point, and hopeful, that the medical exam will show that,” Camera said.

In interviews with investigators, Cahill said, Kostek repeatedly asked for help with detoxification. But she said his pleas came too late.

“He could’ve done that in the days leading up to punching his mother and leaving her in her bed to die,” she said.

The state medical examiner’s office conducted an autopsy to establish the time and cause of death, attorneys said Friday.

The young Kostek was a Casanova, dressed to the nines, and able to charm everyone in town, said a 53-year-old lifelong friend who declined to give his name. But alcohol changed him, the friend said, to the point that friends would search him for hidden alcohol bottles that they would confiscate and smash.

But he always cared for his mother, the friend said.

“He would call and say, ‘Are you OK, Ma, is everything OK? Ma, did you eat?’ ” the friend said. “He would call his mother two, three, four times during the course of his day to check on her.”

But he said Kostek was on a slippery slope, and many of his friends “knew he was on the verge.”

“Me and my buddies, we’re having a very hard time with it,” the friend said. “In a way, you kind of knew he was losing it. But in a way, you never expected him to do that.”

A 2009 police report indicates that he has been charged three times with operating under the influence, once driving with two open bottles of vodka in the car.

Sophie Kostek was a “sweetheart of a woman,” the friend said, always performing small acts of kindness such as fixing coffee for his friends.

Neighbors said they often saw Michael waiting in his driveway for early-morning rides to work. He had a job putting up fences, his friend said.

“He was always kind of a loner,” said neighbor Al Corvelo, 60. “I’m blown away by that. I really am. . . . They were quiet. We never had any disturbances.”

Sophie Kostek was a “very nice lady,” said longtime neighbor Sharon Andrade, 58. “She didn’t bother a soul. . . . I wish now that I had seen her more often.”

Camera said mother and son lived together for years and that “it has been, through all accounts that I’m aware of, a fine relationship.”

There are no other known relatives, he said.

The investigation is continuing, Sutter’s office said.

District Court Judge Cynthia Brackett set bail at $1 million cash and ordered Kostek to get substance abuse treatment while being held by the Bristol County sheriff’s department.

The disheveled-looking Kostek, clad in blue hospital scrubs, hung his head.

He is due back in court for a pretrial hearing Sept. 10.

Claire McNeill can be reached at claire.mcneill@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @clairemcneill.
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