Stephen Rob Nunn,
known as Steve Nunn (born November 4, 1952, in Glasgow,
Kentucky) is the former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human
Services for the Commonwealth of Kentucky and a convicted
From 1980 to 2006, he was a Republican member
of the Kentucky House of Representatives from his native Barren
County in southern Kentucky. In 2011, Nunn received a life
sentence after pleading guilty to the murder of his ex-fiancée. He
is the son of the late Kentucky Governor Louie B. Nunn and First
Lady Beula Cornelius Aspley Nunn.
Nunn unsuccessfully sought the Republican
gubernatorial nomination in 2003, finishing third to then-United
States Representative Ernie Fletcher of Lexington, whom Nunn then
supported. Former State Representative Bob Heleringer of Eastwood
in Jefferson County, ran as the lieutenant governor selection on
In the primary, Nunn received 21,167 votes
(13.4 percent), but Fletcher led the three-candidate field with
90,912 (57.3 percent). Rebecca Jackson polled 44,084 (27.8
percent). Fletcher went on to win the position in the general
election by defeating Democrat Attorney General Ben Chandler.
Fletcher was the first Republican to be elected governor of
Kentucky since Louie B. Nunn upset Henry Ward in November 1967.
On November 7, 2006, after fifteen years as a
state representative, Nunn lost his bid for re-election to the
Democrat Johnny Bell. Nunn polled 5,572 votes (46.7 percent) to
Bell's 6,371 ballots (53.3 percent).
In September 2007, Nunn announced his support
of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Steve Beshear, a former
lieutenant governor who handily unseated Fletcher in his bid for
re-election. On December 22, 2007, Beshear appointed Nunn as
deputy secretary of Health and Family Services.
Murder of ex-fiancée
In March 2009, Steve Nunn resigned his state
position after having been placed on administrative leave in
February as a result of a February 19 assault in Lexington on
Amanda Ross, his former fiancée, who had procured a protective
order against him for domestic violence.
On September 11, 2009, Ross was found shot to
death in the parking lot of the Opera House Square complex in
Lexington. That same day, Nunn was found by police with his wrists
slit in Hart County near the gravesites of his parents.
He was arrested and taken to a hospital in
Bowling Green fair condition from the wounds, which were first
considered to be self inflicted. Nunn was charged with six counts
of wanton endangerment of a police officer because when
authorities arrived to arrest him, they reported that Nunn had
fired a .38-caliber handgun.
On September 14, Nunn was taken to the Hart
County jail after having been discharged from the hospital. The
same day, Nunn was charged by Lexington police with Ross's murder.
On September 17, Nunn was transferred to the Fayette County
Detention Center. The next day, he pled not guilty to the murder
charges in Fayette District Court.
On November 10, 2009, Nunn was indicted on
charges of murder and violating a protective order. Prosecutors
intended to seek the death penalty, but on June 28, 2011, Nunn
pled guilty in Fayette Circuit Court in Lexington to Ross's murder
and received a life sentence for the crime.
When he turns sixty-two on November 4, 2014,
Nunn is eligible to receive his full state pension of $28,210
annually, based on his legislative and executive department
service. State law permits pension benefits to former lawmakers
unless they commit a crime while in office as a legislator.
Meanwhile, the Ross family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against
Steve Nunn pleads guilty
to murder; sentenced to life
By Jennifer Hewlett - Kentucky.com
June 29, 2011
Former state lawmaker Steve Nunn
has pleaded guilty to intentional murder with an aggravating
circumstance in the 2009 death of Amanda Ross, his former fiancée.
Nunn, who was set to go on trial in early
August, entered the plea Tuesday morning in Fayette Circuit Court
after negotiating a deal with prosecutors. Nunn waived formal
sentencing, and Judge Pamela Goodwine sentenced him to life in
prison without the possibility of parole.
Nunn also pleaded guilty to violating an
emergency protective order, or domestic-violence order, and was
given a 12-month sentence. The violation of that order was
considered to be the "aggravator" in the murder case — and the
reason Nunn had been facing the death penalty. The sentences are
to run concurrently.
One of Nunn's attorneys, Warren Scoville, said
the guilty pleas were made to avoid a possible death sentence for
The pleas came as a surprise for many. They
also put an end to a two-year legal case, which had drawn the
attention of the national media, including the CBS show 48 Hours
Mystery, ABC's 20/20, CNN and even Glamour magazine. The case
grabbed headlines, in large part, because Nunn and Ross come from
families that are very well-known.
Nunn is the son of a former Kentucky governor
and a member of a family that has been well-known in national
Republican politics, and Ross is the daughter of the late Terrell
Ross, founder of the politically connected financial company Ross,
Sinclaire & Associates.
