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Stephen Rob NUNN





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Domestic violence
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 11, 2009
Date of arrest: Same day
Date of birth: November 4, 1952
Victim profile: Amanda Ross, 29 (his ex-fiancée)
Method of murder: Shooting (.38-caliber handgun)
Location: Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison without parole on June 28, 2011

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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 murderer.

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.

Political career

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 Nunn's ticket.

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 Nunn.


Steve Nunn pleads guilty to murder; sentenced to life

By Jennifer Hewlett -

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 Nunn.

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 sentencing.

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 Row.

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.

Scoville said Nunn had the greatest respect for the Ross family. He said Amanda Ross's mother, Diana, agreed with the plea.

"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 records.

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 effect.

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 assault charge.

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 Hospital.

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 -

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.

September 2007

Nunn and Ross began dating.

March 2008

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 Services.

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 in effect.

Sept. 9, 2009

Amanda Ross told her supervisor, Department of Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark, that Nunn was going to kill her.

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 protective order.

Sept. 28, 2009

The family of Ross filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Nunn.

October 2009

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 inmate.

June 28, 2011

Nunn pleaded guilty to murder with aggravating circumstances. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.


Steve Nunn's digital files searched

By Valarie Honeycutt-Spears and Ryan Alessi -

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 affidavit.

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 approached.

A Hart County grand jury last week indicted Nunn on six counts of wanton endangerment for waving the gun near the officers.

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 the murder.

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.



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