Documents tell of Steve Nunn's desperation

City releases hundreds of pages from investigation

jkegley@herald-leader.com, jhewlett@herald-leader.comAugust 4, 2011 

As police in Hart County closed in on Steve Nunn after he murdered his ex-fiancée in downtown Lexington on Sept. 11, 2009, the former state lawmaker apologized to his daughters by phone.

Seven days after the killing, Mary Elizabeth Nunn and Katharine Courtney Nunn told police officers of the disturbing play-by-play they received from their father, who called them from a cellphone the day Amanda Ross was murdered.

Nunn told his daughters that he was sitting near the graves of his parents in Hart County and that he had slit his wrists and was going to die.

"He just kept saying he was sorry," they told police.

A summary of the police interview with the two women was among hundreds of pages of documents released Wednesday by the Urban County Government in response to the Lexington Herald-Leader's request under the Kentucky Open Records Act.

Nunn, the son of former Gov. Louie Nunn, pleaded guilty in June to murdering Ross and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The files contain search warrants, email messages and summaries of interviews with Ross's and Nunn's friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

The documents tell of Nunn's descent from an influential and well-liked political figure into a despondent, self-destructive alcoholic fighting depression — a battle that seemed to reach a turning point when Ross took out a domestic violence protection order alleging Nunn had hit her, causing him to lose his job with the state.

Perhaps the most dramatic of the interviews came from his two daughters.

While at the cemetery, Nunn told his daughters the names of those he wanted to speak at his funeral, and he apologized for "embarrassing them." At one point, he seemed to pass out, and several times their phones dropped the connection.

Nunn told them when he saw an officer go into the tall grass on a hill near where he was sitting. As police got closer, the girls heard someone say "Hey, Steve, put the gun down."

He then hung up. Presumably, that's when he fired into the air the remaining round from the .38-caliber revolver police said he used to kill Ross.

Nunn and his daughters had talked on the phone for 11/2 to 2 hours, they told police. He did not talk about Ross, and the daughters did not tell their father they knew Ross had been found dead earlier that morning.

Like many of Nunn's acquaintances, the daughters told police they had noticed a pointed shift in Nunn's personality since Ross took out the domestic violence order, which prompted his resignation from the state's Cabinet for Health and Family Services in March 2009.

"Since then he had gone into a really deep depression ... and his phone, which used to ring off the hook, had received progressively fewer calls," the report said.

The daughters said they had dinner with Nunn on the Monday before the killing, and Nunn "wasn't his self."

Courtney Nunn told police she had helped her father type his résumé and send an email to a Lexington counseling center, which they considered a sign of progress.

Yet Nunn still talked about what would happen when he died.

"He had made statements to them that if anything ever happened to him, don't let their mother take over and to be strong," the document said.

A visit to Frankfort

On the surface, Nunn seemed pleasant and composed in the days leading up to the killing. Several former co-workers said he looked well during a trip to Frankfort two days before Ross was murdered. He seemed in good spirits.

In a cordial meeting with Adam Edelen, former chief of staff for Gov. Steve Beshear, Nunn said he was in Frankfort "to let people like you know reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."

But friends told police they were aware that Nunn was paying for sex with women he met online and that he had a collection of pornography, including a scrapbook of photos of women he had slept with.

Carol E. Jordan, a former co-worker of Nunn, told police there were two sides to Nunn, "a personal public side that was friendly, outgoing and charming. Then another side that she felt, but had no proof of, was tormented because he was a victim of violence from his father," according to an investigative file.

Nunn told friends that Ross was to blame for his tarnished image and the loss of his "dream job."

Nunn told his friend Danny Gibson of Glasgow he couldn't believe that he was out $130,000 in attorney fees and that he had to do 130 hours of community service for the domestic violence charges.

Nunn told Gibson that Ross had ruined his life. Gibson replied that Nunn had ruined his own life when he hit her. Gibson said Nunn told him: "Well, she hit me first."

