Ex-wife recounts Nunn's despair

DARK TIMES BEGAN AFTER FATHER'S DEATH

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comSeptember 15, 2009 

Former state Rep. Steve Nunn realized in recent weeks that a domestic violence charge filed by ex-fiancée Amanda Ross had permanently damaged his career, ex-wife Tracey Damron said Monday.

Nunn took to his bed for two days last month after he entered an Alford plea — he admitted no guilt but acknowledged there was enough evidence to produce a guilty verdict — in the domestic violence case, said Damron, who has remained close with her former husband and has spoken to him several times in recent days.

"He wanted his day in court," she said. "He felt like he had sold out."

Nunn's outlook grew worse after an alleged visit last week to Gov. Steve Beshear's office.

Nunn, who was forced to resign his job as Beshear's deputy secretary for Health and Family Services after the domestic violence allegations became public in March, told Damron that his friends in Beshear's administration treated him "like he had the plague."

"They may have treated him like he was a king," said Damron, but the deeply depressed Nunn perceived that he had been snubbed.

Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Beshear, said Nunn and the governor did not meet last week. Blanton also said he was not aware that Nunn asked anyone for a meeting with Beshear.

No incident or other person is to blame for what has happened to Nunn, a former gubernatorial candidate, Damron said. "It's not how he was treated; it's not Amanda," she said. "It was Steve's choice."

She called Ross a "beautiful, wonderful girl."

Damron, who divorced Nunn about three years ago, said she didn't know the Steve Nunn whom police found Friday with slit wrists at his parents' graves hours after Ross was found shot to death outside her downtown Lexington home.

Lexington police charged Nunn with murder in Ross' slaying Monday. He also was charged with violation of a protective order. Ross obtained a protective order against Nunn last spring.

Nunn remains in the Hart County Jail, where he also faces six charges of wanton endangerment of a police officer. Police say Nunn brandished and fired a gun in the cemetery where his parents — former Gov. Louie B. Nunn and Beula Nunn — are buried.

Damron said she asked Nunn after he had been taken into custody by police why he didn't tell someone of his increasing despair. "I couldn't," she said he replied.

Damron said Nunn never physically abused her when they were married.

In court testimony, Ross accused Nunn of striking her on Feb. 17 and throwing her against a hallway lamp, breaking it. She said he then threw a cup of bourbon in her face.

Nunn countered that Ross blocked his path to prevent him from leaving her apartment. "I admit I did slap her face, and she stopped attacking me," he said during testimony.

Damron said Nunn wanted to fight the domestic violence charge by showing photographs of injuries he allegedly received from Ross. Meanwhile, friends of Ross have said she was fearful of being attacked by Nunn in recent weeks.

Nunn's politically storied and powerful family also had serious domestic problems.

In 1994, less than a month before their 44th anniversary, Nunn's mother filed for divorce from his father, who was governor from 1967 and 1971.

Beula Nunn also sought a restraining order to prevent her husband from coming to their home, contending his contact with her had been "extremely stressful, both physically and mentally," according to Herald-Leader archives.

Beula Nunn was granted a divorce in 1995 a few months before she died.

Damron said that Steve Nunn was estranged from his father for 12 years and that they had been reconciled for only a few months when Louie Nunn died of a heart attack in 2004.

After Louie Nunn's death, Steve Nunn turned into a stranger, cold and distant, Damron said.

"He was the most gentle, loving man," said Damron, who was married to Nunn for 10 years. "Then he went into a deep, dark hole. The grief was too heavy for our marriage."

State Rep. Tom Burch, D- Louisville, shared Damron's assessment.

"He was more depressed and he began some drinking," Burch said. "Then it got steadily worse. I talked to Steve a couple of times about his drinking and asked if he could cut back."

Burch said Nunn had told him that he had hopes of returning to work in Frankfort after the domestic violence charges were resolved.

"I would have gone to bat for him," Burch said.

Nunn had not worked since he lost his cabinet position, Damron said.

The domestic violence charges against Nunn weren't his only involvement in the legal system this year. In July, he filed charges against Jessica D. Williams, 25, of Louisville, alleging she fraudulently used his Lexus Visa credit card to buy $722 worth of items from Victoria's Secret, according to court documents.

Nunn said Williams was at his home in Glasgow late July 8 and early the next day when she used his credit card and computer to shop online and pay her AT&T Mobile phone bill of $381.

Nunn also said Williams stole two cell-phone chargers and took five $100 bills from his wallet before she left.

After Williams returned to Louisville, she also used his credit card for other charges, Nunn said. Those charges weren't described in the Barren County complaint.

Williams was charged with one felony and two misdemeanor counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, and one felony and four misdemeanor counts of theft. She was to be arraigned July 27, but the hearing was postponed until Oct. 28.

Reporter Bill Estep contributed to this story. Reach Valarie Honeycutt Spears at (859) 231-3409 or 1-800-950-6397.

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