In the early morning hours of May 25th, 2013, Officer Jason Ellis of the Bardstown P.D. was driving home after a shift, and was ambushed by an unknown assailant. His tragic attack was just the beginning of an extremely odd period in what has been called "America's most beautiful small town."
Part One: Officer Jason Ellis
January 30th, 2016 Micheal Whelan
Bardsown has a deep history, dating back to 1780. European Americans settled the area during their expansion west, and Bardstown became the second oldest town in Kentucky history.
A visit to Wikipedia will enlighten you to the town's many claims to fame, including storied visits from US President Abraham Lincoln, the outlaw Jesse James, and the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone.
More recently, Bardstown won a handful of awards compliment the beauty and the grandeur of the small-town. Rand McNally and other destination contemporaries have voted Bardstown as "the most beautiful small town in America" on more than one occasion.
The town has been made infamous for one reason or another since its inception, but in the past few years years, a more grimy, unsettling story has begun to write itself in the history book of Bardstown... this story you won't find on Wikipedia, because unfortunately, the truth isn't quite clear-cut and there isn't anything resembling a conclusion to this story.
But there's no better, or worse, place to start this story than on the fateful day of May 24th, 2013.
Jason Ellis was the epitome of America. Born in September of 1979, Jason was the one and only son of Denny and Pam Ellis. He had two sisters, Lacey and Kelly, and Jason grew up loving his family so much that he couldn't wait to add numbers to their ranks.
Jason was a star baseball player growing up. He played catcher for his Cincinatti-based high school team, eventually going on to play baseball at the University of the Cumberlands, which moved him south to Kentucky. During his athletic career for this liberal arts school, known as the Patriots, Jason played in 186 games and put up record numbers for hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIS... records which stand to this day.
It was while Jason attended University of the Cumberlands that he met Amy Phillips. The two were both college students, and on Valentine's Day in 2001, they met at a party being thrown by a mutual friend. They immediately hit it off, with Amy recounting later on how she knew Jason was "the one for her" on their very first date.
According to her, on their very first date, they were accompanied by Amy's mother, acting as an accidental chaperone and third wheel when Amy double-booked her evening. But the true spirit of Jason shone through when he picked up both mother and daughter for the date, bringing a bouquet of roses for both. That was just the type of person Jason was.
Jason and Amy would get engaged that next Christmas, in the latter days of 2002, and would marry in October of 2004.
Jason would eventually be signed by the Cincinatti Reds organization, his hometown baseball team, and he played for their minor league system for a period of time between 2002 and 2004.
It was his love of Amy, and his desire to start a family, that led him away from baseball. In 2004, Jason played his last game of professional baseball for the Billings Mustangs, the Pioneer League affiliate for the Cincinatti Reds. Amy was pregnant with their first child, Hunter, who would be born just two weeks after Jason left baseball behind. Hunter was born with Down Syndrome, but that didn't stop Jason and Amy from loving him with all of their hearts.
From that day forward, Jason put his heart and soul into fulfilling another dream he had held since childhood... becoming a police officer and starting a family.
The young lovebirds would eventually settle upon Bardstown, Kentucky, Amy's hometown, which was just forty or so miles away from where the two had gotten married in Louisville. They immediately got to work on building a family of their own, and eventually brought another son into the fold: Parker, born just two years later. As he got older, many would comment that Parker was the spitting image of Jason, and the two shared an extreme love of baseball.
Jason Ellis joined the Bardstown police force in 2006, and he served there until the day he died.
May 24th, 2013 - A day like any other, for this idealistic young family in the heartland of America. It was the Friday right before Memorial Day weekend, so the extended weekend was right in their sights.
Jason had now served the Bardstown police force for close to seven years, and had become an upstanding member of the community, winning Officer of the Year in 2008. He was a canine officer, in fact, the only one in all of Bardstown. On this chosen day, however, his canine-equipped vehicle was in the shop, so he was using a run-of-the-mill police cruiser, his German Shepherd partner Figo taking a small stay-cation at the family home.
It was approximately two o'clock in the morning, and Jason uses his car radio to inform dispatch that he's off for the night.
"139 Adam off-duty," he says, just like any other. Dispatch confirms his call, and Jason begins his drive home. He goes south down Stephen Foster avenue, then heads onto the overpass which leads him onto Bluegrass Parkway.
This is the same route Jason uses to drive home every single night. His work schedule keeps him away from his family on most nights, due to him working the evening shift. On the road, there is barely another soul in sight, and the entire area of Bardstown seems almost vacant, everyone squirreled asleep in their houses this early on a Friday morning.
