Known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” Bardstown, Kentucky, is a small town with a population of just below 14,000, but it also has an unsettling number of high-profile, unsolved murders and disappearances. Chief among them is the case of Crystal Rogers, a 35-year-old mother of five, who hasn’t been seen since July 3, 2015, and is presumed dead by police.
Not unlike the mythic feud between the Hatfields and McCoys, which happened nearby, the search to find out what happened to Rogers soon led to acrimony between her family and the family of her boyfriend at the time. Over the ensuing three years, the drama around her disappearance would include accusations of police interference, the still unsolved shooting death of her father and a sign campaign straight out of the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
1. Crystal Rogers disappeared on July 3, 2015.
According to her boyfriend Brooks Houck, Crystal Rogers was last seen on the night of July 3, 2015. In an interview with Nancy Grace, he said she stayed up late playing games on her phone and was gone the next morning from the house where they lived with their 2-year-old son, Eli, and other children. According to radio station WBKR, Brooks did not report her missing for two days, and ultimately it was her own family that went to police.
“I told him ‘I’m going to the Police Department to report her missing,’ and he said, ‘That’s what you should do,’” Rogers' mother Sherry Ballard told The Kentucky Standard.
On July 5, police find Rogers' maroon Chevy Impala abandoned with a flat tire on the shoulder of the Bluegrass Parkway. Inside were her purse, keys and cellphone.
2. Rogers' family was suspicious of her boyfriend.
When Rogers went missing, Brooks said he wasn’t initially worried about her absence since she often went out with friends and stayed out late, sometimes not coming home until the next morning. Rogers’ family, however, was immediately concerned.
"The stories just don't add up. You just don't go to bed one night and not know she's gone and then not worry when she left the baby," Rogers’ sister Brooke Ballard told ABC News.
"He has not offered once to search — or help — or do anything for the family," she said.
In an interview with Nancy Grace, Brooks admitted he and Rogers had a “stressed relationship” at times, but he emphatically denied having anything to do with her disappearance.
"I'm 100 percent, completely innocent in this,” he said. Despite Rogers' family's criticisms, he claimed he was helping search efforts “behind the scenes” and said that his polygraph test was determined to be "inconclusive."
He continued to deny his connection to the disappearance, saying, "My whole family's name is trashed for something completely not even tied to me. [...] It's taking a lot of energy and effort. [...] I can't even go on the side of the road without looking like a murderer. This is starting to get silly. I don't need an attorney. I'm innocent. This, to me, is starting to get silly."
Brooks has never been charged or arrested in connection with Rogers' disappearance.
3. Brooks’ brother was fired from the police after being accused of interfering with the investigation.
On October 16, 2015, Brooks' brother Nick Houck was fired from the Bardstown Police Department for allegedly “interfering with the investigation” of Crystal Rogers’ disappearance, according to NBC affiliate WLEX. Nick was accused of warning his brother that detectives planned to interview him and advised him not to speak with them. Nick later told the Kentucky State Police that he only contacted his brother to tell him that "they might be trying to trip him up" and "he should protect himself."
Nick then failed a polygraph test conducted by an examiner from the FBI when questioned about the case.
When confronted with the results, Nick denied that he was lying, saying, “I don’t give a goddam what your f*cking computer said… You’re calling me a f*cking liar [and] I don’t like it when people call me a liar.”
4. Brooks' friend was arrested for lying to police.
In December 2015, Louisville’s WDRB reported the arrest of Danny Singleton on 38 counts of false swearing after he allegedly lied under oath to a grand jury in relation to the investigation of Crystal Rogers’ disappearance. According to NBC News, Singleton is a close friend and longtime employee of Brooks Houck.
Singleton later pleaded guilty and was released from jail after being in custody for six months.
5. Other members of the Houck family were caught up in the investigation.
When the Houck brothers' grandmother Anna Whitesides was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in June of 2016, the then-82-year-old invoked her Fifth Amendment rights, refusing to testify for the fear she might incriminate herself. Investigators had wanted to ask her about a white car of hers they believed was connected to Rogers’ disappearance.
Whitesides' lawyer said, “There are lots of things, particularly in a high-profile case, where there is as frenzied an investigation as there is here that could ensnare an 82-year-old woman.”
That August, Whitesides’ home was searched, as were the homes of Nick Houck and his mother Rosemary Houck, where several pieces of farm equipment were seized, according to WLKY. Whitesides’ home was again searched in July 2017, following the death of Rogers’ father, Tommy Ballard.
Whitesides has never been charged or arrested in connection with Rogers' disappearance.
6. Rogers' father was killed in an unsolved hunting accident.
On November 19, 2016, Crystal Rogers' 54-year-old father Tommy Ballard was fatally shot in the chest by an unknown person while waiting in a field for his grandson to go hunting. His family believes the same person is responsible for both Tommy’s death and Rogers' disappearance.
“When that happened to my husband,” wife Sherry Ballard told WDRB, “it was no accident.”
Sherry believes Tommy was getting close to finding out what happened to Rogers before he was killed.
7. There are other unsolved murders haunting Bardstown.
The Rogers and Ballard cases are unfortunately not the only unsolved cases to afflict the tightknit community of Bardstown, Kentucky. In May 2013, Officer Jason Ellis was ambushed on his way home from work, and shot multiple times. The motive and person behind his murder remain a mystery to this day.
Nearly a year later, in April 2014, 48-year-old teacher Kathy Netherland and her 16-year-old daughter, Samantha, were found dead inside their home. WAVE reported Kathy had been shot multiple times, while Samantha had been bludgeoned about the head, both women showing knife wounds to their necks. Again, the motive and perpetrator have never been determined.
Speaking in the wake of the Ballard shooting, longtime Bardstown resident Betty Greenwell told WDRB, "All these killings and murders and things going on here — it makes you nervous. Very nervous."
8. Rogers' aunt disappeared in 1979.
In 1979, Crystal Rogers’ Aunt, Freda Sharene “Sherry” Ballard, went missing from Bardstown, according to The Kentucky Standard. The 19-year-old was over seven months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, and her remains weren't found until August 1983. They were discovered on a farm close to where Rogers’ car was found. Her estranged husband, Edsel “Eddie” Barnes, and another man, George Weir, were eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison for her murder.
9. Signs have gone missing.
Ever since her disappearance, Rogers' family has plastered signs around Bardstown and its neighboring communities asking for any information on Rogers. In July of 2017, Brooks Houck’s current girlfriend, Crystal Maupin, was arrested after she was allegedly caught on camera ripping up signs connected to the investigation.
On the one-year anniversary of Tommy Ballard’s death, signs showed up around Bardstown speculating about Brooks’ involvement in Rogers’ disappearance. According to WDRB, Rogers' family “don’t know who is responsible for the signs.”
10. Both cases remain unsolved.
To date, no one has been arrested for the disappearance of Crystal Rogers and the shooting death of Tommy Ballard. Rogers' body has also never been found. In March 2018, the Kentucky House of Representatives and State Senate passed a resolution honoring them, as well as the victims of other unsolved Bardstown murders, and urging witnesses to come forward.
Tips on Rogers' case can be made to the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office at 502-348-1840.