Steve Nunn

Ross family sues Nunn for wrongful death

The family of Amanda Ross, who was slain Sept. 11 outside her Lexington townhouse, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on Monday against her accused killer and ex-fiancé, former state Rep. Steve Nunn.

The lawsuit, filed in Fayette Circuit Court, alleges that Nunn stalked and threatened Ross for months leading up to Sept. 11, when Nunn "fired multiple shots at Ross, brutally murdering her."

Nunn, who has been held in the Fayette County Detention Center since Sept. 17, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and violating a domestic-violence protection order.

His case has been sent to a grand jury in Fayette County.

"It's obviously a situation that needs to be addressed in the criminal courts but also in the civil court," said R. Burl McCoy, a lawyer with Stoll Keenon Ogden in Lexington.

McCoy filed the suit on behalf of Ross's mother, Diana M. Ross, who is the representative of her daughter's estate.

Nunn's attorney, Astrida L. Lemkins, said she wasn't aware of the lawsuit and couldn't comment on it. Nunn has 20 days from the time he is served with the lawsuit to respond.

The wrongful-death suit comes 21/2 weeks after Ross was gunned down outside the Opera House Square townhomes in downtown Lexington. That is unusually swift for such a lawsuit.

"Obviously we want to pursue this aggressively," McCoy said. "It's certainly a sad situation. We're basically trying to draw some attention to the fact that you just can't do this and expect not to be punished in various ways."

In addition to the allegation of murder, the suit accuses Nunn of assault and battery stemming from two fights Nunn and Ross allegedly had in February. Ross, 29, received a domestic violence order against Nunn, 56, on March 4 after Nunn admitted to slapping Ross.

The order also barred Nunn from having a gun. Police said that hours after Ross was killed, they found Nunn in a Hart County cemetery with slit wrists and holding a .38 caliber handgun — a violation of the order. Lexington police found three other guns during a search of Nunn's home in Glasgow later that night, according to an affidavit filed with a search warrant in Barren Circuit Court.

The Ross family's suit alleges that Nunn stalked, harassed and intimidated Ross "while possessing a deadly weapon on or around his person between February and Sept. 11."

The suit claims that Nunn engaged in "lewd and offensive communication" and had confrontations and repeated unwanted contact with Ross during that time, causing her "mental and emotional suffering, fright, anguish" and anxiety.

"Nunn threatened Ross, both implicitly and explicitly, with death and/or serious physical injury," the suit says.

The six-page lawsuit doesn't provide specific examples of the alleged stalking and harassment, and McCoy declined to provide further details. "That will come out," he said.

Several of Ross's friends, including her boss at the Kentucky Insurance Department, have told the Herald-Leader that Ross felt threatened by Nunn. Two days before Ross was killed, she told Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark that "he's going to kill me," Clark has said.

The Ross family, which has asked for a jury trial, is seeking damages for pain and suffering, medical expenses, Ross's funeral costs and the loss of her future earning capacity as well as punitive damages.

The suit does not include a dollar figure. A jury must determine that amount, according to Kentucky statutes.

Despite receiving in 2004 and 2005 more than $650,000 from the estate of his late father, the former Gov. Louie B. Nunn, it's unclear how much money Nunn now has.

Steve Nunn, who served in the state legislature from 1991 through 2006, resigned from his job as deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services in March after the domestic violence order was issued, and he received a $20,000 line of credit on his Glasgow home last month.

McCoy said gaining money is not Diana Ross's objective.

"It's her desire to remember Amanda and to have some laws, both civil and criminal, in place so this won't happen to another young lady," McCoy said.

Last week, Diana Ross spoke at a news conference in Frankfort in which state House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, announced a bill that would allow judges to order dangerous domestic- violence offenders to wear electronic monitoring devices.

On Tuesday, Nunn's attorney and prosecuting attorneys are expected to appear in court with an agreed order asking the judge to order a psychiatric evaluation of Nunn.

Brian Mattone, first assistant county attorney, said the purpose of the evaluation is to determine whether Nunn was criminally responsible for his actions at the time.

Mattone said such evaluations are conducted at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center and often take weeks.

Nunn will not be present in court Tuesday.

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