It takes him roughly ten minutes to reach his stop, Exit 34. This is the stop just minutes away from his home, a heavily-shrouded, wooded road that leads to Springfield and Bloomfield.
It's not this night that Officer Jason Ellis meets his fate. On this night, at approximately two-thirty in the morning, Jason makes it home. His German Shepherd police companion, Figo, waits for him outside, just like he does every night the two are apart. He's greeted at the door by Amy, who fitfully sleeps on the couch until he arrives home every night.
Amy goes to bed, but Jason stays up for a little bit to watch TV. Eventually he gets tired enough to go to bed, and when Amy is woken up by her alarm clock at 5:45, Jason is deep asleep right next to her.
The day proceeds just like any other Friday. Amy wakes up the kids and heads to school, where she works as a substitute teacher. In the chaos of the morning, she forgets to kiss her husband goodbye, letting him sleep throughout the morning.
The day proceeds like any other Friday, with some small exceptions. Amy, along with Hunter and Parker, celebrate the school's Field Day with a flurry of activities. The family has a brief encounter at home: just as Amy and their sons are getting home from school, Jason is departing for his shift.
Jason starts his work day like any other. "139, on-duty" he says over his car radio, at approximately 3:52 in the afternoon. He begins his beat in downtown Bardstown, making a couple of traffic stops, but nothing drastic.
A little bit after 5:30, Jason arrives at Dean Watts Park, where Amy is watching their son play T-ball. Jason coaches the team along with his fellow officer, Andrew Riley, a police veteran that had become Jason's best friend since joining the police force.
But on this early evening, Jason comes to the field in a pretty dour mood. He is only there for a few minutes before being called away to work. He leaves in a hurry, not even saying saying goodbye to Amy or their sons. He probably believes that, just like any other night, he'd get to see them in just a few hours, and they'd begin their holiday weekend like all families should: together.
Jason answers the police call, a domestic disturbance about an ex-boyfriend harassing a young woman at her house. The call ends with Jason writing a ticket for the ex-boyfriend and leaving the scene peacefully, hoping to make it back to his son's T-ball game.
Half an hour or so, Jason returns to the field, but the game is already over. Families are packing up everything and leaving, and Jason doesn't stay long. Again, he forgets to say goodbye to Amy and the kids, leaving for work.
Amy and the kids head home, piling on the couch and falling asleep to the Disney Channel. She tries to call Jason a couple of times, but the call doesn't go through, Jason likely busy with his route.
At around 9:00, Jason and a couple of his fellow officers decide to grill up some sausage, so he stops by his regular convenience store to pick up some cheese. A couple of hours later, he meets up with friend and fellow officer, Andrew Riley, in a parking lot. The two regularly do this on slow nights like this, parking alongside each other and just talking about whatever's going on in their lives.
A short while later, after the two separate, they text each other about a large cardboard cutout of Jason that sits in the window of a local drug store... the two joke about it, Andrew refers to it as "freaky shit" and mentions uploading it to Reddit.
It's around eleven o'clock at night when Jason calls home, barely missing Amy, who has nodded off with the kids. She immediately calls back, and they have the short conversation that's been eluding them all day.
They end the conversation by telling each other that they love one another, and Jason says that he'll see her when he gets home.
The next couple of hours for Jason are consumed by a single call. Responding to a drunk and disorderly man by the name of Joseph William Hamilton, Jason is surprised and infuriated by the ordeal.
Hamilton only has one arm, but is drunk to the point of being hostile, and suffered a head wound during his drunken ordeal. He is bleeding, and Jason calls for an EMS to assist him after detaining Hamilton.
Jason heads back out on his route, undoubtedly hoping to spend the rest of his shift in peaceful solitude. But just a few minutes later he is warned that Hamilton, still conscious and drunk, is causing trouble for the EMS taking him to the hospital. So he is called to assist the EMS at the hospital and ensure Hamilton is obedient enough to receive care for his head wound, at which point he is to be taken to the county jail.
When they arrive, they find the security guard trying to restrain a thrashing Hamilton, who immediately recognizes Jason as his arresting officer.
Hamilton immediately launches into a tirade, threatening to kill Jason in very explicit, graphic ways. Jason brushes off the threats as being all bluster, and begins taking Hamilton to the Nelson County Jail.
The process is simple enough, and within minutes, Hamilton has been locked up in county, awaiting bail. He jokes with Sergeant Nancy Sheckels, not knowing that she'll be one of the last people that he'll ever talk to.
He gets back in his cruiser, then heads down Stephen Foster Avenue on his way home. The same route he drives down every night. Amy, Hunter, Parker, and Figo all await him at home, just twenty or so minutes away.
