A former Kentucky lawmaker serving life in prison for killing his one-time fiancee has been found liable in a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the victim’s mother.
The decision by Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael clears the way for the family of 29-year-old Amanda Ross to obtain damages from 60-year-old Stephen R. Nunn. Nunn pleaded guilty to murder in June 2011 for shooting and killing Ross outside her Lexington townhome after the two ended their engagement.
Ishmael set a trial on damages for Aug. 12, 2013.
Also included in the trial will be consideration of negligence claims against Opera House Square, the company running the townhomes, and claims against Nunn’s daughter, Mary Elizabeth Nunn of Glasgow. The claims against the daughter stem from accusations that Stephen Nunn illegally transferred property in Glasgow to her to avoid having the Ross family claim it as damages in a civil suit.
Nunn, who spent about 15 years in the state legislature, is the son of former Kentucky Gov. Louie B. Nunn, who held the office from 1967 to 1971.
Nunn is lodged in Green River Correctional Complex in Muhlenberg County and does not have an attorney. He has not responded to written interview requests from The Associated Press.
Carl Frazier, an attorney for Diana Ross, who filed the suit on behalf of her daughter’s estate, declined comment to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Attorney R. Burl McCoy, who also represents Ross, asked Ishmael in a motion to find Nunn liable in Amanda Ross’ death.
“Nunn’s conviction conclusively establishes his liability for the wrongful death … claims against him,” McCoy wrote.
Ross was director of the Financial Standards and Examination division of the Kentucky Department of Insurance.
Stephen Nunn, who has not spoken publicly since going to prison, did not respond to the motion. Ishmael appointed a Guardian Ad Litem to file a report of possible defenses for Nunn. That attorney, Pam Ledgewood of Lexington, told the court more evidence needed to be established before Nunn could be held responsible for wrongful death. Ledgewood also noted that Nunn’s criminal conviction did not establish all the elements necessary for responsibility in a civil case.
“Knowledge of the perpetrator’s actions or the victim’s emotional response to those actions are not elements in either of the statutes under which Mr. Nunn was convicted,” wrote Ledgewood, who did not immediately return a call Wednesday morning from The Associated Press.
In a court filing from March, Nunn answered a series of questions from Ross’ attorneys about how he got into the townhome community the morning of the slaying. Nunn said he used a key to the pedestrian gate given to him by Amanda Ross.
“While I was living with Amanda Ross, she made a copy of the pedestrian gate key for my use, as well as a post office box key,” Nunn said.
Nunn admitted to shooting her after approaching Ross in the parking lot of the complex and then fleeing to southern Kentucky. State troopers arrested Nunn at the graves of his parents.
Court records released as part of the criminal case show that Nunn quickly admitted to friends that he killed Ross and at one point before the slaying talked about ordering his own tombstone listing his date of death as Sept. 11, 2009.
“You or nobody else could have done anything to stop me,” Nunn told a friend the day after the slaying.
Amanda Ross’ death has prompted changes to domestic violence laws in Kentucky. Amanda’s Law, which passed in 2010, allows domestic violence victims to be alerted by a GPS tracking system when their aggressors get too close.
Nunn, who briefly served as former Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services, had carved out his own political career as a leading advocate in the legislature for the mentally disabled. Nunn failed to win re-election to the state House in 2006. In 2003, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
When he turns 62 on Nov. 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.