WOODSTOCK – The court authorized defense attorneys to spend up to $4,000 to help a murder suspect hire an investigator to prepare for his defense.

Attorneys representing Todd Bly, 57, of Toms Brook, had to ask the court to approve funding to hire an investigator because they were appointed after Bly was found incapable of hiring an attorney himself.

The motion states that the defense has “identified potential avenues of defense with which an investigator would be helpful to explore,” as one of several reasons for the request.

Amanda Wiseley, the commonwealth’s attorney, said she did not take any position on the matter, stating it was up to the court to determine whether the request was warranted.

Recent coronavirus concerns also crept into the courtroom on Friday.

Although court continued without incident, Ryan Nuzzo, one of Bly’s attorneys, asked Judge William W. Sharp whether it would be prudent to expand the jury pool for Bly’s trial considering the potential health concerns COVID-19 is bringing.

Bly’s trial is not until May but, Nuzzo said, considering a combination of people calling out sick from jury duty and having children at home when they would normally be in school could make finding a jury difficult. Bly also has strong ties to the area, a factor attorneys were already faced with.

The hope, Sharp said, is that the coronavirus concerns will be more manageable by the time the court is preparing to pick a jury but agreed that widening the net is prudent. Sharp said the court would send out at least 200 summonses with a goal of returning half of them.

Bly is not set to appear in court again until his trial at the end of May and minor motions can be taken care of out of court, Sharp said. If necessary, Sharp told attorneys he will be sitting in Shenandoah County Circuit Court again on May 15 if his attention was needed.

There is a possibility he could hear motions in Warren County as well, he said.

Bly’s trial is set to begin on May 26 and go through May 28.

Contact Max Thornberry at mthornberry@nvdaily.com