Search spans 8,000 miles for accused Portage killer

Kalamazoo County

PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — In the week after the brutal death of his father, a suspect traveled more than 8,000 miles, including two trips to Seattle, before his arrest.

A Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputy finally spotted Scott Sterffy, 56, on Saturday at the Kalamazoo bus station, just minutes from the home the suspect shared with his father.

“You have a deputy there who’s been updated on hey, BOL (be on the lookout), we’ll keep an eye out for this guy and we put out pictures and thankfully, he had read it and he was diligent in what he was looking for and he saw this guy step off the bus and said, ‘Hey that’s our guy,'” Portage Public Safety Director Nicholas Armold said.

Police say Sterrfy, who has a history of mental illness, killed his father, well-known retired oral surgeon Dr. Thomas Aye, on July 24, possibly stabbing him with a kitchen knife in their home on Glencove Court off Swan Creek Drive in Portage.

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

Sterffy was arraigned Monday on charges of open murder and disinterment or mutilation of a body. He denied any involvement.

“These are terrible lies,” he told the judge. “I’ve never mutilated a body in my entire life. I’ve never killed anybody.”

Police said they are waiting for an autopsy report to determine an exact cause of death.

“There was definitely injuries to the doctor that were significant enough that allowed us to get that charge of dismemberment,” Armold said.

Aye’s body was discovered July 25 at his home by one of his daughters, who went to check on him after she couldn’t get in contact with him.

The morning after the death, the son flew from Kalamazoo to Detroit, then to Seattle, with police and U.S. Marshals a step behind, the public safety director said. Police said Sterrfy then caught a bus from Seattle headed east to Chicago.

“Now, is he in Chicago? Where is he?” the public safety director said, describing the search. “And while we’re working on that, we found out that he took another flight from Chicago back to Seattle.”

It was early Saturday that a Kalamazoo County sheriff’s deputy assigned to the bus station spotted him back in Kalamazoo.

Police said they haven’t pinpointed a motive for the death.

“We were informed by a family member that he had a history of mental illness,” the public safety director said.

Kalamazoo County Probate Court records show Sterrfy’s father had him involuntarily committed for psychiatric treatment in 1984, when he was 18. Records show the son was hostile, easily agitated and posed a threat to others. One doctor diagnosed possible schizophrenia.

Just before that, Sterrfy had legally changed his name in Florida from Christopher Aye, court records show.

Records also show Sterffy unsuccessfully asked a judge several years later to expunge the mental health record.

“Thomas Aye is my legal dad,” he wrote in the petition. “I am very upset with Dr. Aye for giving me a bum record….”

He wrote he was also as “mad as a spring hornet” at the deputy who took him into custody before he was sent for psychiatric treatment. He complained about his treatment at what he called the “luney farm.”

A judge on Monday denied Sterffy bond, which means he’ll stay behind bars while his case works its way through the justice system. He’s expected back in court for a hearing on Aug. 12.

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