Court records: Money disputes before father killed

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The 82-year-old man brutally killed in his Portage home was so afraid of his son that he slept with a baseball bat next to his bed, court documents show.

Scott Sterffy, 56, is charged with killing and mutilating his father Dr. Thomas Aye at the home they shared.

Aye’s daughter told police her father was so mutilated that she couldn’t recognize him at first when she found his body.

Her brother, she said, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and their father had recently threatened to stop giving him money.

A photo of Dr. Thomas Aye. (courtesy Building Functional Esthetics)

Authorities say Aye, a retired oral surgeon, was killed July 24 in the home on Glencove Court off of Swan Creek Drive. A sworn statement from detectives filed with the Kalamazoo County Court, called a probable cause affidavit, says that Aye’s daughter went to check on him the next day because he hadn’t met her as planned and wasn’t answering her calls.

When she went to his home, she found him lying in a hallway with head injuries so severe that she couldn’t recognize him at first. She called 911.

“The scene surrounding Aye depicted a very violent encounter,” the document reads, though it does not explain what exactly that means.

It goes on to say that the medical examiner, in ruling the death a homicide, found puncture and blunt force trauma to the head as well as mutilation and dismemberment. It does not describe the nature of that dismemberment.

DISCORD BETWEEN FATHER AND SON

The probable document said Aye’s daughter said she didn’t see any signs that someone had broken in when she went to the house. Authorities say they found a bloody shirt balled up in Sterffy’s bedroom.

Father and son, Aye’s daughter said, had been disagreeing about money. She said Sterffy was a partial beneficiary to their father’s estate, which the document described as “quite substantial.” She said her brother often asked their father for large chunks of money and it was becoming a problem. Aye, she said, had told Sterffy earlier in July that he was cutting him off.

There was also longstanding tension between the father and son regarding Aye’s decision to have Sterffy involuntarily committed when Sterffy was 18. Aye’s daughter said Sterffy blamed their father for “ruining his life” and for alleged abuse he suffered while in the hospital. She said he used the situation to convince his father to give him money.

She told investigators that her brother was still mentally ill and that he has paranoid schizophrenia.

“(Aye’s daughter) also noted that her father was fearful of her brother to the point he would sleep with a baseball bat or other blunt objects near his bed for protection,” the probable cause document says.

THE SEARCH FOR STERFFY

As officers started looking for Sterffy, they talked to neighbors who said he had come “frantically” knocking around 4:30 p.m. July 24, asking to use the phone. One neighbor was alarmed by his disheveled appearance and wouldn’t let him in, but another did.

Sterffy called a ride sharing service and was taken to the local airport, the document says. Investigators say they ultimately found blood in that car.

Once at the airport, he was aggressive with workers from one airline so they refused to serve him, the document says. However, he was able to buy a one-way ticket to Seattle leaving the next day from another airline. Another ride sharing car took Sterffy back to the home on Glencove Court, then came and got him on the morning of July 25 and drove him to the airport around 8 a.m.

Sterffy made it to Seattle, then boarded a bus that took him to Chicago. Police soon realized that once there, he got on another plane headed back to Seattle. They knew he was there Thursday, July 29.

Then, early Saturday, a Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputy spotted Sterffy getting off a bus in Kalamazoo. He was arrested without incident.

Sterffy, 56, was formally charged Monday with open murder and disinterment or mutilation of a dead body. In court, he told the judge he hadn’t killed anyone.

“These are terrible lies,” Sterffy said. “I’ve never mutilated a body in my entire life. I’ve never killed anybody.”

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