Family, friends of Ross say Nunn's guilty plea is a relief

'it's the best thing ... for both families'

lblackford@herald-leader.comJune 29, 2011 

Friends and family of Amanda Ross expressed relief Tuesday that in pleading guilty to Ross's murder, former lawmaker Steve Nunn had taken responsibility for his actions and spared everyone a long and painful trial.

"I hope this will bring some peace to Amanda's mother and family," said Terry McBrayer, a Frankfort lobbyist and a friend of the Ross family. "At best, the trial would have been long and sordid. This might be the first day to start healing."

Nunn's sister, Jennie Lou Penn, also expressed relief.

"For all the families involved, we are just relieved that it's over. It's just a sad episode," Penn said. "We ... are relieved that the families don't have to go through a trial."

Rep. Jamie Comer, R-Tompkinsville, said he was glad for the Ross family and for Nunn's children that Nunn's plea would eliminate a trial.

"It's the best thing he could have done for both families," Comer said. The whole saga has been a tragedy for two politically prominent families, he said.

Ross was the daughter of the late Terrell Ross, the most prominent financier of public projects in the state as the founder of Ross, Sinclaire and Associates. Terrell Ross died in 2006.

Nunn, a Republican lawmaker from 1991 through 2006, is the son of the late Gov. Louie Nunn, a Republican who was elected governor in 1967. The Nunn political legacy has lived on in south-central Kentucky, particularly in Barren County, where the Nunns lived.

"I hate it that he tarnished his family's name because Louie Nunn is an icon in south-central Kentucky and in political circles all over the state," Comer said. "I'm very disappointed in how Steve Nunn turned out."

State Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, worked with Amanda Ross at Ross, Sinclaire & Associates. At one point, Ross worked as Damron's page on the House floor in the General Assembly and, when Ross later went to work at the Department of Insurance, they worked together on legislation, Damron said. Damron also served with Nunn in the General Assembly. Damron's wife knew Steve Nunn because they both were from Glasgow.

"All the lives kind of intertwined around each other," Damron said.

"It was a tragedy for all of us personally as well as for the state, losing someone with Amanda's talent," Damron said. "But I'm glad justice has been done and that hopefully the issue is resolved and that the family can move forward and not have to go through the turmoil of a trial and having all that relived again.

"I think it was an appropriate ending for the saga."

Nunn's ex-wife, Tracey Damron, said she also was pleased that Nunn's plea would spare both families. She's writing a book that includes entries from a journal she kept as she watched Nunn change from a lawmaker who wanted to do good into a man consumed with pain.

"He turned into this other human being right before my eyes," said Damron, who said she last talked to Nunn a month ago.

Damron said Nunn told her he did not want to "cause more pain than he had already caused" for his children and Amanda Ross's family.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a close friend of the Ross family, said he hoped Nunn's plea would bring closure to Amanda Ross's family. He also pledged to keep working on legislative efforts to help domestic-violence victims.

Stumbo spearheaded "Amanda's Law," a bipartisan effort passed shortly after her 2009 death that allows judges to order electronic monitoring in domestic-violence cases if certain violations of protective orders occur, such as assault, burglary or kidnapping. The tracking devices alert victims and police if alleged abusers get too close.

"I strongly encourage the courts to use this law in the appropriate situations because it's now clear that it could have made a difference for Amanda," Stumbo said in a statement. "We need to make sure that it does make a difference for anyone else who worries for their lives."

Domestic-violence activists said the case will help show that offenders can be punished.

"I think the message there is that we've finally agreed perhaps that violence against women and intimate partners calls for a very strong response and a very strong punishment," said Marcia Roth, director of the Mary Byron Project in Louisville. Mary Byron of Louisville was killed in 1993 by a former boyfriend who had been released from jail. "The attempt to say that it was a crime of passion and it mitigates the fact he murdered a woman he professed to love is no longer an argument that holds water."

Amanda Ross's legacy will be the law that carries her name, Roth said.

"The passage of Amanda's Law shows that we recognize much more has to be done in the area of domestic violence. We can't rest on what laws have been passed 30 years ago."

Darlene Thomas, executive director of the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program, said Ross's death was a huge loss, but it forced the community to refocus on domestic violence.

"It brought to light that nobody is immune," she said. "I am delighted that Steve Nunn will be held accountable. I think this is a good day for the Ross family."

Researcher Lu-Ann Farrar contributed to this story.

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