Christopher M. Tunney will represent Schultheis; preliminary hearing expected soon

HORNELL — The Hornell man arrested Monday in the death of an Arc of Steuben client in an Elm Street residence will be represented by veteran criminal defense attorney Christopher M. Tunney.

Alan Schultheis, 64, of 224 Greeley Ave., made a brief appearance in Hornell City Court Thursday morning. Schultheis is charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with Monday’s death of 60-year-old Jay Richard Sprague.

Wearing Steuben County Jail-issued pants and a green sweatshirt, Schultheis did not speak during a court appearance that lasted less than five minutes. Steuben County Public Defender Shawn M. Sauro told City Court Judge David E. Coddington that Tunney, an assistant public defender who handles class A and B felonies for the office, would be representing Schultheis going forward.

Coddington said the next stage in the process is a preliminary hearing. He said the court would wait to hear from Tunney before scheduling a date for the session. Schultheis was remanded back to the county jail without bail.

Reached by The Spectator Thursday morning, Tunney, a former Steuben County assistant district attorney, confirmed that he will represent Schultheis and suggested that the preliminary hearing is likely to take place next week. Tunney said he has not seen any of the evidence yet, but has spoken to his client once so far.

For a preliminary hearing, Coddington will use the "probable cause" legal standard to decide whether the government has sufficient evidence that a crime was committed and that the defendant has committed a felony. If Coddington determines there is sufficient evidence at this stage of the process, the case will be held over for a Steuben County Grand Jury to consider indictments, legal sources said.

The “probable cause” standard is a much lower threshold for prosecutors to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard required for a jury to return a guilty verdict after a trial.

Hornell police sought Schultheis, reportedly an employee at the Elm Street residence, after emergency personnel found Sprague dead Monday morning in an upstairs bedroom at 65 Elm St. with a wound in his neck area, authorities said.

After investigators interviewed Schultheis at the Hornell Police Department, he was arrested and charged with second-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

Meanwhile, services for Sprague will take place at 6 p.m., Saturday at the Bender-Brown & Powers Funeral Home on Canisteo Street in Hornell. A lover of animals, especially horses, Sprague was born in North Hornell and had lived in the Hornell area for several years.