Two days before former state Rep. Steve Nunn allegedly shot her to death, Amanda Ross told a state official that Nunn was going to kill her.
Ross made that comment to her boss, Department of Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark, after Ross had an apparent chance encounter with Nunn, her ex-fiancé, on Sept. 9 at a Frankfort Rite Aid.
The estranged couple didn’t speak when they saw each other in the Rite Aid parking lot, but it startled Ross enough to cause her to leave work uncharacteristically early, Clark said. Later that night, Clark called to check on Ross.
“She said, ‘Sharon, he’s going to kill me,’” Clark said in an interview that added new details to Ross’s final days. Clark said she offered to take Ross to her home or to Ross’s mother’s, but Ross declined.
“She said, ‘Sharon, he will find me wherever,’” Clark said, adding that Ross didn’t elaborate. “She kind of said it matter-of-factly.”
Ross, 29, was killed Sept. 11 in front of her Opera House Square town house. Police have charged Nunn, 56, with murder and violating a domestic violence order of protection that Ross filed against Nunn in March. Nunn pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday afternoon.
If convicted of both crimes, Nunn could face the death penalty.
Clark said Ross had been concerned about Nunn since a February fight between the two that prompted Ross to file the domestic violence order. But Ross was particularly shaken Wednesday after seeing him in Frankfort, Clark said.
After that chance meeting, the two took divergent paths that police say collided in deadly violence at 6:36 a.m. on Sept. 11.
Nunn, according to people he came in contact with, embarked on a tour that took him to the state Capitol, where he once worked as a Republican lawmaker and where his father served as governor, to Glasgow and allegedly back to Central Kentucky.
Ross, meanwhile, tried to maintain a normal schedule, although she remained wary of Nunn, friends say.
Wednesday, Sept. 9
During her lunch break, Ross stopped by the Rite Aid on U.S. 127 to pick up vitamins, Clark said.
Ross first spotted Nunn’s car in the parking lot, then saw Nunn coming out of the shop before she could leave, Clark said.
“I think her terms were that he ‘stared her down’ in the car,” Clark said. “They did not talk. She did not exit her car.”
Ross returned to the department’s headquarters on Main Street in Frankfort clearly distraught. Clark said an employee alerted her that Ross was having “a panic attack.”
Ross told Clark that she checked to see if Nunn followed her from Rite Aid, “but he did not,” Clark said.
Ross left work at 1 p.m.
Around that time, Nunn stopped by the state Capitol.
In the hallway he bumped into several aides to Gov. Steve Beshear, whom Nunn crossed party lines to support in the 2007 governor’s race.
Beshear later hired Nunn as deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, a job from which Nunn was forced to resign in March after the domestic violence order.
“I just saw him in the hallway. I said ‘hello’ and he said ‘hello,’” said Vince Gabbert, Beshear’s deputy chief of staff. “We didn’t talk.”
Beshear’s spokesman, Jay Blanton, said Nunn “popped his head” into the office of Beshear’s general counsel, Ellen Hesen, to ask if she was available. But Hesen was in Louisville that day.
Tracey Damron, an ex-wife of Nunn’s, said Nunn told her he also stopped by the Capitol Annex, where legislators’ offices are located.
Meanwhile, Ross maintained her weekly Wednesday night ritual of homemade pizza at the Georgetown home of friend Martha Seagram.
“The last thing Amanda wanted to do was to give in to any fears,” Seagram said. “She certainly didn’t want to do anything to change, more or less, her routine to the outside world to make it look like she was capitulating.”
Later, Clark called Ross to check on her. It was then that Ross said she was convinced Nunn would kill her.
“She wasn’t crying. She wasn’t screaming. She just said it,” Clark said.
‘She had a big smile’
Ross spent much of Thursday in meetings at work, including one that lasted until 4 p.m., Clark said.
“She did not express to me any more concern on Thursday,” she said.
Ross was abuzz about her recent appointment to the board of the Lexington Humane Society, said Ronda Sloan, communications director for the insurance department.
After work, Ross stopped in Voce Salon on Esplanade in Lexington to pick up a gift certificate the salon donated to a Humane Society fund-raiser, said Mickey Binion, Voce’s owner.
“She had a big smile on her face,” recalled Binion. “She joked about the fact that she only got her hair cut every three or four months. Then she was out the door.”
She was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and was on her way to Urban Active gym on Main Street, Binion said.
Later that evening, Ross sent an e-mail to colleagues at the insurance department in preparation for a meeting Friday morning.
‘He put up a good front’
Nunn spent much of his Thursday in Glasgow, where he has a home. He went to a monument company and asked to have the next day, Sept. 11, inscribed as the death date on a gravestone he had ordered.
The request floored the owner of the company, Abe Shelton, who contacted a friend of Nunn’s, Follis Crow III, to get Nunn help.
Crow said he called Phillip Bale, Nunn’s friend and physician, who went to see Nunn. The two then met another friend, Jimmy Bew ley, for dinner at a steakhouse in Glasgow about 6 p.m. CDT.
“We were just concerned about him,” said Bewley, the golf pro at Barren River State Resort Park, where the lodge is named for Nunn’s father.
Nunn seemed fine at dinner, however, and Bewley left thinking everything was OK.
He didn’t hear until later about Nunn requesting the death date on his tombstone.
“If I’d known that, I might have been more assertive” about having Nunn spend more time with him, Bewley said. “He was in worse shape than we thought. He put up a good front.”
On Sept. 11, Ross woke up early enough to send a quick e-mail to her mother, Diana, a little after 6 a.m., said Dale Emmons, a friend of the Ross family.
“It wasn’t anything of substance — just two or three sentences,” Emmons said.
About 30 minutes later, Lexington police received a call about shots fired and a woman screaming “No” in the parking lot of the Opera House Square town homes. Ross died later that morning at University of Kentucky Hospital.
Emmons said police told Diana Ross her daughter was shot in the back of the head.