He calls off-duty for the last time.
Officer Jason Ellis takes Exit 34, the road that leads towards Springfield and Bloomfield, but more importantly, home.
As he exits the freeway, slowing down on the gas pedal, he begins to approach... something. Something in the middle of the road, an obstruction of sorts.
What we know about Jason is that he wasn't the sort of man to just let someone else deal with the mess. He stops his police cruiser and gets out, hoping to quickly clear away the obstruction so that he can get home to his family.
The obstruction is a mass of branches and tree limbs, which isn't an odd thing to see in this wooded, shrouded area. But while Jason is beginning to clear away the obstruction of branches and tree parts, a figure waits on a nearby ledge overlooking the road.
This wasn't an accidental obstruction, this was an ambush.
Whoever was waiting for him - whoever had planned this attack - fires down upon him with a shotgun. He's hit with at least two different types of ammunition, ammunition usually used for hunting rodents and other small animals.
Officer Jason Ellis is shot three times in all, getting hit multiple times in the chest, abdomen, right arm, and head area. Within minutes, he is dead, executed by someone that had planned this attack well ahead of time.
A short time after the attack on Jason Ellis, a group of citizens approached the crime scene, hesitant to help out. They didn't see Jason laying there at first, bleeding profusely from several wounds.
Chad Monroe was a farmer and worked at the nearby Heavin Hill Distillery, who had just gotten off of work and was headed home. Just ahead of him was a car with two drunk adults, being driven by the woman's teenage son, who was hesitant to exit the car to examine the scene.
Chad Monroe is the person who finds Jason's body, and as he begins to look for a pulse or administer CPR, he commands the drunk woman to use Jason's police radio to inform them of an officer down. She does just that, but the call itself is rather hard to listen to.
Andrew Riley, Jason's fellow officer and texting buddy, is one of the first officers to arrive on the scene. He arrives to find Jason's body pierced by what looks like gravel; his first thought was that Jason had been hit by a car and dragged some distance. But on further inspection, he finds that the small piercings and bruises on Jason's skin weren't caused by gravel, but by buckshot.
One can't even imagine the kind of horror that must have overwhelmed everyone - not only those that knew Jason well, like his family or fellow officers - but the community itself. To have a beacon of the community - a father, a decorated police officer, a T-ball coach - executed in cold blood... it's something that nightmares are made of. And to be killed so close to home, by someone that had obviously been lying in wait makes it worse.
Later that day, Police Chief Rick McCubbin held a press conference, and vowed not only justice, but vengeance against the person - or persons - responsible for the death of Officer Jason Ellis.
Jason Ellis was buried just a short distance away from the home where his widow and sons still live. His funeral was a tragic affair, culminating in many tears and his German Shepherd partner, Figo, placing a mournful paw upon his casket.
Amy Ellis, along with the couple's two sons and the rest of the community, began to mourn Jason's death. But a dangerous sentiment began to spread throughout Bardstown:
If something like this had happened to a police officer, a paragon of honor throughout the community, how would any of them be safe?
And a much more important question began to be asked: exactly who was responsible? The investigation was headed by the Kentucky State Police force itself.
Unfortunately, the case file got cold before the investigation ever got hot.
Part Two: "America's Most Beautiful Small Town"
February 18th, 2016 Micheal Whelan
The investigation into finding Jason's killer - or killers - was looking at any, and every, possible avenue for a lead. With no eyewitnesses or murder weapon to go off of, the investigation had to lean on a juicy two-hundred-thousand dollar reward for information leading to an arrest, most of which was raised in a fundraising format by citizens of Bardstown. It is, by most standards, the largest reward in Kentucky history.
Despite having no leads to go off of, the investigators were certain that at least two people had been at the crime scene, based off of information not yet released to the public.
"There are some indicators to us that would lead us to believe that there was more than one person," said state police Master Trooper Norman Chaffins.
But the real question began to be asked: who would kill Jason Ellis, who was - by all accounts - a great guy? Investigators looked into his personal life, searching for any straw they could grasp... but they found nothing. No gambling debts, no personal vendettas, nothing. His private life was as squeaky clean as his public persona.
The real fear, among Bardstown citizens, was that the gunman was walking among them.
"What scares us, if they will kill a police officer, what's to stop them from killing anybody else?" said Arlene Durbin, the owner of Arlene's Barber Shop in Bardstown. "To think there's someone walking the streets that cold blooded and ruthless."
So what would inspire someone to commit such a cold-blooded murder - an execution, some call - against this well-adored man?