On Tuesday, when Goodwine asked Nunn whether
he, in fact, committed the murder, he responded, "I did."
When Goodwine asked whether Nunn had a
statement, Scoville responded, "We have nothing."
Tuesday was the first time Nunn, 58,
acknowledged that he shot and killed Ross, 29, on Sept. 11, 2009.
The commonwealth's attorney's office objected
to Nunn being sentenced Tuesday because prosecutors wanted
victims' impact statements to be heard in court.
Scoville said such statements could be entered
into the court record, and the judge proceeded with the
Scoville asked that Nunn be sent to the
Kentucky State Reformatory at LaGrange right away, saying Nunn had
minor medical problems that needed to be addressed.
"I'm sure that you're well aware of the
conditions in the Lexington jail, and I think with Steve Nunn's
medical problems, he's best taken care of in a prison facility,"
said defense attorney Bette Niemi, former head of the capital
trial branch of the state Department of Public Advocacy who has
been successful at keeping dozens of murder defendants off Death
Scoville said after the hearing that a
conviction on first-degree manslaughter was the best-case scenario
for Nunn, and that even with that charge, Nunn would have spent
the rest of his life in prison.
"When we got closer to trial, I think we scored
some points with our (extreme emotional disturbance) defense,"
Scoville said Nunn had the greatest respect for
the Ross family. He said Amanda Ross's mother, Diana, agreed with
"I think, as in most capital cases, plea
negotiations probably started from the very beginning," Niemi
said. "I think, one, he (Nunn) wanted to accept responsibility.
And, two, I think a trial would have been extra painful for his
family and Amanda Ross's family. I don't believe Steve Nunn wanted
anybody to have to go through that."
Scoville, who has known Nunn for 20 years, said
that he loved Nunn and that Nunn was "taking it like a man."
"He is a good man. Good people sometimes do bad
things," Scoville said.
When asked for comment just after the hearing,
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson just walked by. Asked again
later for a comment, Larson said he did not have one.
Diana Ross said she was withholding comment
until she finished her victim impact statement for the court
record. But she did say it was difficult to express "the hurt that
has been put upon our family."
Ross family spokesman Dale Emmons thanked the
commonwealth's attorney for his professionalism and Goodwine for
what Emmons called a "just sentence" for Nunn.
"Diana has a lot she'd like to say," Emmons
said. "I think she's a little shell-shocked at the quick finality,
or what seems to be quick, although it's been going on for months.
It came to an end quicker than we thought it was going to.
"There is some sense of relief that we now have
some finality to this. We thought the marathon was going on for
several more months."
A rocky start
Nunn, a former state representative and a 2003
Kentucky gubernatorial candidate, and Ross, the director of
financial standards and examination for the state Department of
Insurance, began dating in September 2007, according to court
Nunn moved into her home in March 2008. He
moved out in October that year, shortly after they had become
engaged, because the "relationship had deteriorated," according to
Nunn. But they remained in contact.
In February 2009, Ross alleged that Nunn, while
at her home one night, struck her in the face four times and threw
her against a lamp, breaking it, and then he threw a cup of
bourbon in her face.
Nunn said during a hearing on the matter that
Ross blocked his path to prevent him from leaving her home and
that he struggled for 20 minutes to reach the stairs to her home.
He said Ross was "strong like a bull" because she worked out with
a personal trainer twice a week.
Nunn said Ross threw him into the lamp and then
made him vacuum up the mess.
He said Ross offered to let him leave if Nunn
let Ross strike him in the face. She did that, cutting his face
with her ring, he said.
Ross, in her domestic violence complaint, said:
"I called police because this has happened many times before."
The day after the domestic violence petition
was filed, Nunn was placed on unpaid administrative leave from his
job as deputy secretary of the state Cabinet for Health and Family
Services. He resigned from the post, a job that included oversight
of domestic violence programs, in March.
A tragic ending
Nunn was ordered to have no contact with Ross
for a year and not possess a gun while the protective order was in
Nunn entered an Alford plea — he admitted no
guilt, but acknowledged there was enough evidence to produce a
guilty verdict — in August 2009 to a misdemeanor domestic violence
Ross was found shot, lying in the parking lot
outside her home, at Opera House Square townhouses, on Sept. 11,
2009. She was pronounced dead at University of Kentucky Chandler
Nunn was taken into police custody at Cosby
Cemetery in Hart County, where his parents are buried, several
hours after Ross was shot.
