Alan Schultheis charged with Elm Street murder of Jay Sprague

HORNELL — A resident of an Arc of Steuben house in Hornell was found dead from an apparent neck wound Monday morning, and an employee at the home has been charged with his murder.

The day of stunning, quick moving events started with a 7:39 a.m. 911 emergency call from 65 Elm St. followed by the discovery of the victim — 60-year-old Jay Sprague — dead in an upstairs bedroom.

“Based on evidence found at the scene, investigators interviewed a suspect, Alan Schultheis, 64, of 224 Greeley Ave., Hornell,” Hornell Police Chief Ted Murray said during an afternoon press conference at police headquarters.

Murray, reading from a prepared statement, continued, “After interviewing Mr. Schultheis at the Hornell Police Department, he was arrested and charged with murder in the second degree for his involvement in the death of Mr. Sprague. The New York State Police Identification team is assisting at the location of the event, and this portion of the investigation is ongoing.”

Hornell Police Sgt/Inv. Tom Aini, Steuben County District Attorney Brooks Baker, New York State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Lt. Samuel P. Spezio, State Police Lt. Jason Haag and Hornell Mayor John Buckley joined Chief Murray in announcing the arrest.

Buckley said, “Our heart goes out to the victim’s family, our condolences to them. It’s obviously a rough time.”

Murray said he spoke to the victim’s family.

“(Sprague’s) got a large family in the Arkport area. I talked to several members of the family, and they’re just floored by the whole thing, understandably so,” Murray said. “They were so broken up when I talked to them. They just talked about what a wonderful person their brother was, and they couldn’t understand what happened.”

The mayor praised the law enforcement officials for their investigation.

“Obviously this is very unsettling for this to happen in the City of Hornell,” Buckley said. “We want to thank the Hornell Police Department for their rapid response along with our partners in the State Police. They deployed numerous assets to the City of Hornell.”

Baker also picked up on the theme of law enforcement agencies working together.

“This is another situation where cooperative efforts of law enforcement, the Hornell Police department and the New York State Police, have led to the rapid closure of a very difficult case,” Baker said. “This is a situation where in approximately eight hours we’ve gone from a 911 call to arresting someone for murder.

“I would indicate that the only suspect in this case has been arrested, and we are not seeking additional suspects, so there is no one else we believe is at large," Baker added. "The investigation itself does continue, but we are not looking for additional people in this case.”

Schultheis, who was not at the Elm Street house when he was picked up by police for initial questioning, was also charged with tampering with physical evidence for “attempting to dispose evidence of the crime,” Baker said.

Schultheis made a brief court appearance late Monday afternoon in front of Hornell City Court Judge David E. Coddington, who remanded him to the Steuben County Jail without bail and signed an order of protection barring Schultheis from having any contact with the Elm Street residence, staff or residents of the facility.

Coddington set a hearing for 8:30 a.m., Thursday in Hornell City Court. Schultheis, who was represented at Monday’s court appearance by the Steuben County Public Defender’s Office, told the judge he would seek a private attorney to represent him.

Baker declined to answer questions about a possible motive, whether there are eyewitnesses to the alleged attack or the nature of the evidence investigators have collected.

“The investigation is ongoing,” he said. “A motive is not something that we have to prove in a criminal case. So we believe we have the person who committed the crime placed under arrest. As far as how and why, that’s not something we can really talk about at this stage of the investigation.”

Both Baker and Murray confirmed that Schultheis had a connection to the residence.

“At this stage we’re aware that he was an employee,” Baker said. “As far as what his job duties were, and what they were at the time of the attack, we’re not clear at this stage of the investigation.”

Murray said, “I don’t know exactly what his job title was, but he was someone at the house, supervising clients.”

The Elm Street residence remained a crime scene late into Monday night.

“The facility is currently under law enforcement control while our search continues and we gather evidence,” Baker said. “At this stage it has not been reopened, and I’m not sure when it will be.”

Murray said he is proud of police department personnel.

“A lot of the credit goes to our first responding officers on the scene. They did a fantastic job as far as finding out what was going on, collecting evidence, and developing a suspect in a very rapid manner and interviewing that same suspect,” Murray said.

Buckley highlighted the work of Hornell Police Inv. Aini.

“He came in here on his day off just to see this investigation through,” Buckley said. “I cannot say enough about our guys here at Hornell P.D. They acted quickly, got the person off the street. Obviously the investigation continues, but our guys did a tremendous job.”

The New York State Police Violent Crimes Investigative team, its Forensics Investigation Unit and Bath-based and Wayland-based investigators are assisting on the case, (BCI) Lt. Spezio said.