"I believe it was a hit," said Bardstown City Council member Tommy Read. "Ellis was putting a dent into somebody's drug trade, and they finally got tired of it and put a hit out on him. I think he was under surveillance so they would know his routine."
Normally, this would begin to circulate questions about anyone involved in the Bardstown drug trade, and potential ties to Jason Ellis. This leads us to... the Bardstown Money Gang.
The Bardstown Money Gang is what it calls itself... a gang. Like most gangs, the self-pronounced "BMG" pride themselves on their illicit activities and nefarious ties to criminal activities.
Jason Ellis, while also being a canine officer, was one of the Bardstown police force's most prolific narcotics officers. But while he mostly dealt with small-time drug dealers, Ellis also had some run-ins with the Bardstown Money Gang.
Deandre Douglas, the leader of the Bardstown Money Gang, was nearly arrested by Ellis, who made the lucky traffic stop and arrested one of the assault suspects, Darrian Ellery. Deandre Douglas and the other suspect would be arrested within weeks, by Jason and other Bardstown police officers, but these encounters would just be the tip of the iceberg when it came to the Bardstown police force dealing with the BMG.
In August of 2013, just months after the execution of Jason Ellis, an unrelated party was being held in Nelson County. This party, full of young adults and teenagers, was interrupted by a contingency of young males chanting "BMG" and "Big Money Bardstown Gang." These men began to attack the party-goers, including the young women present, punching and kicking.
The Nelson County police responded to the incident, ultimately arresting two suspects but believing that there were many more of the BMG involved. During the arrest, one of the suspects began to taunt the police officers with claims that the BMG was responsible for the murder of Jason Ellis.
According to one of the teenage victims, a participant of the party, she was attacked by one suspect in particular, a young-23 year old man by the name of Brant Sheckles. She claims that Sheckles was just one of the multiple attackers, and that she was personally kicked in the stomach and head by him.
Also, according to her, during this attack, these members of the BMG were chanting that they were cop-killers during their assault upon the innocent party-goers. They came to the party, unprovoked and uninvited, solely to cause ruckous and to harm others.
It would be revealed, just a short time later, that 23-year old Brant Sheckles was the nephew of then-Bardstown mayor Bill Sheckles.
After the assault on the party in August, Sheckles, along with four other members of the Bardstown Money Gang were arrested. This was Sheckles second arrest in two months, and the second time he had claimed credit, on behalf of the BMG, for the death of Jason Ellis.
Mayor Bill Sheckles, a the first black mayor of Bardstown, was already dealing with enough criticism before his familial ties to the BMG became public knowledge. But his nephew's criminal endeavors surely emboldened that, and it took Mayor Sheckles a few days to come out and make a public statement.
In his statement, Bill Sheckles was unapoletic for his nephew's actions, and seemed rather disinterested in protecting him.
"You can pick your friends but unfortunately you can't always pick your relatives," Mayor Sheckles said. "Anything that he does or anybody else named Sheckles does, they don't get any special treatment. If they're guilty, they're guilty. If they break the law, they break the law. They suffer the punishment just like anyone else."
The Bardstown Money Gang, in addition to this assault on a group of partying teenagers, had also been tied to a series of assaults on elderly Bardstown citizens in the months prior. Bardstown public officials pleaded to the state government to increase the punishment for this type of violent attacks, but they had no such luck.
Eventually, Sheckles and the other members of the Bardstown Money Gang that were arrested, in connection to the August attack, plead guilty and took a plea deal given to them by the Nelson Country Circuit Court District Attorneys. Sheckles plead guilty to fourth degree assault, which is only a misdemeanor in the state of Kentucky, and riot in the first degree, which is only a class-D felony.
These charges were a lot lighter than many had anticipated, especially since they were multiple eyewitnesses and statements of guilt given by the perpetrators of the attack. Sheckles was eventually sentenced to four years in prison, which was surprisingly light. He was sentenced to four years in prison for trying to incite a riot, and then sentenced separately to 365 days in prison for the assault on the teenage party-goers. Both sentences would run concurrently, meaning that Sheckles would only need to spend four years in prison for assaulting several people at a party and claiming to have killed a local hero.
This brings into light just how harshly the Nelson county prosecutors decided to go after Sheckles and his BMG comrades. They surely could have thrown the book at the Bardstown Money Gang, but instead sentenced all of the members to relatively light prison sentences with meager probationary terms to follow, which included not being involved in the Bardstown Money Gang, or affiliating in any manner.
So, essentially, all of the BMG members got away with harassing and assaulting dozens of people in their hometown, in the months before and after the brutal murder of a hometown hero, and then taking credit for his death.
One would think that something fishy was afoot, but the story doesn't end there. Not by a long shot.
