Letter: Ex-Governor Nunn Tells Son "You Do Not Exist"

Apr 5, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Former Kentucky Governor  Louie B. Nunn told his son in a 1997 letter that "within my mind and memory, you do not exist" and that "Someday God will humble you," while detailing multiple allegations of abuse by former lawmaker Steve Nunn against family members over the years.

Louie Nunn, who served as governor from 1967 to 1971, castigated his son in writing for what he saw as mistreatment of his ex-wife and children and said the family wanted nothing to do with him.

"It appears to me that nothing I can do will ever humble you in any way," Louie Nunn wrote on Aug. 4, 1997. "Someday God will humble you."

The letter is among 191 pages of documents released Thursday by Lexington police chronicling their investigation into the Sept. 11, 2009, shooting death of 29-year-old Amanda Ross. Steve Nunn, had been engaged to Ross. He pleaded guilty in June and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The documents include interviews with family and friends describing the couple's volatile relationship. Many of Louie Nunn's accusations mirror those that would later be made by Ross and others against Steve Nunn.

Police and prosecutors frequently referred to the letter, written on letterhead from Warriors Trail Farm, a joint venture run by the father and son, during the investigation, but had not previously released it. Louie and Steve Nunn had a rocky relationship, one that included accusations of the son striking the father. Louie Nunn accuses his son of abusive and narcissistic behavior - similar to how friends of Ross' and friends and acquaintances of Nunn's would describe him after the shooting.

The type-written two-page letter includes several hand-written additions to the text. At one point, Louie Nunn tells his son that doing little for his children will come back to haunt them.

"I have abandoned hope," Louie Nunn typed. He then added a hand-written notation, "You have only yourself."

In multiple interviews, Nunn is described as having something of a dual personality. His ex-wife, Martha Lou Nunn of Bowling Green, told police that Nunn had a "political side" that was warm and friendly and a "personal side" she described as "narcissistic and violent."

Amber Fields, a friend of both Nunn and Ross, told police that Nunn showed up at Keeneland race track in Lexington in the spring of 2009, showing off "intimate" and some nude photos of Ross, months after they had broken up.

Lisa Rice, who served as Ross' secretary at the Kentucky Department of Insurance, told police that Ross described Nunn in almost the same terms and worried that he was "both homicidal and suicidal." Rice also said the relationship between Ross and Nunn was "two narcissists coming together."

Penelope Bentley of Lexington, who knew both Ross and Nunn, described the former state health official as going into a downward spiral in the months before Ross' death, often blaming her for his personal, political and financial problems.

"He was acting strangely," Bentley said of Nunn's behavior in the weeks leading up to the shooting.

Friends said Nunn talked about ordering his own tombstone listing his date of death as Sept. 11, 2009. Rice said Nunn would frequently make references to his own death, but later try to brush off the comments.

"But, he did say to me at one point in the conversation, `You know on the suicidal point, yep, that's where you will find me, right between my mama and daddy'," Rice said.

Rice speculated that Nunn, who slit his wrists as Kentucky State Police closed in on him as he sat near his parents' graves at Crosby Methodist Cemetery in Glasgow, didn't carry out the suicide because, after killing Ross, he no longer felt the stress of carrying on a famous name and legacy.

"I think the reason he didn't kill himself was by the time he got to Hart County, it was the relief that he felt and that's all I can think to describe it, but the weight of being, the responsibility of being Steve Nunn," Rice said. "All that left him."

"Did you think at that point was that how we would find him?" Lexington Police Det. Shannon Garner asked Rice.

"Dead. I did. I did," Rice said. "I really did."

A day after Nunn's arrest, he spoke with a life-long friend, Dr. Phillip Bales of Glasgow, by telephone from a hospital. Bales said Nunn didn't want any friends to feel guilty about what happened because they either didn't see the signs or didn't step in.

"You or nobody else could have done anything to stop me," Bailey quoted Nunn as saying. "Thirdly, he stated that he just wished he could have finished the job."

Nunn, 59, had carved out his own political career as a leading advocate in the legislature for the mentally disabled. Nunn spent some 15 years in the legislature. He failed to win re-election to the state House in 2006. In 2003, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Nunn faced a potential death penalty if his case had gone to trial.

Ross' slaying prompted Kentucky lawmakers last year to enact Amanda's Law, which allows counties to require those with domestic orders against them to wear GPS tracking devices.

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.

A civil suit brought by Ross's family against Nunn is pending in Fayette Circuit Court.