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Crime News Cold Cases

After Eight Years, an Arrest is Made in the Haunting Disappearance of Crystal Rogers

The mother of five vanished from Bardstown, Kentucky over the July 4th weekend in 2015 and Joseph L. Lawson has just been charged with conspiracy in her presumed death.

By Grace Jidoun
The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers: Crystal Goes Missing

A suspect has been charged in the death of Crystal Rogers, eight years after the Kentucky mother of 5 disappeared. 

Rogers was reported missing in Bardstown, Kentucky on July 5, 2015, and there's been no trace of her in the intervening years. She's presumed dead, but her remains have never been found. The haunting cold case, explored by Oxygen in a five-episode series "The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers," captured the country’s attention.

On Thursday, Joseph L. Lawson, 32, was indicted on charges of criminal conspiracy to commit murder and complicity in tampering with physical evidence, according to Nelson County circuit court cited by NBC News. The indictment did not specifically mention Rogers by name, but the dates and details match up. In addition, Rogers' grandfather, Till Ballard, told NBC affiliate WLEX in Lexington that the FBI had contacted the family to notify them of Lawson's arrest.

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When asked to confirm the arrest, the FBI’s Louisville Office told Oxygen.com they are not commenting on the case at this time. 

Crystal Rogers Fbi

According to the indictment, on July 3, 2015 or July 4, 2015, "the above-named Defendant, committed the offense of Criminal Conspiracy to Commit Murder, when, with the intention of promoting or facilitating the crime, when he agreed to aid one or more persons in the planning or commission of the crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit the crime, when he, and/or a co-conspirator, intentionally caused the death of another,” NBC News reported.  

Lawson had a plea of not guilty entered on his behalf by the court and his bond was set at $500,000 cash.

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Criminal conspiracy charges are filed when at least two people agree to kill someone intentionally, and at least one co-conspirator commits an overt act to further the agreement. Rogers’ boyfriend at the time of her disappearance, Brooks Houck, was named a suspect by police in October 2015. Through the years, Houck has ardently denied involvement and has never been charged. It's unclear if Houck is still under investigation.

Houck was one of the last people to see Rogers alive on the evening of July 3, 2015, in the home they shared (the couple had a young son together). Two days later, on July 5, her mother, Sherry Ballard, reported her missing, and her red Chevy Impala was discovered on the Bluegrass Parkway at mile marker 14 with a flat tire — her phone, keys, and purse still inside. Later that year, Brooks’ brother Nick Houck, a Bardstown police officer, was fired from the force after he was accused of interfering with the Rogers investigation, according to previous Oxygen.com reporting.

Mugshot of Joseph L. Lawson

The mystery deepened when, sixteen months after Rogers went missing, her father, Tommy Ballard, was killed by a single gunshot in the early morning hours on his family’s property in November 2016 as he was preparing for a hunting trip, according to FBI Louisville. No arrests have been made in that case and there is a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the perpetrator.

The trail went cold for years until the FBI took over the case in 2020 and issued search warrants on multiple properties, reportedly connected to Brooks Houck and Nick Houck. A break in the case came in 2021 after the FBI collected several items of interest following an excavation with cadaver dogs in a subdivision built by Brooks’ construction company. A reward of up to $25,000 was announced the next day, and the FBI rushed the evidence to their laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.

The Kentucky Attorney General appointed a special prosecutor in January 2023 to investigate the father and daughter’s deaths. “I know they’re in the last steps,’ Sherry Ballard, Rogers' mom, told ABC Louisville affiliate WHAS-TV in 2021. “I know they’re getting close.”

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