April 21st, 2014 - It's nearly been a year since the mysterious death of Officer Jason Ellis. While the tragedy lingers in the back of everyone's mind, where the mystery of the killer still resides, things have been returned to relative normality.
Kathy Netherland was every bit of the American ideal as Jason Ellis was. Approaching fifty, Kathy had been working at Bardstown Elementary as a special education teacher for some time now, and lived with her 16-year old daughter, Samantha. She had an older daughter, 19-year old Holly, who had just recently moved out and was away at college.
Less than a year beforehand, Kathy's husband,Bob, had died of colon cancer, so it must have been a tough year for her. To lose your loved one to a debilitating sickness, and then have to raise your teen-aged daughters on your own... I, personally, can't imagine how strong you must be to do that. And then to work as a special needs teacher during the day? It honestly sounds like an impossible task, but one that Kathy Netherland was able to manage.
Her daughter, Samantha, was a sophomore at the nearby Bardstown High School. According to her sister, Holly, she was the kind of kid that loved to play video games for hours, and could identify each and every Def Leppard song from the opening guitar riff. She loved to sing, and was by all accounts, a very lively, personable teenage girl.
But on the evening of Monday, April 21st, something dark was afoot. The same type of mystery that took the life of Officer Jason Ellis was unfolding in the Netherland family home located in Botland, just minutes away from Bardstown itself. However, this story would be every bit as tragic, but perhaps more brutal and terrifying.
On April 22nd, 2014, both Kathy and Samantha were noted as being absent from their respective schools. For Samantha, this was odd, but for Kathy to be absent without so much as a phone call, was shocking.
School officials soon got in touch with her family, and Kathy's father was sent to check in on them, to make sure everything was all right.
Unfortunately, everything was NOT all right. In fact, things were far from it.
Kathy's sister, Stacey Hibbard, recalls arriving at the scene to find cop cars all around the Netherland family house, police tape wrapping around the apparent crime scene. Her father, who had been the person sent to check on the Netherland pair, was in apparent distress.
"They're gone and somebody did something terrible to them," he told Stacey on that fateful Tuesday.
19-year old Holly Netherland would receive a phone call from her extended family later that day, a phone call she recalls later on.
"On April 22nd, I received a phone call that shattered my life. My mother and my sister were dead," Holly Netherland told reporters. "The first thought that ran through my head was, 'God, you can't take them. You took my daddy. You can't have them, too.'"
Both Kathy and Samantha Netherland had been murdered, brutally so. Kathy had been shot multiple times, and had a cut on her neck, but the worse fate had been saved for 16-year old Samantha. She was found to have been beaten severely, with serious wounds to her head and her neck slashed.
Kentucky State Police took the lead on this investigation, just as they had on the Jason Ellis case.
The detectives released very few details of the murder to the public, with the death certificates of the victims being released two months later, in June. The investigators soon released a clue that they were looking into, a newer-model black Chevy Impala that was seen by security cameras leaving the area of the murder, and had been spotted by neighbors in the Botland area.
"We still believe if we can find that car, we can solve the case," said Kentucky State Police Trooper Jeff Gregory.
Just like the murder of Jason Ellis, the area was in a panic. While the death of Jason Ellis was an absolute tragedy, it could have had a rationale behind it: criminals attacking a cop, drug dealers striking back at the source of their problems, etc. But to attack a middle-aged special ed teacher and her teenage daughter, who were already recovering from the death of another? It was absolutely unfathomable. And to happen in their own home, with painful methods, was incredibly terrifying.
The family of Kathy and Samantha Netherland quickly put together a $2500 reward, which in the following months skyrocketed upwards of $50,000.
In a further similarity with the investigation to find Officer Jason Ellis' killer, the investigation soon hit another brick wall. Months passed, and now nearly two years have passed without so much as a solid lead or a viable suspect. Detectives still believe that the as-yet-unidentified Chevy Impala holds the key to finding the Netherland's killer, but are no closer to finding it now than they were in 2014.
You may be thinking to yourself: how could a story get even weirder? Sadly, it continues to get weirder and weirder, marring the small town of Bardstown with further tragedy, heartache, and claims of corruption.
Before I continue forward, let me back up just a little bit.
In the months following Jason Ellis' murder, one of his senior officers had retired. This isn't unusual, on its own, but just months later, in March of 2014, one of their fellow Bardstown officers, Tony Satterly, resigned during an investigation. Led in part by both the Kentucky State Police and the Bardstown Police Department, the investigation had been looking into Satterly for drug charges since February of that year.
