UPDATED: Box of evidence is subject of Nunn hearing

prosecutors want to resume search

jhewlett@herald-leader.comJuly 9, 2010 

A box of personal items that murder defendant Steve Nunn asked a friend to keep for him the night before Amanda Ross was killed in Lexington was the subject of a hearing lasting more than two hours Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court.

Prosecutors were seeking a court order to continue a search of an external hard drive found in the box. Lexington police had begun searching the hard drive, but stopped after they found an image of what they believed to be child pornography, which might not be related to the Ross killing, according to prosecutors.

Attorneys for Nunn are against the court order and do not want the items that were in the box to be introduced as evidence. Nunn's attorneys say the box was sealed when Nunn gave it to his friend and authorities had no legal right to open and search the box and the hard drive.

After hearing testimony from several key witnesses — including Lexington police detective Todd Iddings, Barren County Sheriff Chris Eaton and Johnny Hutchison, Nunn's friend — Judge Pamela Goodwine decided to continue the hearing on Aug. 19.

Nunn, a former state lawmaker and the son of former Kentucky Gov. Louie Nunn, is accused of fatally shooting 29-year-old Ross, his former fiancée, on Sept. 11 outside her Lexington home.

Nunn did not appear at Thursday's hearing.

Sheriff Eaton testified Thursday that he picked up the box at Hutchison's home in Barren County, and that he and other officers in the sheriff's department looked inside the box to make sure there were no safety hazards. The sheriff said he saw what appeared to be a family photo album and loose pictures of naked women, several of whom he recognized. He said he did not remember the box being taped shut and that he did not look through the photo album.

Hutchison testified that the box was taped shut when he took it out of his vehicle, where Nunn had placed it the night before the killing, and when he gave it to the sheriff.

Hutchison said that, in addition to the box, Nunn had placed a "small, urn-like thing" in his vehicle after Nunn called him the night before the killing and asked him to keep some items for him.

"He (Nunn) just said he'd get them later," Hutchison said.

Prosecutors argued that Nunn had no intention of retrieving the box; he abandoned it.

Hours after Ross's shooting, Iddings said police found Nunn near the graves of his parents in a Hart County cemetery with the help of Nunn's ex-wife, Tracey Damron, and Nunn's sister, Jennie Lou Nunn Penn.

Damron, who was contacted by police just after the shooting, told them she thought they would find Nunn in the cemetery, Iddings said. Damron gave police Penn's phone number, and Penn gave them more specific directions to the cemetery, he said.

Steve Nunn turned a gun toward himself and fired as officers approached him, then fell to the ground, but there was no evidence Nunn had shot himself, Iddings said. Later, Nunn asked the officers to turn their backs and leave him alone for a couple of minutes so he could finish the job, Iddings said.

Police found a folder labeled "Psycho Bitch File" on the front passenger seat of a car that Nunn had driven to the cemetery, Iddings said. Inside the folder were what appeared to be fliers made for distribution with semi-nude photos of Ross and unflattering comments about her on them, the detective said. Later, police found gunshot primer residue on the car's steering wheel and gearshift, he said.

Iddings said that the vase, or urn, which was with the box he obtained from the sheriff, contained a small amount of marijuana. Another Lexington police detective said that the image police found on the hard drive was that of a 10- to 12-year-old female.

Among the media present at Thursday's hearing were two producers from the CBS Show 48 Hours. One of the producers, Peter Henderson, said they were researching and investigating the Nunn case because they think it might be an interesting story.

The prosecution is seeking the death penalty in the Nunn case.

Reach Jennifer Hewlett at (859) 231-3308 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3308.

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