Politics & Government

Mother of Amanda Ross will push for protections against dating violence

Diana Ross, right, sat in front of her daughter's portrait at Amanda Ross's funeral. Steve Nunn pleaded guilty to her murder.
Diana Ross, right, sat in front of her daughter's portrait at Amanda Ross's funeral. Steve Nunn pleaded guilty to her murder.

After Amanda Ross was shot to death in 2009 by ex-fiancée Steve Nunn, a former state lawmaker, her mother found an envelope of court documents from a domestic violence case Amanda Ross had filed against Nunn.

On the back, Ross had scribbled some ideas for improving domestic violence laws in Kentucky. Her ideas weren't fully developed in the notes, but she wrote about protections for both the victim and the alleged perpetrator.

There should be domestic violence education in middle schools so young teens could gain an understanding of the problem before they began to make "relationship decisions," she wrote.

Amanda Ross's unfulfilled intentions to advocate for legislative changes is a motivating force for her mother, Diana Ross.

Diana Ross said she would ask members of the 2012 General Assembly to approve legislation that would expand the use of domestic violence orders to dating couples.

Currently, only couples who are married, have lived together or have a child together may get domestic violence orders prohibiting contact with an alleged perpetrator.

"A lot of girls in dating relationships wake up every morning frightened because they don't have any protection" through domestic violence orders, Diana Ross said in an interview.

One bill on dating violence has been prefiled by Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, and advocates are working on another version. Ross said that if Kentucky had extended protective orders to dating couples, her daughter would have had an easier time getting a protective order.

Amanda Ross was not living with Steve Nunn when he struck her in an episode of domestic violence. Diana Ross said her daughter was able to get a protective order only because she had proof Nunn received mail at her home and had e-mails documenting they had lived together for six months.

It was that documentation that disproved Nunn's contentions that they had not lived together and that she should not be granted a protective order, Diana Ross said.

"Amanda was afraid and feared he would kill her. I knew she was in danger, but I did not want to accept the reality that he might go so far as to kill her," Diana Ross said. "Many times, I think people do not believe that someone who comes from a prominent family and has served in public office would commit murder. We all need to learn from Amanda's death and take seriously people who have been threatened by domestic partners."

Amanda Ross, 29, was found shot to death on Sept. 11, 2009, in the parking lot outside her home at Opera House Square townhouses in downtown Lexington.

Nunn, the son of the late Gov. Louie Nunn, was arrested later that day.

He pleaded guilty in June to intentional murder with an aggravating circumstance. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Diana Ross said she was stunned that 43 states afford domestic violence order protection to dating couples, but Kentucky does not.

"How backward is that?" she asked.

Ross said the upcoming legislative session would be the second time she would advocate for such a law.

"We went up there last year and got nowhere with adding dating partners," she said.

During the 2011 session, House Bill 35, sponsored by Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, was approved by the House but was not called for a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Committee chairman Tom Jensen, R-London, said he doesn't know whether he'll call for a vote on a dating violence bill in 2012. In part, he's concerned that the courts would be inundated with requests and that someone might ask for a protection order out of spite.

Ross said she would be talking to lawmakers and, if called upon, would testify before legislative panels in support of the dating violence legislation.

"It would," said Ross, "enable victims to carry on with their life without living in constant fear."

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