Satterly would be indicted in March on 10 counts of prescription drug fraud, which alleged that in-between the months of January 2013 and January 2014, he had obtained over 1,825 hydrocodone tablets and 265 tablets of oxycodone. His attorney would claim that he began to take painkillers after a back injury, and this led to the slippery slope of both legal, and illegal, prescription drug abuse.
According to his admission, he had been helped in this endeavor by a woman named Christy Morris, who worked at his doctor's office. Morris had been writing fraudulent prescriptions for him throughout the entire ordeal, and this story is made even weirder with the knowledge that Christy Morris was dating one of Satterly's colleagues, a Bardstown Police Officer.
So now, less than a year after the murder of Jason Ellis' murder, an officer had retired, one was facing prison charges for prescription drug fraud, and another was possibly involved in the knowledge of the drug fraud, his girlfriend being the one to write bogus prescriptions. Add on top of that the Kathy and Samantha Netherland murder, which was just as tragic and terrifying as anything to happen in Bardstown's uneventful history, and you have an environment built upon distrust and mystery.
That environment would continue to fester in the months and years following the murders of Jason Ellis and the Netherland women. For most, things were returning to normality, but there was an undercurrent of fear and mystery that permeated the air. The question of who had murdered both, or either, was nowhere close to being answered, and investigators had made that quite clear.
On July 3rd, 2015, the tragedy plaguing Bardstown would continue, compounding misery upon itself.
Crystal Rogers was a 35-year old mother of five who was in, what seemed to be, a healthy relationship with her boyfriend Brooks Houck. The two had a child together, an infant son named Eli.
Crystal would last be seen on July 3rd, after texting a friend that her and Brooks had gotten a babysitter, and were excited to have a kid-free night. The two went to the Houck family farm, likely in an attempt to have a night away from it all, and Crystal would never be seen by another soul again.
Two days after she had last been seen by anyone, Crystal's car, a maroon Chevy Impala, is found abandoned along the Bluegrass Parkway. Inside, the keys remain in the ignition, and her belongings are scattered throughout, such as her cell phone, purse, makeup, and other personal objects. The car had one flat tire, but otherwise looked to be in good condition and had no sign of Crystal herself.
On the same day that her car is found, she is officially declared missing, and the investigation to find her begins. Like most investigations, it starts by checking in on those close to her and those that saw her last. In this case, it starts with her boyfriend, Brooks Houck.
Houck claims that he and Crystal went to the family farm that night, stopping by to feed the livestock with their infant son, Eli, and then went home. He alleged that when he woke up in the morning, on the fourth of July, Crystal was gone. Brooks claimed that she would do this from time to time, going to "fantasy" parties or other social outings with her friends. In the middle of the night. By herself.
What's even more disconcerting is that, during an police interview on July 8th, Brooks was interrupted by a phone call from his brother, Nick Houck. The content of this phone call can only be guessed at, but this information will become very relevant in just a moment. It is also worth noting that Nick Houck, this brother of the missing woman's boyfriend, was a Bardstown Police Officer.
The very next day, on July 9th, Brooks appeared on Nancy Grace, in an effort to defend himself. For as many faults as I have with Nancy Grace, and I have several, she did a great job in the interview ridiculing Brooks logic.
Police began to focus their investigation in on Brooks, believing him to be the main suspect. They would eventually find out that the family farm he visited with Crystal on the night of her disappearance had a security camera, and they were able to access that footage. That footage showed both Crystal and Brooks arriving at the farm, but only Brooks leaving that night, shortly before midnight, which is later than he claimed he stayed there with Crystal and their son.
The day that Brooks had the interview with police, in which his brother called to possibly warn him that he was a suspect, the two brothers would make a trip out to the family farm. They would be there for nearly two hours, doing something that neither brother can remember.
That's not a joke on my part. When Nick Houck would be interviewed by police, just days after the brotherly meetup, he claimed ignorance. He couldn't remember why he or his brother had been out at the family farm, and what they had been up to that had taken nearly two hours out of their day.
I don't know about you, but if my brother had a girlfriend go missing and was being investigated for her disappearance, who then called me and wanted to meet up at our family farm, the last place she was possibly seen alive, I think I MIGHT remember what had happened there. Or why we were there in the first place. But apparently this was too much to ask out of Nick Houck, a Bardstown Police Officer that had spent years upholding peace and justice in this area of rural Kentucky.
This wasn't the end of the story, though. Nick would be suspended in September by Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin, as the investigation began to focus on him and his ties to Crystal Rogers' disappearance. He would fail a polygraph administered by the investigators, just like his brother Brooks, and would later be fired by the Bardstown Police Department on October 16th, 2015, on the grounds of interfering with a police investigation. This was the same day that Brooks Houck was officially named a suspect in the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, and a Nelson County sheriff tells the media that Crystal Rogers is "presumed dead."
