Part Three: Crystal Rogers
On July 3rd, 2015, Crystal Rogers - a mother of five - would last be seen. Her maroon Chevy Impala would be found along the Bluegrass Parkway two days later, sparking Bardstown’s third high-profile criminal investigation in as many years…
Throughout 2013 and 2014, the area surrounding Bardstown, Kentucky was mired in controversy.
In May of 2013, an officer from Bardstown - Jason Ellis - was shot and killed while on his way home. The offender seemed to be lying in wait, having set up some branches and tree limbs in the middle of the road. Jason, being who he was, pulled over and tried to clean up the mess, but was shot and killed by an unknown offender. His case would grow cold by the end of the year, but... tragedy struck again before the one-year mark of his death.
In April of 2014, the bodies of a special education teacher named Kathy Netherland and her sixteen year old daughter Samantha were found in their home on the outskirts of Bardstown. They had been savagely murdered by an unknown assailant, but - there seemed to be even less clues pointing towards their killer than the prior year's ambush. These were women with no known enemies, and no real motive was ever ascribed to their killings.
As 2014 came to an end, Bardstown seemed to be regaining some semblance of normality. The normally quiet and quaint small town was not used to the national spotlight - which these unsolved crimes had been bringing to it.
Sadly, tragedy was not yet done with the people of Bardstown, Kentucky.
This is the story of Crystal Rogers.
In 2015, Crystal Rogers was an incredibly normal - yet shy - 35-year old.
Crystal - the daughter of Tommy and Sherry Ballard - had been married to a man named Keith Rogers, with whom she had a couple of kids. Eventually, their marriage began to strain, and instead of a divorce, the two agreed to simply separate - Crystal keeping his last name as they became estranged. Shortly thereafter, she had started dating a local man named Brooks Houck, and this relationship carried on for several years leading into 2015. With Brooks, she had one child - a son named Elijah (or "Eli" for short).
In addition to dating Brooks, Crystal also worked with him. You see, Brooks came from a pretty well-off family with roots in Bardstown, and he owned and managed multiple rental properties in the region. Crystal worked with him, in addition to helping raise her five kids.
Sherry Ballard, Crystal's mother, recalls her as being a very kind, compassionate, and shy person - who was not the sort of person to make any waves. Speaking to Fox News, Sherry stated:
"Crystal had no enemies that I know of. She did rental property. I mean, I'm sure people weren't always happy when she had to collect rent, but that's a normal, everyday thing."
According to some of those that were close to Crystal, her relationship with Brooks was beginning to strain. Some have described their relationship as being "stressed" - due to work and some other factors - but some have even claimed that in the summer of 2015, Crystal was preparing to break up with Brooks. We have no evidence of that being true - only local gossip - but it is worth sharing because of what comes next.
On July 3rd, 2015, Crystal Rogers texted a friend of her's - stating that she was excited to finally have a child-free night alone with Brooks. She said that she had gotten a babysitter, and was going to be spending the evening with her boyfriend.
This was the night before the Fourth of July holiday, and we know for a fact that Crystal and Brooks went to his family's farm. The details of their trip have been disputed in the years since, but... this would be the last known location that Crystal Rogers would ever be seen.
The Fourth of July holiday came and went. Barbecues were had, fireworks went off, and the loved ones of Crystal Rogers did not hear from her throughout the day.
According to Sherry Ballard, Crystal's mother:
"She wasn't returning any phone calls. She still hadn't contacted us and that's when I really started getting worried."
The following day - on July 5th, 2015 - Crystal's vehicle was found abandoned along the Bluegrass Parkway, on the westbound side, near mile marker 14. The keys were still in the ignition of her maroon Chevy Impala, and one of the car's tires was flat. Other than that, the car seemed to be in good condition - just bizarrely abandoned alongside the highway.
Inside the car, Crystal's belongings seemed to be scattered - her uncharged cell phone, her purse, her makeup, and some other belongings strewn throughout. However, there seemed to be no presence of Crystal in - or nearby - the vehicle itself.
Later that day - July 5th - Crystal was reported missing by her family. A missing persons investigation was immediately launched by Detective Jon Snow - that's right, Detective Jon Snow - and within hours, began centering in on the person Crystal's family believed was responsible for her disappearance: her boyfriend, Brooks Houck.