Nunn had slit his wrists after putting mementos
on his parents' graves, police said. The owner of a Glasgow
monument business said Nunn had been to his shop the day before he
was found in the cemetery. Nunn stopped by because he wanted to
add some details to his gravestone, he said.
According to authorities, Nunn fired a
.38-caliber handgun once into the air as six police officers
approached him at the cemetery. Nunn was later charged with six
counts of wanton endangerment of a police officer. On Tuesday,
Scoville said those charges might be dropped.
Days after that shooting, Nunn was charged in
Lexington with murder and violating a protective order.
"I just think it's a sad situation for
everybody ... a tragic situation. I wish there had been some sort
of intervention, but it just didn't happen," Niemi said.
Chronology of the Steve Nunn case
By Lu-Ann Farrar - Kentucky.com
June 29, 2011
Steve Nunn and Amanda Ross met when Ross's
father, Terrell Ross, hired Nunn to do consulting work for his
financing firm, Ross Sinclaire. Terrell Ross died in October 2006.
Nunn and Ross began dating.
Nunn moved into Ross's home in downtown
Lexington. He moved out in October, shortly after they were
engaged, because the "relationship had deteriorated," Nunn said.
Feb. 18, 2009
Ross filed a domestic-violence petition that
claimed Nunn "hit me four times in my face, broke a lamp,
scratched the hallway wall (and was) verbally abusive." The next
day, Nunn was placed on unpaid administrative leave from his state
job as deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family
March 4, 2009
Nunn resigned his position as deputy secretary
of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. A judge ordered
Nunn to have no contact with Ross for one year and ordered Nunn
not to possess a firearm while the emergency protective order was
Sept. 9, 2009
Amanda Ross told her supervisor, Department of
Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark, that Nunn was going to kill
Sept. 11, 2009
Ross, 29, was found shot to death outside her
home at Opera House Square townhouses in downtown Lexington. Hours
later, Nunn was arrested at the edge of the Hart County cemetery
where his parents are buried. Nunn had slit his wrists after
placing mementos on his parents' graves, officers said.
Sept. 14, 2009
Nunn was charged with murder and violation of a
Sept. 28, 2009
The family of Ross filed a wrongful-death
lawsuit against Nunn.
Greg Stumbo filed a bill, dubbed "Amanda's
Bill," for the 2010 General Assembly that would allow a court to
impose electronic monitoring as a condition of bail for a person
charged with domestic violence or violation of a protective order,
which orders an alleged assailant to stay away from a victim.
Victims of domestic violence would be allowed to wear a device, if
they chose, to alert them when the person with the order comes
within a certain distance.
Nov. 10, 2009
Nunn was indicted on a murder charge. The grand
jury also indicted Nunn for allegedly violating a domestic
violence order of protection that Ross had filed against him. The
indictment noted the violation was considered an "aggravating
circumstance," allowing Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson
to seek the death penalty.
Dec. 14, 2009
Nunn's attorney Warren Scoville asked that his
client undergo a mental evaluation to determine whether he was
competent to assist in preparations for his criminal trial.
Scoville said in the motion that because of the conditions of
Nunn's incarceration, "his physical and mental health have
deteriorated to a point that he is unable at this time to assist
in the preparation of his defense." Judge Pamela Goodwine ruled
Dec. 18 that the evaluation should occur as soon as possible. Nunn
was evaluated in January at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric
Center in LaGrange and found competent.
April 6, 2010
Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said his
office had "filed a notice of aggravating circumstance and notice
of intent to seek the death penalty in the Nunn case."
April 14, 2010
The Senate and House voted unanimously to
approve "Amanda's Bill" to allow judges to order electronic
monitoring in domestic-violence cases if certain violations of
protective orders occur, such as assault, burglary or kidnapping.
Oct. 11, 2010
Goodwine set an August trial date.
March 3, 2011
Nunn was admitted to the Kentucky Correctional
Psychiatric Center in LaGrange for a second evaluation.
June 6, 2011
Nunn was placed in protective custody in the
Fayette County jail after he allegedly was threatened by another
June 28, 2011
Nunn pleaded guilty to murder with aggravating
circumstances. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of
Nunn's digital files searched
By Valarie Honeycutt-Spears and Ryan Alessi - Kentucky.com
November 8, 2009
Lexington police are tracing former state Rep.
Steve Nunn's digital footprints as part of their investigation
into the slaying of his ex-fiancée Amanda Ross, whom Nunn is
accused of killing in September.
Specifically, police are looking to see whether
Nunn kept a photo of a naked Ross on his cell phone, as witnesses
have alleged, according to court documents. A judge had barred
Nunn in July from having any nude photos of Ross as part of a
domestic violence order against him.
