Nunn slits wrists after ex-fiancée slain

aclark@herald-leader.combestep@herald-leader.comSeptember 11, 2009 

State police Det. Tim Adams, left, and Lexington police Det. Tim Russell collect evidence where polcie said they found Steve Nunn in Hart County where his parents are buried.

After months of trying to use the legal system to protect herself from her former fiancée, 29-year-old Amanda Ross was found shot to death early Friday outside her home in downtown Lexington.

Hours later, the man she feared, former state representative and one-time gubernatorial candidate Steve Nunn, was taken into police custody at the edge of the Hart County cemetery where his parents are buried.

Nunn had slit his wrists after placing mementos on his parents' graves, officers said.

Nunn was charged with six counts of wanton endangerment of a police officer after police say he fired a .38-caliber handgun when officers began arriving at the cemetery. Nunn, 56, was listed in fair condition in a Bowling Green hospital late Friday.

Lt. Douglas Pape, Lexington police spokesman, said Nunn was a person that detectives "would like to talk to" in relation to Ross's death.

No charges had been filed in the slaying as of late Friday.

There were no witnesses to the early-morning shooting, though neighbors in Ross's gated townhome complex said they heard five shots fired and heard Ross scream.

Lexington police received a call about the shooting at Opera House Square Townhomes at 6:34 a.m. Officers arrived at 541 West Short Street minutes later and found Ross lying in the back corner of the parking lot.

After finding Ross, police had issued an alert to other police agencies for Nunn, who is the son of the late Gov. Louie B. Nunn and was a candidate for governor in 2003.

State troopers L.D. Hodges and J.S. McChesney, who are based out of Bowling Green, searched for Nunn near Glasgow, his hometown.

According to Hodges, the two troopers first went to the Nunn house, which they call The Mansion.

"He looked up to his dad, and it seemed like a good place to start," Hodges said.

Troopers decided to try the cemetery by Cosby United Methodist Church near the Barren County-Hart County line, where Nunn's parents are buried.

About 10 a.m. Central time, near the late first lady's grave, Hodges said the two troopers saw a holster. They spread out, soon spying Nunn 30 or 40 yards away, down a slight incline, at the edge of the cemetery. Nunn had a handgun, which they asked him to put down. At some point, Hodges said, Nunn fired the weapon, though not at them. He immediately threw down his weapon, Hodges said.

Hodges and McChesney say that Nunn offered no resistance. He was taken by ambulance to The Medical Center in Bowling Green. He was lucid and talking all the way to the hospital, said Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton, who rode in the ambulance with Nunn.

"He's fine," said Eaton, who has been friends with Nunn for about 20 years. "He's talking and stuff like that."

Eaton said Nunn initially told the sheriff that he had shot himself, but "he does not have a gunshot wound whatsoever," said Eaton. Officers discovered Nunn's daughter's Honda Civic at the church, Eaton said.

Nunn was in fair condition as of Friday night, according to hospital spokeswoman Doris Thomas. His wounds are "not life-threatening," said KSP's Jonathan Biven. Nunn remained under police supervision and will be held in the Hart County Jail after he is released from the hospital.

Domestic troubles

Many, especially associates of the 56-year-old Nunn, had been shocked by the couple's domestic troubles. On Friday, they were similarly shocked to hear of Ross'sdeath and Nunn being found later in Hart County.

Family and friends say Ross feared for her safety after an incident of domestic violence.

Late Friday night, her family released a statement: "Words cannot express the sorrow and emptiness that we all feel. We hope that this travesty will demonstrate that domestic violence can happen to anyone at anytime. And, as a family, we plan to fight for those victims, like Amanda, that cannot fight for themselves."

Political consultant Dale Emmons, a close family friend, said Ross's resolve to stay safe from Nunn was evidenced in her willingness to seek court protection.

According to court documents and testimony, Nunn and Ross began dating in September 2007, and he moved into her home in March 2008. He moved out in October, shortly after they were engaged, because the "relationship had deteriorated," Nunn said during a hearing in March.

According to testimony, they remained in contact for several months, and he was at her home after dinner the night of Feb. 17. Ross alleged that Nunn struck her four times in the face that night and threw her against a hallway lamp, breaking it. She said he then threw a cup of bourbon in her face.

But Nunn said during the hearing that Ross blocked his path to prevent him from leaving her apartment.

Nunn testified that he "struggled" for 20 minutes to reach the stairs. He described Ross as "strong like a bull" because she worked out with a personal trainer twice a week.

"I admit I did slap her face, and she stopped attacking me," he said during testimony.

Nunn said Ross offered to let him leave if he let her strike him in the face. She did so, cutting his face with her ring, he said.

Nunn disputed Ross's assertion that he threw her into the lamp. Rather, he said, Ross threw him into the lamp and then made him vacuum up the mess.

The judge said he wasn't sure it mattered who did what, but said that there was evidence that Nunn had struck Ross and that it was enough to enter the domestic violence order.

Ross noted in her Feb. 18 domestic violence complaint: "I called police because this has happened many times before."

The assault and criminal mischief charges originally filed in February had deeply embarrassed Nunn, effectively ending his political career and forced him to resign his job as Gov. Steve Beshear's deputy secretary for Health and Family Services. That job included oversight duties for domestic violence programs.

In July, Ross reiterated her fear of Nunn, asking a judge to hold Nunn in contempt of the domestic violence order of protection. According to court documents, Ross alleged that Nunn had violated the restraining order by publishing "tampered photographs" of her.

Attorneys for Nunn and Ross came to an agreement Aug. 3 that required Nunn to return all of his pictures of Ross and to "take affirmative steps to secure the destruction of any photographs outside of his possession but provided by him to a third party," according to court documents.

Many who know Nunn say that his personal problems began to spiral out of control after he resigned his state post in March. Nunn entered an Alford plea — he admitted no guilt, but acknowledged there is enough evidence to produce a guilty verdict — on Aug. 3 in Fayette County to a misdemeanor domestic violence assault charge.

"We were all concerned with the incident that cost him his job at the cabinet," said Sheila Schuster, an advocate for the mentally disabled and mentally ill — issues Nunn worked on as a legislator in Frankfort. "We all hoped at that time that he was getting the help that he needed."

Nunn was scheduled to return to court on this matter in November.

Emmons, a confidante to Ross, said the young professional woman didn't scare easily, but she was afraid of Nunn. "She was not a timid person," he said. "She was not a person you could walk all over.

"She did everything she could to protect herself.".

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service