Shortly after Crystal's disappearance, Brooks Houck met with investigators, who wanted to get a better sense of his relationship with Crystal - as well as the events of the last night they had spent together, July 3rd.
Brooks claimed that he had gone to the family farm that night, along with Crystal and their two-year old son, Eli. They had fed the livestock and then returned home early that evening. Brooks claimed that they had gone to bed as they normally did, with Crystal playing some game on her phone as he faded off to sleep.
Then, he alleged that he woke up the next morning, and... Crystal was gone.
According to him, this wasn't unusual. In fact, he claimed this was something she did from time to time, just heading out in the middle of the night to hang out and party with her sister and friends.
By Brooks' description, Crystal was a bit of a ‘partyer,’ who often left behind her children at home to attend "fantasy parties" (whatever that means). This allegation was disputed by virtually all of Crystal's friends and family, who said that the woman wasn't a shut-in by any means, but wasn't the kind of person to leave her children for a day or more to simply go party. Besides, most of her known friends had kids of their own, and - likewise - wouldn't just abandon them like that.
When Brooks was asked about the text messages retrieved from Crystal's friend - alleging that the two of them were going to be spending July 3rd together, without any children - Brooks had no response. He simply said "I don't know" when questioned, and couldn't articulate any response.
Family and friends of Crystal noted that Brooks' attitude in the period of time Crystal was missing - from July 3rd on - seemed very off-putting. He seemed to have done very little to try and locate her in the two days before her Chevy Impala was found alongside the Bluegrass Parkway. He told investigators that he had tried calling her the morning that she was missing - July 4th - but could not remember where he was or exactly when he had made the call.
In addition, even after Crystal's vehicle was found and she was reported missing - on July 5th - her loved ones state that Brooks didn't seem to be overly moved or shocked by the news. In fact, he didn't offer to help with any of the search efforts, and seemed almost apathetic to the news.
Brooke Ballard, Crystal's sister, stated about Brooks Houck and his statements to police:
"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. He has not offered once to search - or help - or do anything for the family."
On July 8th, 2015, Brooks Houck sat down for an interview with Nelson County Sheriff's Detective Jon Snow. In this interview, he spoke about the morning Crystal had gone missing, telling investigators about her habit of disappearing in the middle of the night:
Through this conversation, Detective Snow touched upon all of the aspects of the story that had been revealed thus far. He was trying to get a better feel for both Crystal and Brooks, and asked questions about their relationship, Crystal's habits, Brooks' professional life, and whatever struggles they might have had. Brooks seemed to downplay most everything, and - as you just heard - made himself sound like as much of a victim as anyone.
All in all, the interview is pretty uneventful. For more than an hour and a half, Detective Snow asks Brooks Houck rather-mundane questions pertaining to this small town missing persons investigation. Brooks was unable to answer certain questions about Crystal and the time period of her disappearance, but didn't seem particularly evasive.
But then, just before 7:00 PM - about an hour-and-a-half into the interview - Brooks gets a phone call from his brother, Nick Houck - an officer with the Bardstown Police Department.
After ending the conversation with his brother, Brooks Houck almost immediately seemed to clam up. He had been rather open prior to their discussion, but his brother - an officer with the Bardstown Police force - seemed to caution him against speaking any further. Other details of their conversation we can only guess at.
In an official affidavit, Nick Houck would state:
"The purpose of the call was not to interfere with the investigation, but to check on my brother and make sure that he was ok."
The interview with Brooks Houck concluded at around 7:10 PM, on the evening of July 8th, 2015.
Following this interview - which was interrupted by a phone call from Brooks' brother, Nick - the two brothers met up. They actually went straight to the Houck family farm, on Paschal Ballard Lane - the last place that Crystal had been seen, less than a week prior.
For a couple of hours, the two brothers would be at the farm. Doing what, exactly, we have no idea. According to them, they don't remember. But they left the farm at approximately 11:22 PM, having spent two hours on the property doing God-knows-what.
We know that the brothers met up at the farm because security camera footage caught all of it. Cameras recorded the brothers pulling into the driveway at the same time, and then leave just before 11:30, right after each other. Yet, when asked about this, both of the brothers would plead ignorance.