While collecting evidence in Barren County
shortly after Ross's death, police found fliers depicting Ross
naked along with "insulting verbiage," according to an affidavit
on a search warrant.
Those fliers, found in a home in Barren County,
where Nunn had a home, "appeared to be designed for distribution,"
investigators said in another affidavit. The document doesn't give
the address of the house where the photos were found.
Police are also checking for child pornography
on Nunn's computers, according to another search warrant
Those documents in the criminal case against
Nunn offer new insight into the scope of the investigation since
Ross's fatal shooting on Sept. 11. For example, the documents
describe how police have sought e-mail and phone records not only
to learn more about Nunn and Ross's troubled relationship but also
to see if cell phone tower data could track Nunn's whereabouts on
the day of Ross's slaying.
Police have charged Nunn, 57, in her death. The
case is pending before a grand jury in Fayette County.
Ross, 29, was shot outside her Opera House
Square townhouse in Lexington shortly after 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 11.
Witnesses reported hearing Ross scream "no" in the parking lot,
then heard four to five shots. They saw a man run away, according
to court documents.
State police found Nunn hours later in a Hart
County cemetery where his father, former Republican Gov. Louie B.
Nunn, and mother, Beula, are buried. Nunn was holding a
.38-caliber gun and fired it once into the air as six officers
A Hart County grand jury last week indicted
Nunn on six counts of wanton endangerment for waving the gun near
When the officers reached Nunn, they found he
had cut his wrists.
The arrest warrant, signed Sept. 14, said he
told a Kentucky State Police trooper that because of the domestic
violence order, which Ross received against him in March, he had
lost his job as deputy secretary of the Health and Family Services
Cabinet and "was at the end of his rope and wanted revenge."
But he wouldn't answer questions about whether
he killed Ross.
Most of the 10 search warrants issued in the
first days after Ross's murder appear to be aimed at helping
police understand more about Nunn's and Ross's relationship, the
contact the two had with each other after the domestic violence
order was issued and Nunn's computer habits.
Investigators are performing forensic computer
analysis on laptop and desktop computers used by Nunn, as well as
his cell phone, in search of digital files, "photographs and
videos depicting the use of minors in a sexual performance," as
well as e-mails, chat logs, instant messages or other
communications that would show distribution of images depicting
"any sexual performances," according to a Sept. 14 search warrant.
Nunn's attorney, Warren N. Scoville, couldn't
be reached for comment.
On Oct. 1, police received Nunn's e-mail
records from the Glasgow Electric Power Board, although the
messages haven't been entered into the public record.
Police have also obtained e-mail correspondence
between Ross and Nunn "where they discussed their relationship and
acts of violence." Police had also been looking at a "string of
e-mails between the couple on Feb. 3, 2009." That was around the
time the relationship became particularly volatile, both Nunn and
Ross testified in a March 4 court hearing.
Following Ross's death, police used a search
warrant to confiscate Ross's Gateway laptop from her bedroom.
Investigators have worked to establish time
lines for the whereabouts of both Nunn and Ross in the days before
In the hours after Ross was fatally shot,
Lexington police issued search warrants for Bluegrass Cellular's
records for Nunn's cell phone, including the cell tower
information, to see whether Nunn's movements could be tracked.
A Sept. 18 affidavit for a search warrant
requested the phone records of Lexington attorney Masten Childers
II, a former state official and friend of the Ross family.
Childers told police that he and Ross were
acquaintances and they had exchanged text messages throughout the
evening before Ross's slaying.
"Mr. Childers had also received a text message
from the victim at approximately 5:42 a.m. shortly before the
shooting," the affidavit said.
Childers declined to comment Friday "out of
respect for the family's privacy."
KY Rep. Steve Nunn arrested
after girlfriend Amanda Ross found dead
September 11, 2009
Amanda Ross, 29, was found dead just after 6:30
this morning in Lexington, KY outside her home at the Opera House
Square Town Homes.
Former boyfriend Steve Nunn has been arrested
in connection with the crime. He has not been charged with her
murder, but has been charged with violating a protective order.
Also suffering from gunshot wounds, Nunn was found around 10am in
the cemetery in which is parents are buried. (Nunn’s father was
former Kentucky governor Louie B. Nunn.) Police declined to
comment on Nunn’s injuries but say he is in “fair condition.”
After being put on administrative leave in
February after allegations of abuse involving Ross surfaced, Nunn
resigned from his post in March as deputy director for the Health
and Family Services Cabinet. He ran unsuccessfully for state
governor in 2003. He went on to lose his seat in the house in
2006, after serving 15 years.