Accused murderer makes first court appearance

Clay Curtis

FRONT ROYAL – Accused murderer Clay Curtis may still need an attorney to represent him after the assistant public defender initially assigned to him asked Monday to withdraw from the case.

Ryan Nuzzo told Warren County Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp that a conflict of interest prevented the public defender’s office from representing Curtis, who is charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of Front Royal cab driver Simon Funk Jr.

Nuzzo said his office represented Funk in a 2008 case in which a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon was dropped. Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden said the case involved the discovery of a knife found under a vehicle seat.

Nuzzo said representing Curtis would force the public defender’s office to dig into its files on the Funk case. Doing so, Nuzzo said, raised problems with the preservation of attorney-client confidentiality as it related to the public defender’s representation of Funk.

“For these reasons, we do not feel comfortable representing Mr. Curtis,” Nuzzo said.

Hupp, after speaking skeptically about the conflict of interest claim, gave Nuzzo a few days to file a formal motion to withdraw and scheduled another hearing for 10 a.m. Monday.

Curtis, who is being held without bond at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, said nothing during his initial court appearance.

Curtis, 62, was arrested a few hours before Funk was discovered dead from a gunshot wound on Dec. 10 in the 700 block of Kildare Drive.

Authorities had already been seeking Curtis on a federal probation violation unrelated to Funk’s death, but the defendant had not been charged with any offense linked to the shooting until a Warren County grand jury indicted him in early October.

The grand jury also indicted Curtis on use of a firearm while committing a felony, possessing a weapon as a violent felon and attempted murder of another man whose role in the case remains unclear.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com