There is an hour-and-a-half long interview with Brooks Houck, administered by the Kentucky State Police Force, available to watch on Youtube. This is the July 15th interview, in which the KSP allege that Nick Houck was helping his brother Brooks out in more than just one way. They reveal that blood spatter was found in the trunk of Nick Houck's police cruiser, and that a blanket found in the trunk "lit up like Chernobyl" to their black lights.
The investigators have a good idea of what happened: that Brooks killed Crystal Rogers, did a decent job of trying to cover up the crime, and had his brother, a police officer at the very department investigating her disappearance, help him out. The blanket in his trunk, which he had no explanation for, was covered in human DNA that also matched up with other DNA found in spots within his trunk.
Furthermore, neighbors of Nick Houck allege that they spotted him moving something from the trunk of his police cruiser to inside his mother's car, but we all know how reliable eyewitness testimony may be.
Regardless of how the investigation into finding Crystal Rogers, or who was responsible for her disappearance, one is easily able to see that something is flawed within Bardstown, Kentucky. A place that embodies the beauty of small-town living, in rural America, has become rife with so many claims of corruption or police involvement that the town itself has started to become agitated.
In December of 2015, just years after the multiple crimes and scandals began to rock the town, an arrest was finally made. Danny Singleton, a longtime employee of Brooks Houck, was arrested on 38 counts of perjury, for lying under oath to investigators. This was the first arrest made in connection to the Crystal Rogers disappearance, as Brooks Houck had been named a suspect but still has yet to be arrested on any charges.
The day after Danny Singleton's arrest, a rally was held outside the Nelson County Justice Center. Organized and held in part by friends and family of Crystal Rogers, the rally was aimed at keeping the name Crystal Rogers relevant in the news media, to raise awareness for her disappearance and the other unsolved crimes in Bardstown.
While most members of the rally promoted a positive message, a few were quick to blame the police force and local officials for not doing enough. The rumors of corruption and police involvement, mixed with the scandals rocking the police department itself, were reaching a boiling point.
Police Chief Rick McCubbin was quick to come out with a statement on his Facebook page, penning an open letter that declared the accusations baseless. He urged the community of Bardstown to come together to help solve these crimes, a mentality that SHOULD be shared to help these unresolved stories find some kind of solution.
While an answer to the disappearance of Crystal Rogers seems to be on the horizon, there is no end in sight for the families of Officer Jason Ellis or Kathy and Samantha Netherland. There have still be no arrests made in connection to either crime, and as far as we know, the public don't even have any leads when it comes to identifying a suspect. Relatives of both families, as well as those of Crystal Rogers, maintain an open line of communication that they hope one day leads to any of their stories getting resolved.
Whether or not the three crimes are related in any way, and regardless of IF the claims of police corruption have any merit or not, it's evident that there is something mysterious happening in Bardstown, Kentucky.
Update - Bardstown
November 23rd, 2016 Micheal Whelan
Over the past few days I've received a lot of emails and messages very similar to the voicemail this caller left, so I thought that it would only be fair to give you all an update.
In January and February of this year, 2016, I put out a couple of episodes set in the area of Bardstown, Kentucky. The story began with the mysterious murder of Officer Jason Ellis just off of the Bluegrass Parkway, but also included the seemingly-unrelated murder of Kathy Netherland and her teenage daughter Samantha as well as the disappearance of Crystal Rogers.
Crystal Rogers was a 35-year old mother of five, who disappeared after a night spent with her long-time boyfriend, Brooks Houck, in July of 2015. Brooks would plead ignorance, saying that Crystal had gone out without him while they were sleeping, but has long since been implicated in her disappearance.
Brooks Houck's brother, Nick, was a member of the Bardstown Police Department, who would later go on to become involved with the story when it became public knowledge that he had interfered with the investigation. What's even more concerning, is that Nick put up the same kind of defense his brother had, not remembering a single second of the time he had matter-of-factly spent with his brother in the preceding days.
In the months since I put out these Bardstown episodes, quite a bit has happened with the story, and the town of Bardstown itself. The area around the town has become plastered with signs forcing remembrance of Crystal's disappearance, or urging police to "solve these murders."
In April of this year, newly-elected city mayor John Royalty, who defeated incumbent Bill Sheckles in a 2014 election, caused quite a stir when he decided to entirely restructure Police Chief Rick McCubbin's staff. Royalty chose to demote two of McCubbin's officers and gave his own appointees the positions, without regard for McCubbin's opinion. Police Chief McCubbin, who was very vocal in the aftermath of Jason Ellis' murder, would announce his retirement just days later.
