BROOKSVILLE - A part-time security guard at a Brooksville assisted living facility was arrested after beating two elderly residents in the face with a scissor jack early Thursday, Hernando County's sheriff said.
Brian C. Murphy, 22, was arrested on charges of two counts of attempted murder with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and was being held without bail.
Sheriff Al Nienhuis, who addressed the media on Thursday afternoon, called the attacks "beyond brutal," and described the event as follows:
Murphy most likely broke into Atria at Evergreen Woods shortly after midnight. He first went into Miriam Lepp's room, and told the 88-year-old resident to not say anything "or he would do harm to her or kill her."
Next, Murphy went into Joseph Giambrone's room, and started beating the 83-year-old man with a heavy jack, which is used to lift vehicles when replacing a tire.
During the attack, Lepp pressed her call button. When nurse Amanda Sweatt responded to Lepp's room, she saw Murphy beating her with the jack, and backed up and called the security guard on duty.
When Jonathan Sousa arrived, he immediately recognized Murphy as the weekend guard. Murphy took a swing at Sousa. Sousa avoided being hit and held Murphy down until deputies arrived about four minutes after a 911 call was placed.
The residents were taken to a trauma center by ambulance with life-threatening injuries.
They were in guarded condition, and both had sustained broken bones in the face, Nienhuis said.
"Seasoned detectives said that it was one of the more horrific crimes that they've seen, apparently very bloody and very gruesome," Nienhuis said. "It's really a miracle they're still alive, frankly."
About 12 hours into the investigation, Nienhuis said Murphy's motives for the attack were still unclear. Investigators believe Murphy was under the influence of drugs, or addicted to drugs. The part-time security guard had been homeless about a month, Nienhuis said, and part of the motivation for breaking into the facility might have been to get food.
Nienhuis called the attacks "bizarre," and said detectives had searched Murphy's car for drugs or other evidence earlier in the day. The results were not immediately available.
Nienhuis said Murphy had left his car running outside the facility, parked a good distance away.
In a statement sent out late Thursday, Atria Senior Living said Murphy had been working at the facility for about four months, and passed a background test and drug screen at the time of his hire.
Murphy had not been arrested in Florida, but may have been arrested in New Jersey, Nienhuis said.
The sheriff believed the charges were dropped, and far less serious than the attempted murder charges he now faces in Hernando County.
Nienhuis also credited Sousa, the security guard on duty early Thursday, for subduing Murphy before deputies arrived.
"What he did was nothing less than heroic, he went unarmed against an individual who was armed with something that was very deadly," Nienhuis said.
Susan Harris, executive director at Atria Senior Living Group, offered a brief statement to the media, but declined to answer questions.
"We're saddened and horrified at the events that happened at Atria Evergreen Woods
last night. Our hearts go out to the families and the victims, and we'll continue to work with law enforcement as long as needed," Harris said.
When asked after the press conference, an Evergreen Woods representative said the facility is directly reaching out to family members of their residents.
Murphy will be arraigned on April 22, booking records show.