No one reported hearing Nunn threaten to hurt Ross except in veiled hints.

Three months before the killing, Nunn complained to Larry Brandstetter, who worked with Nunn for the state, that he got "a raw deal" from the justice system.

Nunn told Brandstetter he could not get a job because people had lied about him in court. In what Brandstetter thought was a joke, Nunn said: "I don't know if I should murder somebody or go get a job," the report said.

Jimmy Bewley, who described himself as a lifelong friend of Nunn, also had seen Nunn shortly before the murder. The two had chatted and washed Nunn's car.

Nunn was depressed, but he never mentioned harming Ross or killing himself. Like many of Nunn's friends, Bewley encouraged Nunn to turn his life around.

When Nunn told Bewley "he didn't know what he was going to do," Bewley said: "You're going to pick yourself up and go get a job, that is what you are going to do."

Bewley told police he was concerned for his friend even though Nunn's penchant for women, drinking, driving fast, and rock and roll had caused the two to drift apart.

Bewley told police of the scrapbook of nude photos.

"Every time that Jimmy was at his house, he (Nunn) had a scrapbook of naked women that he would try to show," the report said.

Even after the killing, Nunn did not admit his guilt; he only apologized.

A day after the killing, while in a hospital, Nunn called Gibson and thanked him for being a good friend. Glasgow physician Phillip Bale, another friend, told police Nunn called him the day after the killing and said "no one could have stopped him."

Bale took that to mean nobody could have stopped Nunn from killing Ross.

Bewley regularly visited Nunn at the Fayette County jail; the two maintained their friendship even though Bewley thought Nunn was guilty and didn't condone it. Nunn complained about never getting to see his grandchildren, and he regularly told Bewley how many days he had been in jail.

"Bewley has scolded him about that," the document said. "Bewley told him he needs to stop counting days."

Ross feared for her life

Ross had regularly told her friends and co-workers of her fear that Nunn would kill her.

Before filing charges against Nunn, Ross told friends she had seen him hanging around her townhome and peeking into her windows. She told a friend she once saw him duck into the shadows of a narrow walkway beside her home, which she then referred to as "O.J. Alley."

Ross called a friend, Damion Reid, and asked him to install a gate to the walkway and install security lights. She told Reid she was convinced Nunn was going to kill her, to which Reid replied she was being "overly dramatic."

During Nunn's trip to Frankfort two days before the killing, Ross saw Nunn at a pharmacy. Nunn was coming out while Ross was in the parking lot. He "stared her down," she told co-workers at the state's Department of Insurance. When she returned to work, she asked her supervisor, Sharon Clark, if she could go home for the day.

Clark later called Ross and asked if she wanted her to stay with her that night.

"Amanda stated to her it doesn't matter where she goes, he is going to kill me," the report said.

The day before the killing Ross visited her hairdresser, Mickey Binion, at Voce Salon in Lexington. Binion told police Ross had complained on several occasions that Nunn was showing people photos of her, but Binion hadn't asked her to elaborate. When Nunn's car was found at the cemetery, a file in the front seat contained nude photos of Ross.

Alex Redgefield, a friend of Ross, told police Ross was so terrified of Nunn, she kept a gun with her even when she showered. The gun was found in a holster in her purse, next to a pool of blood where she was gunned down in the parking lot of the Opera House Square complex, records said.

More records to come

Nunn's guilty plea effectively ended the criminal investigation, but Lexington police and the city's law department initially refused to release any substantial portion of the case file, saying the case was open until Nunn had completed his life sentence.

The city later reversed its decision and said it would review the file and release portions of it, the first of which was released Wednesday.

Some documents and photos gathered during the investigation will be withheld because they do not "advance a wholesome public interest or a legitimate private interest," city law commissioner Janet Graham said in a written reply to the request. Other portions would be redacted or withheld because of privacy concerns.

More portions of the file might be released in 45 to 60 days, after "third parties" who are mentioned in the file have had a chance to review it.

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