Royalty, much like his predecessor Bill Sheckles, has been mired in controversy. His decision to replace much of the Bardstown Police command structure with people perceived to be "friends" of his was just the start, as he would soon lock into a war-of-words with one of the local newspapers when they called him a "danger."
In August of this year, Nelson County Sheriffs began serving warrants on Nick Houck, the former-Bardstown police officer believed to be involved in the disappearance of his brother's girlfriend, Crystal Rogers. These warrants included a brief interview with Houck himself; interviews with Houck family relatives; and most noteworthy, a search of the Houck family farm, where Crystal was last seen alive.
Now, months after these warrants were served, Crystal's boyfriend Brooks Houck still hasn't been arrested. He has officially been named a suspect in her disappearance, and Nelson County sheriffs believe his brother Nick was involved in some capacity, but no official answers have been given.
That leads us to: this past Saturday, November 19th, 2016.
Tommy Ballard, the father of Crystal Rogers, had been one of the biggest proponents of her investigation. He had led many search parties, and in fact, was planning on leading one of the biggest yet in the coming weeks. Every time he would get a tip or hear a rumor regarding his daughter Crystal's fate, he would follow up on it, no matter where it took him.
On this morning, Tommy was out hunting with his son and his twelve-year-old grandson, on a Nelson County farm not far away from the Bluegrass Parkway, where Crystal's crimson Chevy Impala had been abandoned over a year beforehand.
At around eight o'clock that morning, Tommy Ballard was shot once in the chest, and the bullet would exit through his back. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and investigators have not revealed much information, but they have said they don't believe it was a simple hunting accident; nor do they believe that his son or grandson had anything to do with it.
As of this moment, they haven't revealed any real information or if they have any potential suspects, but have urged the public to come forward with any information they may have: if you may have driven down the Bluegrass Parkway at some point Saturday morning, and may have seen something suspicious, please contact the Kentucky State Police.
I'll be sure to keep you all informed, should anything come to light regarding this story, or others I have touched on in the past.
Sources and further reading
- WCPO - "Exit 34: The Last Watch of Officer Jason Ellis"
- WLKY - "Timeline: Officer Jason Ellis ambushed, killed"
- WDRB - "Widow of slain Bardstown officer Jason Ellis, colleagues issue new plea for information in 2013 murder"
- WLKY - "Two long years, still no answers in Jason Ellis murder case"
- Courier-Journal - "Bardstown officer Jason Ellis' slaying still a mystery"
- WAVE 3 - "Man says he killed Bardstown officer, leaders plan to crack down on gang"
- WHAS 11 - "Bardstown Police Chief issues statement on firing of Officer Nick Houck"
- Nelson County Gazette - "Retired officer is 10th candidate to file for seat on Bardstown City Council"
- WKYT - "Bardstown mayor comments on nephew's claims regarding slain officer"
- The Kentucky Standard - "Sheckles pleads guilty to riot at field party"
- CBS News - "Reward upped in unsolved murder of Ky. mom, daughter"
- WAVE 3 - "Death certificates reveal gruesome nature of Nelson Co. mother, daughter murders"
- WLKY - "Murdered teacher, daughter remembered at memorial"
- WDRB - "Family of murdered Nelson County mother and daughter increase reward for information"
- WDRB - "Bardstown double-murder case remains unsolved"
- CBS News - "Who killed Ky. mom, teen daughter remains a mystery"
- WDRB - "Former Bardstown police officer indicted on drug charges"
- HLNTV - "Missing mom's boyfriend: 'I'm 100% innocent'"
- The Kentucky Standard - "Bardstown Police Officer suspended"
- WHAS 11 - "Bardstown chief responds to police criticism"
- WLKY - "Documents detail events leading up to Bardstown officer's dismissal"
- The Kentucky Standard - "Detectives say Brooks Houck killed Rogers"
- Daily Mail - "Cop is fired after failing lie detector test when he was questioned over the disappearance of his brother's girlfriend"
- WLKY - "New details released in disappearance of Bardstown mom, Crystal Rogers"
- NBC News - "Employee of Boyfriend Arrested on Perjury Charges in Crystal Rogers Case"
- WDRB - "Missing Bardstown woman's boyfriend says investigation is 'starting to get silly'"
- WLKY - "Family, friends rally to call attention to Crystal Rogers' disappearance"
- WDRB - "Kentucky State Police quiet on Tommy Ballard death investigation, but confident in solving case"
- WDRB - "Bardstown family longs for answers 6 months after Tommy Ballard was killed"