By the following day - July 9th - Crystal's story had begun to make national headlines. In addition to being featured on national news broadcasts, Crystal's story was featured on the Thursday afternoon edition of Nancy Grace's program.
In addition to Crystal's parents - Tommy and Sherry - making an appearance, Brooks Houck phoned in to clear his name and... things did not go very well.
After his suspicious actions on July 8th, Bardstown Police Officer Nick Houck was brought in to testify in front of a grand jury. The same day that his brother Brooks appeared on Nancy Grace - July 9th - Nick appeared and gave a statement to the grand jury.
That same day, his police cruiser was confiscated and searched by Nelson County officials, and when he was called by detectives and asked to come in, Nick refused, telling them:
"I have nothing to tell you."
As you can imagine, this did nothing to relax any suspicions about Nick's potential involvement in his brother's girlfriend's disappearance. Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbing would have a conversation with Nick, telling him that meeting with investigators and cooperating fully would only be in his best interest.
Again, Nick seemed hesitant. During their conversation, Nick Houck would tell Police Chief McCubbin - his boss - that if he:
"... knew anything he would have already told him."
On July 15th, Bardstown Police Officer Nick Houck finally sat down with investigators, after close to a week of haggling over a time and date. The interview was administered by detectives with the Kentucky State Police, who were helping out with the investigation.
During this interview, the detectives asked Nick about his relationship with his brother and what he knew of Crystal. According to Nick, the brothers didn't speak that often about their relationships.
About 30 minutes into the interview, the detectives begin asking Nick about their family farm - and then his police cruiser. The conversation meanders for a bit, but trust me - it's leading somewhere.
The interview carries on for another twenty or so minutes, with the two detectives asking Nick about the phone call he had made to his brother the week prior (during his own police interview). Nick can recall no information that was relayed in that phone call, not even down the most minute detail.
After another twenty or so minutes, the detective step out of the room. For a few minutes, Nick is left sitting in the interrogation room. When the detectives return, they tell him that they have a few more things to go over.
This time, their questions seem to be much more guided - more direct. More accusatory.
Nick Houck seemed to not have answers for any of the investigators questions. When asked about what he had said to his brother on the phone, during their July 8th phone call... he couldn't remember. When asked about the bizarre physical evidence found in his trunk... he had no response. When asked about what he had done at the farm with his brother less than a week prior... he fell silent.
His common response to almost every question was "I don't know," which - while not incriminating - isn't exactly a quality you expect out of a police officer.
At the end of the interview, Nick Houck would agree to take a polygraph test the following Monday - July 20th. However, when the time came for Nick to take that scheduled test, he failed to appear... for another unknown reason.
The investigation into Crystal Rogers' disappearance was headed by the Nelson County Sheriff's Office. Spearheaded by Detective Jon Snow, the investigation obtained involvement from other regional agencies - such as the Bardstown Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office - as well as early assistance from the FBI and the Kentucky State Police.
As the days after Crystal's mysterious disappearance began to turn into weeks, the investigation continued focusing in on Brooks Houck - Crystal's boyfriend and father of her youngest child. Detectives had all but publicly named him a suspect, believing him to be the last person to have seen Crystal (at least, that they knew of). Because of standard operating procedure - which begins an investigation with spouses and immediate family members - he was the person that investigators started with.
His actions - and those of his brother, Nick, an officer with the Bardstown Police Department - did very little to ease those suspicions.
Security footage had been recovered from the Houck family farm, which was the last known location that Crystal had been at. This footage, obtained by investigators with the KSP and Nelson County Sheriff's Office, showed Crystal and Brooks at the farm on July 3rd. This marked the last known whereabouts for Crystal, who had not been seen by anyone other than Brooks afterwards.
When questioned, Brooks told police that he and Crystal had gone home after visiting his family's farm, but the footage only showed him leaving. Crystal's whereabouts were unknown.
To make matters worse, Brooks told police that the couple's infant son, Eli, had been with them - but the footage didn't show him at all. He didn't appear to have been at the farm with Crystal and Brooks, and Brooks timeline - which alleged they left early in the evening - didn't match up with the footage, which showed him leaving shortly before midnight, sans Crystal or Eli.
