Grandson Of Prominent Saugatuck Area Business Owners Tried To Kill Them After Stealing Almost $75,000 From Their Home; A.J. Starring To Be Sentenced Monday, Jan. 25
In a bizarre case involving grand theft, stolen guns, drugs, arson and attempted murder of prominent Saugatuck area business owners, their grandson will be sentenced this Monday (Jan. 25) in Allegan County Circuit Court and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Andrew John (A.J.) Starring, 19, a graduate of Saugatuck High School, was arrested last October by the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office on charges of burglary, forced entry of a residence (home invasion), arson of a residence endangering life, larceny, possession of a firearm in commission of a crime, and assault involving attempted murder.
In a plea bargain deal, Starring plead guilty on Dec. 21, 2015 to 2nd degree arson (willful burning of a dwelling or its contents) which carries the possible 20-year prison sentence.
Starring, who along with his mother admitted to authorities his long history of drug and alcohol abuse, set a basement room of his grandparents’ home on fire last October in an apparent attempt to kill them after his grandfather reported to authorities the theft of almost $75,000 in cash from their home.
Starring’s grandparents - Linus and Janice Starring - are owners of the popular Saugatuck Dune Rides.
A.J. Starring has admitted to stealing almost $75,000 in cash from his grandparents’ home on October 9, 2015, after donning a disguise, breaking into the basement of their home, then walking upstairs to an office area and jimmying open a locked desk drawer that held envelopes full of cash the couple used as petty cash for their business.
Investigators noted that for some reason the thief did not take another $420 in cash that was laying atop an adjacent desk in the room.
Linus Starring later alerted the detectives that he suspected his grandson in the theft and that A.J.’s mother had told him her son kept a safe in the basement of her home where her son was staying.
A.J. Starring later admitted to sheriff’s detectives he stashed the stolen money - along with some illegal drugs - in that safe.
When first questioned by detectives about the incident, A.J. Starring denied any involvement, calling his grandparents “pieces of sh—” who had not replaced a $43,000 car they had given him for high school graduation that only a few weeks later he wrecked; that they told him they were going to pay for him to attend college, but later stopped payments; and that his grandparents were going around telling people he had embezzled money from Saugatuck Dune Rides where he worked that previous summer.
In addition, according to county investigative records, A.J. Starring’s mother met with Allegan County Sheriff’s detectives and told them that she had a conversation with her son on Oct. 14, 2015, during which A.J. Starring admitted to her that he had broken into his grandparents home, stole the almost $75,000, and then while they were sleeping, he had taken some waste oil and a fuel canister from a small Tiki torch and spread it on the floor and a bed and then lit the tiki torch in an attempt to set the house on fire.
A.J. Starring then told his mother he sneaked out of the house. The next day he returned to his grandparents’ home where he watched them from nearby woods as they left their residence. He then, again, snuck back inside to check on the still-smoldering fire, according to the investigative records.
According to investigation records, A.J. Starring’s mother told detectives that her son also admitted during this crime spree to wearing size 10 boots - even though he normally wears size 13 - so as to throw authorities off.
He then left to go visit his then-girlfriend where he used part of the stolen cash to buy dinners, go out to a Holland club and buy drinks, purchased video games and other items.
In the meantime, authorities had obtained a search warrant to seize A.J. Starring’s hidden safe after he admitted to them during an earlier interview he owned one, but refused to give permission to let them view its contents.
When detectives seized and broke open the safe, they found stacks of the stolen cash, along with some drugs and other items. They later seized stolen guns as well.
In another frightening admission to his mother that she reported to detectives, according to investigation records, A.J. Starring told her that “if everything works out with this (stolen) money” - meaning detectives would give it back to him since he lied and told them it was money he had earned from working and selling drugs and other items - he was “going to burn down his grandparents house…and take a gun and shoot both of them.”
A.J. Starring, according to authorities, had several guns in his possession that they later seized.
His mother also informed detectives that her son told her that after he murdered his grandparents he was going take his motorcycle and drive to South Haven where he lived with his mother, burn the clothes he would wear during the killings, throw the gun he would use to kill them in the river and then drive to Kalamazoo to spend time with his girlfriend and use her as his alibi.
A.J. Starring told his mother he thought he could drive his motorcycle fast enough to Kalamazoo so there would be little time between the murders and his arrival at his girlfriend’s home so his alibi would be believed by investigators.
A.J. Starring’s mother told the detectives she was extremely frightened for her own safety and that of her parents.
“She (the mother) is very concerned that he (A.J.) is going to be upset that she is telling the police what he had told her,” according to the investigation records obtained by The Local Observer.
The mother also told detectives that her son told her that on the night he broke into his grandparents’ home, stole the money and set fire to the house, that he wore a mask and that his grandparents’ dog started barking at him because he didn’t know who he was.
“He then lifted up his mask and had talked to the dog, called the dog by name and the dog calmed down,” according to A.J. Starring’s mother, the records show.
Authorities also say they believe A.J. Starring had stolen thousands of additional dollars from his grandparents’ business - Saugatuck Dune Rides - while employed there.
In an unrelated twist, detectives also learned from the mother that in spring 2015 A.J. Starring had been shot by a person in South Haven while they were playing with a gun and taken to a hospital, but he later told authorities he shot himself. No charges were filed.
Additionally, when detectives asked the mother about a gun she had reported stolen a year or two ago, she told them her son had admitted to her that he had stolen the weapon, but that it was later stolen from him and its whereabouts is unknown, according to investigation records obtained by The Local Observer.