Report: Murder defendant shaken by prison violence

Clay Curtis

Clay Curtis

FRONT ROYAL – A court-approved psychological evaluation of Clay Marshall Curtis, charged in the shooting death of Front Royal cab driver Simon Funk Jr., has found the defendant shows signs of “significant intellectual abilities” and is mentally competent to stand trial.

The evaluation by David Rawls, of Fishersville, stated that Federal Bureau of Prison records showed that Curtis had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, a product of decades spent behind bars where Curtis saw brutal violence, sights that resulted in his PTSD affliction.

The evaluation is part of the preparation for Curtis’ eventual trial on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder, use of a firearm while committing murder, and possession of a gun while committing murder.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton said the evaluation was arranged by him in February under a state law in accordance with a request from defense attorneys John Bell and David Hensley.

“A competency evaluation has to be requested, which the defense did,” Layton said.

Curtis, 63, is accused of the fatal shooting of Funk in December 2014, months after the defendant was released from the federal prison system.

A court document filed by Layton describes Curtis’ criminal convictions dating back to 1976; desertion from the military; robbery and use of a gun; several firearms-related convictions in the 1990s and a federal probation violation.

“He has contacts with the state of Maryland for multiple robbery, assault, drug and weapons charges in 1980 to 1982 with unspecified outcomes,” Layton wrote.

Rawls’ report states that Curtis blamed a drug habit and a lifestyle of “working during the day and partying at night” for spawning a string of armed robberies “to obtain money to support his drug habit.”

Rawls wrote that Curtis stated, “I was so carefree and drugged out that I couldn’t care less if they caught me.”

Before his descent into crime, Curtis had shown aptitude in a variety of more wholesome pursuits such as auto mechanics and musicianship, the psychological evaluation states.

Curtis shows no signs of major psychiatric trouble such as delusions or hallucinations, and “the manner in which he communicated was indicative of significant intellectual abilities,” Rawls wrote.

Rawls added, “It was apparent that his intellectual abilities were not adequately stimulated during his school years due to the composition of the schools he attended. He quit school in ninth grade and indicated he read all the time and was a ‘learning inclined person.'”

Curtis obtained a GED degree in 1971 and worked afterward in a pharmacy and U.S. mail facility, the report states.

Rawls wrote that Curtis began smoking marijuana, attending concerts during the early 70s.

Curtis immersed himself “in the spirit of the times and was involved in protest marches in Washington, D.C., where he met some notable figures of the era,” Rawls wrote.

Curtis, who is listed in court records as 5 feet 7 inches tall and 140 pounds, said his small frame made him vulnerable to “threats and aggression” in prison, the report states.

“Following parole in 1992, he said he did not use drugs,” Rawls wrote. “He recounted that he was out of prison a month when the claim was made that he possessed a firearm. Rather than the state charging him, he said he was charged in federal court. With new laws in effect, he was sentenced to 24 ½ years. He was adamant that he was framed and never possessed a firearm.”

Rawls stated that Bureau of Prison records show that Curtis spent “years in isolation at his wish to escape the violence.”

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

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