Steve Nunn

‘You have no family,’ Louie B. Nunn wrote to his son Steve


Seven years before his death, former Kentucky Gov. Louie B. Nunn wrote a letter to his son, Steve Nunn, telling him that “you have no family.”

The letter was included in nearly 200 pages of documents, as well as photos and videos, released by the Urban County Government on Thursday detailing the investigation of Steve Nunn by Lexington police. The records were released in response to an open-records request submitted in July, after Nunn, 59, pleaded guilty to murdering former fiancée Amanda Ross.

Ross, 29, was gunned down outside her townhouse on West Short Street on Sept. 11, 2009. The case drew national attention, in part, because of Nunn’s relationship to his father, who served as governor from 1967 to 1971.

The former governor’s letter alleged that Steve Nunn had driven his family away because of physical and mental abuse.

“You are going to wake up some morning and be all alone,” Louie Nunn wrote to his son.

That letter, dated Aug. 4, 1997, was one of at least two such letters from the former governor. The first letter was included in the court file of a divorce petition filed by Beula Nunn, the former governor’s wife, in 1994. The Herald-Leader reported the details of that letter days after Ross’s death.

The letters painted a stark contrast to how the public viewed the relationship between Louie and Steve Nunn. In 2004, Steve Nunn wrote an op-ed piece published in the Herald-Leader about the loss of his father, who died of heart disease earlier that year. “As a fortunate son, I am comforted by the blessed memories our family created largely by this larger-than-life man. He gave so much to Kentucky and so much more to his family,” Nunn wrote in the article.

However, the letters from his father made it clear their relationship had deteriorated long before then, allegedly because of Steve Nunn’s abusiveness.

“You abused me physically and mentally. You abused your sister physically and mentally. You abused and mistreated Martha Lu (Steve Nunn’s ex-wife) physically and mentally,” Louie Nunn wrote.

According to police interviews with Steve Nunn’s estranged sister, Jennie Penn, Steve Nunn had always been disrespectful to his father, but their relationship turned violent during Steve Nunn and Martha Lu Nunn’s divorce.

“During the divorce, Gov. Nunn tried to help out Martha and the children because the divorce was Steve’s fault,” she told police.

Louie Nunn closed his letter by telling his son “you do not exist” and “may God have mercy.”

Enclosed was a check for $10,000, which the letter said was owed to Steve Nunn, although the letter did not make it clear why. Penn told detectives she didn’t know what the money was for.

Throughout the hundreds of pages of interviews released in the case, detectives seemed to be building a profile of the younger Nunn by asking friends, colleagues and family members about past instances of alleged abuse.

Nunn, a Republican who served in the state legislature from 1991 through 2006, was known publicly as friendly and aloof, though friends, colleagues and family members told detectives that his jovial reputation covered up a deep depression and a narcissistic demeanor.

Friends said Nunn began a downward spiral in 2008, after Ross filed for an emergency protective order, alleging that Nunn had hit her during an argument.

Police were told Nunn was upset at Ross because the EPO “ruined his career” and cost him $150,000 in attorney fees. After that, Nunn made suicidal statements, began using drugs and alcohol heavily and paid women for sex. He also showed nude photos of Ross to dozens of people, including male and female colleagues, and threatened to use them to ruin Ross’s career, the documents said.

Among the evidence released Thursday were police interviews with two Winchester women who said they met Nunn on the Web site Regina Frazier and Ashley Nicole Bailey said Nunn was aggressive, verbally abusive and made them uncomfortable. Bailey referred to him as a “butt head.”

On two occasions, Nunn paid Frazier and Bailey $400 to have sex with him at the Motel 6 on Winchester Road in Lexington, they told police. The last encounter was three days before Ross was killed.

The records also included photos and videos of the crime scene, which have not been seen publicly. The shooting occurred behind the high walls of the Opera House Square townhomes.

The photos and videos showed a puddle of dried blood on the cobblestone walkway of the complex. A blood-covered purse, papers and a bagged lunch of yogurt, bread and cottage cheese were strewn nearby.

Inside the purse were a pack of cigarettes and a gun in a holster, which friends said Ross kept on her at all times because she feared Nunn would try to kill her.

The photos also showed a rusty knife that Nunn used to cut his wrists at the Hart County cemetery where his parents are buried. Nunn drove there in his daughter’s car after the shooting.

The city released the bulk of the records in August but withheld the second part for months because of privacy concerns. Some who spoke to police about the case are active or have been active in state and local politics.

In the months since the records request was filed, city officials have “contacted a significant number of named individuals to notify these persons to provide them an opportunity to review the records and assert any legal rights they may have in the release of these records,” Lexington law commissioner Janet Graham said in a letter.

Some evidence and interviews were heavily redacted or withheld. No more records will be released, Graham’s letter said.

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