Child custody dispute drawn into murder case

FRONT ROYAL — An attorney told a judge Friday that the homicide of Simon Funk Jr. was the result of an aborted multiple murder plot in which her client and her client’s family were the intended victims.

The homicide shooting of Simon Funk Jr. is still under investigation by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and no one has been charged so far.

But attorney Shelly Collette linked Carla Elliott, the sister of her client, to Funk and a man who was arrested Wednesday and described by the Sheriff’s Office as a “person of interest” in Funk’s death. Search warrant documents state that the man in custody is Clay Marshall Curtis, an acquaintance of Funk’s.

Curtis was arrested on charges unrelated to Funk’s death, according to law enforcement officials.

Collette is representing Sherry Downs of Front Royal in a dispute with Elliott over custody of Elliott’s 9-year-old special needs son. Elliott has been trying to get the boy returned to her after several years during which her sister has had custody of him. The case is being heard in Warren County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.

Collette said Downs and her family feared for their lives and wanted Judge William Sharp to issue a protective order requiring Elliott to stay away from all members of Downs’ immediate family.

Sharp gave Collette part of what she wanted. He issued a preliminary protective order prohibiting Elliott from committing crimes or abuse affecting members of the Downs family. But he stopped short of issuing a total ban on contact between all members of the Downs family and Elliott.

Visits between Elliott and her son would continue, but at Sherry Downs’ discretion, Sharp said.

Sharp scheduled a hearing for Jan. 23 for deciding whether to expand the protective order and make it permanent.

Sharp said Collette’s accusations about a murder plot targeting the Downs family was not a basis for making a ruling on the protective order she was seeking.

“I’m not going to issue an order on what is speculative information that is not part of the pleadings in this case,” Sharp said.

Elliott, who was in the courtroom with Downs, rejected the accusations of a murder plot. She asked Sharp to delay further action on the protective order to allow her to attend Funk’s funeral in the next few days.

Elliott told Sharp she was only interested in gaining custody over her son and would have no trouble abiding by a protective order banning her from contact with Downs and other members of her sister’s family.

“I have no desire to ever speak to her again, so that’s fine,” Elliott said of Downs.

In a brief interview after the hearing, Elliott continued to deny she had any intention of harming Downs.

“Her name has never been mentioned in the murder case,” Elliott said of Sherry Downs. “It’s never been brought up in this investigation. It’s false.”

Collette insisted in an interview after the hearing that Downs and her family were in danger.

“Unfortunately, a man is dead, and we have the belief that the actual target was Ms. Downs and her family,” Collette said.