Hornell Police quickly moved on four search warrants that led to arrest

HORNELL — After the discovery of an apparent murder victim in a bedroom at an Arc of Steuben residence Monday morning, Hornell Police Department personnel acted quickly to obtain and execute four search warrants — a move authorities say was critical to arresting a suspect before the end of the afternoon.

Alan Schultheis, 64, of 224 Greeley Ave., Hornell was arraigned in Hornell City Court late Monday, charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the death of 60-year-old Jay Richard Sprague, a resident of the Arc home at 65 Elm St.

Meanwhile, in other developments

- The Arc of Steuben expressed “shock and sadness” in a statement sent to media outlets Tuesday. According to police, Sprague was an Arc client while Schultheis worked at 65 Elm St.

- Hornell’s top police officer called Monday’s violence “very surprising,” and he insisted the Maple City remains “a safe community.”

Hornell police have released very little about the evidence they say ties Schultheis to the homicide. In a Monday press release, Hornell police said, “Mr. Sprague, an Arc of Steuben client, was found deceased with a wound in his neck area.”

But on Tuesday, Inv. Thomas Aini, a Hornell Police Department sergeant, provided some insight into the early hours of the probe. Aini highlighted the importance of the four search warrants in building a case against Schultheis, who police said worked at the Elm Street house.

“We conducted a search warrant at the crime scene, his vehicle, and his person and his vehicle,” said Aini. “All those were quickly secured for the purpose of the investigation. It was very quick. Any time there’s a lag in time, it could tend to weaken particular evidence that was recovered. All the other scenes were quickly secured. He was secured. He was in police contact. The vehicle and his house were secured, and the crime scene was secured within an hour.”

Aini declined to address the specifics of the evidence.

“I can’t comment on what we have, any physical evidence that we have. All I can say is all those scenes were quickly secured,” he said.

While police quickly determined the death was a homicide, they have declined to say whether a weapon was involved or has been recovered.

“There are still parts of this investigation that are still ongoing,” Hornell Police Chief Ted Murray told The Spectator. “We don’t even have the autopsy results completely done and back, so we can’t really talk at this point about weapons.

“We’re confident that what we have reconstructed and with our interviews of people that indeed we do know what happened. There are no open issues that are of public concern at this point.”

Murray praised his department and the assistance provided by the New York State Police.

“I was very pleased with our initiating officers that went on the scene," he said. "They were able to determine very quickly that they had a potential homicide and they took immediate action to recover evidence that was vital to us putting together the pieces of what happened.”

The State Police Identification team, the Violent Crimes Investigative team, the Forensics Investigation Unit and Bath-based and Wayland-based investigators assisted Hornell authorities.

“There’s no better team of people to come out and do what they do as far as processing scenes,” Murray said. “We just don’t have the trained people, nor do we have the equipment or manpower to do what they’re able to do at these crime scenes.”

Schultheis pleaded not guilty during a brief appearance in Hornell City Court and he was remanded to the Steuben County Jail without bail. Judge David E. Coddington set the next hearing in the case for 8:30 a.m., Thursday.

Police said the 65 Elm St. home is an Arc of Steuben residence. Police called Schultheis a “supervisor of the clients” at the home, but they have been unable to detail his job duties or job title.

The Arc of Steuben issued a statement Tuesday. Bernie Burns, Arc of Steuben executive director, said the agency has been “shocked and saddened by (Monday’s) occurrence.”

Burns continued, “I assure you that we are cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter and will do whatever we can to ensure a thorough and effective investigation. Grief counselors are being mobilized to support our staff, families and the people that we serve, as our community continues to grieve and process yesterday’s difficult news.”

Burns also said, “The safety and well-being of the people we serve in this community is and continues to be, our utmost priority.”

Murray said State Police crime scene technicians remained at the Elm Street residence until about 7 p.m. Monday, after which it was turned back over to The Arc of Steuben.

The chief said Sprague’s death has triggered an outpouring of grief and questions.

“He had a large family and a lot of friends in the Hornell area, and a lot of them have been calling me throughout today and yesterday,” Murray said. “Our condolences certainly go out to them and to all of his family and friends. They’re very distraught over the situation. They want to know what happened to their loved one.

“Certainly it’s a painful situation for them, as certainly it’s a painful situation for the Hornell community to have something like this happen. It’s not very often that we have a crime of this nature occur.”

And the police chief offered assurances to a wary community, unaccustomed to homicides. Hornell's previous one was about four years ago.

In 2017, Dakota Miller, then 23, was convicted of second-degree murder for beating and killing 18-month-old Ian Maniske-Huff on Thanksgiving Day 2015.

Murray said the department was as surprised as anyone by Monday’s incident, noting, “Historically, we don’t have any history of violence occurring in any of those houses.”

Murray said the city remains a safe place to live.

“I hate for this to be a blemish on the City of Hornell because it is a safe community. This is just a crazy scenario type thing that was investigated quickly and taken care of. As far as this goes, there are no other threats to our city at all,” he said.