In addition, security footage showed that a little under one week later - on July 8th, the same evening that Brooks' police interview had been interrupted by a phone call from his brother, Nick - the brothers met up at the same family farm after sunset. The footage showed each of them arriving at the same time, spending roughly two hours there, before leaving at the exact same time: 11:22 PM.
When questioned, Nick Houck - a Bardstown Police Officer - could not remember why he had gone out to the family farm. He described simply meeting his brother out there by happenstance, which seemingly went against the video evidence showing them arriving and leaving at the same time.
Nick also couldn't describe what the brothers had been doing on the night in-question. Despite him being a police officer - whose testimony was relied upon in court cases - Nick Houck could not recall a single thing that his brother and he had done or said out on the family farm.
During a July 15th interview with investigators, Nick was then questioned about two further developments: the trunk of his police cruiser testing positive for bodily fluids, and witness statements from his neighbors recalling him move something from that trunk to the trunk of a family member's car in the days surrounding Crystal's disappearance and this trip out to the family farm. As you heard, Nick could offer up no response, stating that he had no idea what either could feasibly be about.
Things were not looking good for either of the Houck brothers, who were staring down the barrel of a lengthy investigation - with the spotlight of a nation shining down on them and every move they had made over the past month. That would not change in the coming weeks, when their activities continued to warrant suspicion from the world at-large.
During Nick Houck's interview with Kentucky State Police investigators on July 15th, he was asked to take a polygraph test. His brother, Brooks, had already taken one a few days prior, with the results being inconclusive. After Nick's unsettling actions over the past week or so, it seemed like a reasonable request for him to take one, as well. He agreed, and scheduled a date to take a polygraph of his own: the following Monday, July 20th.
On the day in-question, Nick was a complete no-show. Officials with the FBI would contact him, and ask him to come in to take the polygraph that afternoon, but Nick - who was off-duty from his job as a Bardstown Police Officer - flat-out refused. He simply said no, implying that he couldn't be forced into taking one as a civilian.
That excuse seemed to fall flat a few days later - on July 24th - when he returned to work in his police uniform. He was then not-so-subtly forced to sit down for the test, and the polygraph examiner would express "grave concerns" with the results.
Normally, I don't put any faith in polygraph tests. They are notoriously unreliable, and their basis in legitimate science is shaky at best. Generally, they are really only indicative of stress levels when asked about certain topics - not necessarily implying any guilt.
However, what polygraph tests are useful at identifying - for investigators - is the subjects or topics that the interviewees are evasive on. When it came to Nick Houck's polygraph test, his results showed deception whenever questioned about Crystal Rogers - or what had happened to her.
As you just heard, Nick became very defensive when questioned about his test results; denying to have any knowledge of Crystal's disappearance or, really, about his brother's relationship with her.
The investigation into Crystal Rogers' disappearance continued on for the next several months, but new information was pretty scarce. Search efforts were conducted by volunteers in the location near where Crystal's Chevy Impala had been found - spreading out from the Bluegrass Parkway into surrounding areas - but the police seemed to uncover no new evidence in all of the searches.
Crystal was still nowhere to be found, and it appeared as-if she had disappeared into thin air. Suspicions continued to be centered around her boyfriend, Brooks Houck, and his brother, Nick.
On September 9th, 2015 - more than two months after Crystal's disappearance - Nick Houck was suspended by Bardstown Police Chief Rick McCubbin. In the decision to do so, Chief McCubbin wrote:
"I gave him a verbal command to cooperate with the lead investigator and to meet with him. He stated to me that he 'had nothing to say to them, and that if he knew anything, he would have already talked to him.'"
This seemed to stem from the early decision Nick made not to cooperate, and to try and impede the investigation by stonewalling investigators - not only with the Nelson County Sheriff's Office, but the Kentucky State Police and the FBI. All of which was conduct unbecoming of an officer - especially one whose brother was under investigation for a potentially violent crime.
In his decision to suspend Nick Houck, Chief McCubbin also made note of Houck's decision to forego a scheduled polygraph test, his refusal to take one immediately afterward, and his eventual failure of said test. The polygraph examiner - who you heard just a few minutes ago - advised Chief McCubbin that he had "grave concerns" over Houck's aversion to certain questions... especially those relating to Crystal Rogers.
