Louie Nunn accused son Steve of abusing him

bestep@herald-leader.com, ralessi@herald-leader.comSeptember 18, 2009 

GLASGOW — Former Republican Gov. Louie B. Nunn alleged in a 1994 letter that his son Steve, now charged with the murder of a Lexington woman, had physically attacked him and abused other family members.

Louie Nunn, who died in 2004, told his son he was too old and disabled to fight with him physically, and that the mental anguish caused by the attack "is more than I need."

Louie Nunn also said he didn't want having hurt his son physically or mentally on his conscience or his record.

"Therefore I respectfully request you never attack me physically again," the elder Nunn said in the handwritten letter to his son. "Neither do I intend to take any more verbal abuse from you."

Nunn warned that if his son ever attacked him again, he would have him charged with assault and seek a restraining order against him.

That would require bringing into court Steve Nunn's sister, children and former wife, Martha Lu Nunn, "all of whom you have abused," Louie Nunn said in the letter.

The nine-page letter was included in the court file of a divorce petition Beula Nunn, the former GOP governor's wife, filed against him in 1994 in Metcalfe County.

That letter, which revealed turmoil and tempers in the Nunn family, came to light on the same day Steve Nunn was transported from Hart County Jail to Lexington. He faces charges of murder and violating a protective order in the Sept. 11 shooting death of Amanda Ross in front of her Lexington home. Nunn, 56, is being held in the Fayette County Detention Center.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday at 1 p.m. by video, according to a spokeswoman for the Fayette County Sheriff.

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

Hours later, police found Steve Nunn, Ross's ex-fiancé, in the Hart County cemetery where his parents are buried with a .38 caliber handgun and his wrists cut.

Lexington Police searched Nunn's Glasgow home the night of the murder. Among the items they seized was a letter from Louie Nunn to Steve Nunn, according to an affidavit for a search warrant. It's unclear whether that letter — found in the master bedroom — was the same one that was filed with his parents' divorce proceedings.

During their search of Nunn's home alongside the Glasgow Golf and Country Club, police also found three guns, including a .38 special, in one of Nunn's side bedrooms. They took ammunition for a 9 millimeter gun and an automatic handgun from the master bedroom in Nunn's home, according to the affidavit.

A domestic violence order of protection Ross received in March against Nunn included a provision that barred Nunn from having a gun.

Family conflicts

Nunn, who was a state legislator at the time of his parents' divorce filings, sided with his mother, according to observers and court records. Beula Nunn, who had been treated for cancer, wanted out of her 40-plus year marriage to Louie Nunn before she died, but he fought the divorce.

A judge issued a divorce decree, but Louie Nunn later had it set aside. There were still property issues pending in the divorce when Beula Nunn died in 1995.

During the divorce proceedings, the father and son had a bitter falling out. Louie Nunn's letter to Steve was not dated, but was written sometime around Sept. 15, 1994. That's when Louie Nunn said he planned to move back into the home he and Beula had shared near Horse Cave. He ordered Steve, who had moved in with his mother after his own divorce, to be out of the house before then.

"Take with you everything that is yours and nothing more," Nunn told his son.

Louie also told Steve to give two hours notice before visiting Beula so that the former governor could leave the house.

The split between the former governor and his son — which they patched up before Steve ran for governor in 2003 — has been well known. Louie Nunn died of a heart attack in 2004.

The letter, however, offers more evidence of the split. And Louie's claim that Steve attacked him, while known to some in Barren County, hasn't received widespread attention.

The former governor considered filing assault charges against his son, said Joe Layne Travis, who was Louie Nunn's lawyer.

"He did discuss it with me, and I suggested he not do it," Travis recalled. "It was a family matter, and I just thought this could only make things worse."

Astrida Lemkins, Steve's attorney in the murder case, said she hadn't seen the letter and wasn't aware of that conflict between the father and son. But she said anything that comes out in a divorce case should be "taken with a grain of salt."

"What's the old saying: You see the best of the bad people and the worst of good people in divorce cases," she said.

Joe Bill Campbell, one of the lawyers for Beula Nunn, said he didn't recall the letter and didn't remember any allegations of abuse against any of the Nunns, including Steve.

"Any discussions I had with Steve, as I recall, was pretty much what you'd expect from an adult child — hopeful that the parents could get the issues resolved without it developing into something terribly contentious."

Crime scene details

The search warrant affidavit included new details about the alleged shooting, including that witnesses heard Ross screaming "No" repeatedly before the shooting. One witness saw an unidentified man running along the townhouses away from Ross and toward the neighborhood's gate on Bruce Street, the affidavit stated.

According to the affidavit, police spoke with witnesses who said Nunn told them the day before the shooting "that his life wasn't worth living and that Ms. Ross had ruined his reputation."

The document also noted that Nunn on Sept. 10 asked the owners of Borders Monument Co. in Glasgow to add a death date of Sept. 11, 2009, to a grave headstone Nunn had previously ordered.

In addition, Nunn called his ex-wife at 11:30 p.m. the night before the shooting and "told her where the key was to his residence and asked her to take care of his daughters."

Police also took a computer, several computer memory sticks, Nunn's passport, his bedsheets, a DVD, four rolls of film and two cameras. They seized two letters, including one written to Nunn from his father that was found in the master bedroom. Officers also picked up a box of Nunn's personal items that he had given to Johnny Hutchinson, a friend, for "safekeeping."

Lemkins, Nunn's attorney, declined to comment about the affidavit.

Until Thursday night, Nunn had been in the Hart County Jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in Hart County on six wanton endangerment charges for waving a gun at officers who found Nunn in the cemetery Friday.

Police took from the car Nunn drove to the cemetery a file, which included photos of Ross, letters to her and other personal items, according to the affidavit.

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