Judge appoints two attorneys in murder case

Clay Curtis

FRONT ROYAL – A man accused of murdering a taxi driver in Warren County last December will get extra legal help.

Clay Marshal Curtis, 62, of Welch, West Virginia, stands charged in Warren County Circuit Court with first-degree murder and a related firearm offense for the Dec. 9 shooting death of Simon Funk Jr.

Curtis also is charged with second-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on the same date.

Curtis appeared in court Friday afternoon for a hearing on his attorney arrangements. Circuit Judge Ronald L. Napier appointed attorneys John Bell and David Hensley to represent Curtis. Napier specifically split the duties so that Hensley would represent Curtis on the first-degree murder charge. Bell represents Curtis on the second-degree murder charge. Napier left it up to the attorneys to decide who takes which of the two gun charges.

Napier deemed Curtis an indigent defendant who qualifies for court-appointed legal counsel. Hensley pointed out the “voluminous” amount of discovery evidence in the case that he and Bell would need to study. Napier scheduled the attorneys and their client to appear in the court Jan. 12 for further proceedings.

The judge, acknowledging the potential burden Curtis’ case could prove for one attorney, said earlier in court Friday that he sought guidance from the Virginia Supreme Court. Napier advised Commonwealth’s Attorney Brian Madden that he asked the high court if he could appoint more than one lawyer to represent Curtis. The Supreme Court only allows two court-appointed attorneys for defendants charged with capital crimes, Napier explained.

Then, at the suggestion of a circuit court official, Napier said he decided to split the defendant’s four charges between two appointed attorneys. Madden said that morning he would not object to that plan. Madden advised the judge that the charges are related to the same case.

Ryan Nuzzo withdrew as Curtis’ court-appointed attorney in mid October shortly after a grand jury indicted the defendant on the four counts. Nuzzo’s office had represented Funk in 2008 on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, which the court ultimately dropped.

Authorities arrested Curtis on a federal probation violation shortly before they discovered Funk, dead from an apparent gunshot wound, on Dec. 10 in the 700 block of Kildare Drive. Authorities did not charge Curtis with any offenses related to the shooting death until the grand jury handed down its indictments.

Curtis remains held without bond at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

Curtis faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

An earlier version of this story should have stated that Ryan Nuzzo withdrew as Clay Curtis’ attorney because his office had represented the alleged victim in the murder case, Simony Funk Jr.