More than a month would pass until new information was released, and this time, it was again related to the Houck brothers.
On October 16th, 2015, Nick Houck was fired from the Bardstown Police Department. He had been put on suspended leave for the interim five weeks, but in a closed-doors meeting, officials with the local Bardstown government with Chief McCubbin, and came to the decision to let him go from the force.
The reason was given as Houck interfering with an active police investigation - which, as you can imagine, violated police procedures and policies.
One of the most immediate critics of Nick's behavior was none other than Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly, who said in an interview that week:
"(Nick Houck) has failed a polygraph regarding Mrs. Rogers' disappearance, he advised his brother to not speak to the police, he refused to speak to our investigator and he has been uncooperative in grand jury testimony and has selective amnesia. He's not worthy of being a police officer."
Later that same day, Nick's brother, Brooks, was officially named a suspect in the Crystal Rogers disappearance. To date, he has been the only named suspect.
In this announcement, officials for the Nelson County Sheriff's Office officially declared that Crystal's case was no longer being pursued as a missing persons investigation. As of this point - October 16th, 2015 - Crystal Rogers was "presumed dead."
The parents of Crystal Rogers - Tommy and Sherry Ballard - had been struggling with her disappearance in the months since the story began unfolding.
They had been acting as guardians for three of Crystal's five children. However, they had to help these kids live as normal a life as possible, while also attempting to spearhead awareness efforts for Crystal's story.
Sherry, Crystal's mother, was often the person speaking to the press about Crystal and her disappearance; while her father, Tommy, was a more hands-on individual. He often led local search attempts in the rural regions surrounding Bardstown, leading dozens - if not hundreds - of volunteers at a time.
The Ballard family had begun to suspect foulplay on behalf of Brooks Houck and his brother almost immediately after Crystal's disappearance. In early reporting, taken from just days after Crystal was reported missing, the Ballards and their loved ones were making public comments insinuating that Brooks was guilty and that his relationship with Crystal was nowhere near as solid as he claimed.
Now, in the final half of 2015, Tommy and Sherry Ballard began carrying out a more active legal battle against Brooks Houck - on behalf of the one child she had with Brooks, Eli, who turned three years old that October. He was just one of two children they did not have custody of.
The Ballards were growing concerned that Brooks would attempt to flee the region with Eli, due to him selling off several of his real estate holdings at well below-market value. His lawyer stated that this was just business-as-usual for Brooks, but this practice indicated to others that he might be looking to pocket whatever he could (as quickly as he could).
As 2015 came to an end, the Ballards filed a legal motion to ensure Brooks remained in the region. They were also pursuing custody of Elijah - a legal fight that would carry on for the next several years.
In December of 2015, it was announced that the first person had been arrested in relation to the Crystal Rogers disappearance.
Danny Singleton was a longtime employee of Brooks Houck, who was considered his "right-hand man" by many. Singleton was also known to be friendly towards Crystal, with whom he had worked alongside.
On December 16th, 2015, 53-year old Singleton was arrested on 38 counts of perjury - stemming from grand jury testimony he had given earlier that year. According to detectives, he had lied on multiple occasions - under oath - and would be facing a lengthy stay in prison if found guilty.
Danny Singleton would prove to be the only person arrested in relation to the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, and would eventually plead guilt to 38 lesser counts of false swearing when the case fell apart the following year. He would spend roughly 8 months in jail and serve the rest of his sentence on probation. It is unknown if he cooperated with investigators or gave over any evidence against his friend and employer, Brooks Houck.
Heading into 2016, the investigation continued to circle around the only named suspect, Brooks Houck. However, in addition to exploring details about his relationship with his brother, Nick - now a former-Bardstown police officer - detectives began to spread outwards into their other family members.
In particular, there was a vehicle that Nick Houck had used at around the time of Crystal's disappearance, which had been owned by their grandmother, Anna Whitesides. This vehicle was a white Buick, which investigators believed might have been used by Nick or Brooks at around the time they made their mysterious trip out to the family farm.
