Ex-state Rep. Nunn charged with murder

Warrants served while he's in Hart County jail

ralessi@herald-leader.com, bestep@herald-leader.com, kward1@herald-leader.comSeptember 15, 2009 

MUNFORDVILLE — Lexington police have obtained an arrest warrant charging former state Rep. Steve Nunn with murder in the slaying of his former fiancée, Amanda Ross.

Nunn, 56, also was charged with violation of a protective order. The warrants have been served to Nunn, who is being held in the Hart County jail, police said.

Nunn, the son of former Gov. Louie B. Nunn, had been in The Medical Center at Bowling Green since Friday, when police found him in a Hart County cemetery with his wrists slit just hours after Ross was shot to death in Lexington.

Lexington police had said Nunn was someone they wanted to question in Ross's death, but they had not named him as a suspect.

As to the timing of the charges, Lexington police spokesman Lt. Doug Pape said, "We simply applied charges when we thought we had probable cause."

Dale Emmons, a close friend of the Ross family, said he was not surprised by the murder charges filed against Nunn.

"As soon as we heard the news, we all arrived at the same conclusion: that we thought that he had something to do with it," he said.

Emmons said he was surprised that the murder charge had "come this quickly."

Emmons said Monday night that Ross's family was focused on remembering her life and that there will be plenty of time in the weeks and months to come for discussion of the criminal case.

"We celebrate who Amanda was and what she did," he said.

Visitation for Ross is 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at The Carrick House; her funeral will be Wednesday.

Lexington police obtained the warrants late Monday evening — a few hours after Vice-Chief Regional District Judge Derek Reed had set Nunn's bond at $57,000 on six charges of wanton endangerment of a police officer in Hart County for allegedly firing a gun near police officers.

Nunn was taken to the Hart County Jail by Kentucky State Police shortly before 10:30 a.m. CDT Monday after spending the weekend in the hospital. He was scheduled to be back in court in Hart County at 11 a.m. next Monday for an arraignment.

Attorney Astrida Lemkins, who said she will be representing Nunn, initially thought Nunn would have been released Tuesday morning. That was before the murder charge was filed.

Lemkins said Nunn's bond for the wanton endangerment charges was high. "I've never heard anything so high, especially for something so questionable," and said the judge is "off the wall."

Pape said the courts will determine when Nunn will be transferred to Lexington.

Right after Ross' slaying, Lexington police said Nunn was "a person we would like to talk to."

According to court documents, when officers arrived at the Hart County cemetery, where Nunn's parents are buried, they saw Nunn with a handgun. They asked him to put down the gun, but it was fired in the area where the officers were standing. Nunn went to the ground along with the gun, documents say. Nunn was then taken to The Medical Center.

That Friday, at 6:36 a.m., Ross, 29, was found lying in the back corner of the parking lot at Opera House Square Townhomes, 541 West Short Street. She died later that morning at University of Kentucky Medical Center.

Lexington police notified other agencies to look for Nunn because he and Ross had had a tumultuous relationship that prompted a judge to grant Ross a domestic violence order against Nunn earlier this year.

Nunn entered an Alford plea — he admitted no guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to produce a guilty verdict — on Aug. 3 in Fayette County to a misdemeanor domestic violence assault charge.

On Monday, Emmons said Ross also got a license to carry a gun to protect herself after she obtained the protective order.

"Amanda used everything she could in the legal system to protect herself from a predator who was lying in wait for her, but nothing worked," Emmons said.

"She took proper training for it and got instructions on self-defense with a weapon," he said. "She was so scared, and she took steps to protect herself.

"She even lived in a gated community, but that still didn't protect her."

Emmons did not know what kind of gun Ross had. "I just know it was an expensive handgun, but I don't know what kind or where she got it."

Kentucky State Police, which keeps records of concealed deadly weapons, would not provide any information Monday on any gun permit for Ross. Shiann N. Sharpe, custodian of records for the state police, said such information is confidential and provided only to law-enforcement authorities.

Federal authorities with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they have considered investigating whether Nunn should be charged with having a gun while under a domestic-violence order.

It is a violation of federal law for someone to possess or obtain a gun while under such an order, said Kevin Kelm, resident agent in charge of ATF's Bowling Green office.

Kelm said federal authorities decided not to pursue such an investigation yet because ATF didn't want to risk getting in the way of the investigation of Ross's slaying.

Kelm said ATF considered filing a document, called a detainer, with the jail in Hart County so that Nunn would continue to be held even if he was going to post bond on the state charges. Federal police sometimes do that to make sure an inmate is not released from state custody without their knowledge while they're waiting to question or arrest the person.

ATF didn't consider investigating Nunn simply as a way to keep him behind bars while Lexington police investigated Ross's death, Kelm said.

"We definitely have a totally separate violation that we're looking at," he said.

Nunn, who was wearing a special jacket designed to prevent self injuries, was booked at the Hart County jail Monday morning. He later underwent a medical evaluation with a nurse, Hart County Jailer Keith Riordan said.

Jail officials did ask Nunn if he was suicidal. "He has answered no," Riordan said.

Riordan said he had planned to place Nunn in a cell by himself, although Nunn asked to be placed with the general population so he could watch Monday Night Football on ESPN. "That's what he said," Riordan said. "Apparently he's a football fan like myself."

If he is allowed to mingle with the jail's other 134 inmates, Nunn would be sharing a room with five to nine others, as opposed to a single cell — some as small as 8 feet wide and 8 feet long — with just a toilet and a bed, Riordan said.

"We don't take anything for granted; we will keep an eye on him," he said.

Riordan, who grew up about three miles from Nunn, said the former gubernatorial candidate seemed composed.

"He seemed alright," Riordan said. "I didn't ask him a whole lot because I knew the man's torn up. A man having been a lawmaker like he was, it's a bit embarrassing I'm sure."

Nunn declined a request to be interviewed by the Herald-Leader.

Herald-Leader reporters Jack Brammer and Greg Kocher contributed to this story.

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