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The 2015 disappearance of Crystal Rogers continues to fascinate people far beyond the reaches of the small town where it occurred. People are drawn into the mystery of a woman who vanished into thin air and the cast of characters who were prevalent in her life. The case involves two families, at least three different law enforcement agencies, and the so-called “Bourbon Capital of the World,” which, despite being voted “The Most Beautiful Small Town In America” in 2012, is host to a series of unsolved killings that has put townsfolk on edge.
Like the layers of an onion, the disappearance of Crystal Rogers and “The Bardstown Murders” reveal new details at every turn. Here is a review of all the key players in the Rogers case.
Crystal Maria Rogers
Rogers was a 35-year-old mother of five from Bardstown, Kentucky. At 5 foot 9 inches tall, with long, blonde hair, she was hard to miss. At the time of her disappearance, she lived with Brooks Houck, her boyfriend of several years, their 2-year-old son Eli and her other children. Houck claims the last time he saw her was around midnight on July 3, 2015, at home, playing games on her phone.
When he awoke the next morning, Houck says she was gone, as was her car. Her mother, Sherry Ballard, reported her missing two days later. That afternoon, a relative found her car along the Bluegrass Parkway. It had a flat tire, and the keys were still in it, as were her purse and cellphone.
Despite a massive multi-year search effort and a rewards being offered for information about the case, Rogers remains missing as of this writing.
Crystal Rogers' boyfriend, Brooks Houck, was named a suspect shortly after she vanished. He has has never been charged in connection with her disappearance. According to radio station WBKR, Brooks did not report her missing for two days, and ultimately it was Crystal's family that went to police.
When Rogers went missing, Brooks said he wasn’t initially worried about her absence since she had, on occasion, spent the night out at her cousin’s or other family member’s homes.
Rogers’ sister, Brooke Bryan, told ABC News, "The stories just don't add up.”
Days after Rogers’ disappearance, Houck took a lie detector test, however, according to The Kentucky Standard, Detective Jon Snow of the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office called the results inconclusive. Soon after, Brooks called into "The Nancy Grace Show" and said he was "100 % completely innocent in this.”
In October 2015, Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly told reporters that he believed Crystal Rogers was dead and that Brooks Houck was the sole suspect in her disappearance. Despite this assertion, and numerous search warrants being executed on property owned by various members of the Houck family, Brooks has not been charged with any crimes related to the case.
In June 2018, after three years of silence, Houck commented on the case, telling WDRB, “I have been advised, you know, to ride the wave and keep on keeping on. And that's what I've done and it's worked out great this far.”
On Wednesday, July 18, Houck was arrested on four counts of felony theft for allegedly stealing more than 200 bundles of roofing shingles from a Lowe's store over the course of three days in April 2018. According to The Kentucky Standard, witnesses saw police remove three evidence bags and a computer modem from his home. He was released the following day on $25,000 bond and has not released a statement at this time.
Following Crystal Rogers’ disappearance, her parents, Tommy and Sherry Ballard, led search efforts to find their daughter. On November 19, 2016, Tommy Ballard was fatally shot in the chest by an unknown gunman while hunting with his 11-year-old grandson on family property. He was 54 years old.
According to Sherry Ballard, in the weeks before his death, Tommy told her he believed he was being followed.
As of yet, the Kentucky State Police have not classified Ballard’s death a homicide. Trooper Jeff Gregory told WDRB, “It doesn't mean we can't change that title later.”
Sherry Ballard, who has lost both a daughter and a husband, remains a vocal advocate for her family. She is convinced the shooting death of Tommy Ballard is related to Crystal’s disappearance.
“When that happened to my husband, [...] I knew it was no accident,” she told WDRB.
She has also voiced her suspicions that her daughter’s presumed death is tied to the unsolved murder of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, who was ambushed in 2013 on his way home from work. In a March 2017 interview, Sherry Ballard told WDRB she believed Crystal “overheard something maybe she shouldn't have” about the Ellis murder.
These claims, however, have not been substantiated. She has also pushed the Kentucky Legislature to put pressure on law enforcement to help solve the unsolved Bardstown crimes, which also include the April 2014 murder of 48-year-old special education teacher Kathy Netherland and her 16-year-old daughter, Samantha.
Early on in the investigation of Crystal Rogers’ disappearance, Brooks Houck’s brother Nick Houck came under scrutiny. Nick was an officer with the Bardstown Police Department, and he allegedly warned his brother not to talk to investigators. His police cruiser was later searched, and he was asked to come in for questioning, which he initially refused.
He later failed an FBI polygraph test. “I don’t give a goddam what your f*cking computer said," he told the examiner. "You’re calling me a f*cking liar [and] I don’t like it when people call me a liar.”
Nick was eventually fired from the police department for interfering with the case. In August 2016, police served a search warrant on Nick Houck in connection with the Rogers' case. No charges have ever been brought against him.
The Houck brothers’ grandmother, Anna Whitesides, has also been publicly associated with the case. In June 2016, she invoked her rights under the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify when subpoenaed to discuss a white car she owned at the time of Crystal’s disappearance, which investigators believed was potentially connected to the case.
No charges have ever been brought against her in connection with either Crystal or Tommy's case. The white car, a Buick, was searched by police and subsequently released.
Sheriff Ed Mattingly
Despite calling Brooks Houck “completely cooperative,” in the early days of the Crystal Rogers investigation, Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly changed his tune a few months later, saying at an October 2015 press conference, “I would label Brooks Houck a suspect.”
In December 2017, Mattingly announced he was retiring from the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office due to concerns his retirement benefits would be cut following a call by Kentucky state legislators for public pension reform.
In December 2015, the Nelson County Sheriff's Department announced the indictment of Danny Singleton, 53, for perjury in connection to the Crystal Rogers investigation. At the time, Singleton was an employee of Brooks Houck, and according to NBC, “a close friend.”
In July 2016, after pleading guilty to 38 counts of false swearing, he was released from jail.
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