This vehicle had been sold by Nick shortly after the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, and was taken into police custody. Soon, it found itself being towed to a Kentucky State Police lab for forensic testing, which looked to determine if there was any evidence that could be found inside: any DNA belonging to Crystal Rogers, or any suspicious bodily fluid (like what had been found in the trunk of Nick's police cruiser).
Soon enough, this investigation brought the grandmother of Brooks and Nick Houck into police crosshairs: 82-year old Anna Whitesides, who had been the legal owner of that white Buick, which had been sold just a short time beforehand.
Whitesides was subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury in June of 2016. She was asked to speak about her ownership of the white Buick, and why she had gotten rid of it in the interim year - or, rather, why her grandsons had gotten rid of it (for her).
Nelson County Circuit Court Judge Charles Simms wrote in a court order:
"From the Court's vantage, it appears the Commonwealth may very well believe all of the following: (1) that Whitesides' motor vehicle was used to dispose of a body, (2) that her motor vehicle was subsequently cleaned, and (3) that her motor vehicle was sold in an attempt to prevent the Commonwealth from obtaining any evidence from it."
Instead of cooperating, 82-year old Anna Whitesides refused to testify at the grand jury. She invoked her 5th amendment right against self-incrimination, and chose not to speak to the grand jury. A hearing actually had to be held to determine if she could do that, and it ultimately upheld her right to remain silent.
Jason Floyd, an attorney for Anna Whitesides, stated:
"There are a lot 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."
Even though the grandmother of Brooks and Nick Houck was free from testifying in front of a grand jury, she would not be free from any additional scrutiny. In August of 2016, a search was conducted on Whitesides' property - serving only as a precursor of that month's events.
On August 18th, a warrant was served upon Nick Houck's home and property - and it was not publicly stated what, exactly, investigators were looking for. It is unknown if they found anything of interest, but it apparently led to two more searches later that month.
Towards the end of August, two multi-day searches were held in relation to the Crystal Rogers case. Detective Jon Snow, who was continuing to oversee the investigation, told the press:
"We are searching the farm of Rosemary Houck, who is the mother of the suspect, Brooks Houck, and we're searching the farm adjacent to it, right next door to it."
This marked the third search of the family farm that Crystal had last been seen at, but would mark the largest search to date. A massive team of more than three dozen officials and 18 cadavar dogs was required to scour the 245 acres of the Houck family farm.
This search - which was organized by the Nelson County Sheriff's Office - included support from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, the Kentucky State Police, the Louisville Metro Police Dive Team, and the FBI. They searched through fields, forests, and even sources of water - looking for any sign of Crystal or a body having been on the property.
In the end - as had happened in all of the prior searches - the investigators came up with nothing definitive.
The case of Crystal Rogers has remained on the forefront of discussions in the region of Bardstown over the past four years - in particular, because of recent developments.
In the latter half of 2018, Bardstown returned to national headlines when Crystal's story was featured in two television projects: an episode of "On the Case with Paula Zahn," as well as a standalone Oxygen documentary series titled "The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers." In both cases, investigators and journalists showed up in Bardstown, and began asking those involved about what had happened.
Both projects seemed to try and connect dots between Crystal's story and the other unsolved crimes plaguing the area, but were seemingly unable to uncover any new information about the case. At least, information that was pertinent to the investigation.
Thankfully, though, these projects kept Crystal's name alive in the media - and brought her name back into national headlines. More recently, Crystal's loved ones have appeared in TV interviews with figures such as Dr. Phil and Megyn Kelly, and the case remains open and active.
Jon Snow - who has been handling this case since it began unfolding back in 2015 - has continued to oversee the investigation until just recently.
Between July of 2015 and December of 2016, this was the only case that Detective Snow worked on, and in that time, he had written more than 70 search warrants, enlisted the help of 13 police agencies, and led the collection of more than 170 pieces of evidence.
Now a Captain in the Nelson County Sheriff's Office, Snow is working less and less in a hands-on role, but remains active with this case - which he has been working on for a good chunk of his professional career.
In October of 2018 - more than three years after Crystal's disappearance - Captain Snow assembled a group of local reporters into a small conference room, and decided to give an open-ended Q&A. This seemed to be in response to allegations made by the Oxygen docu-series "The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers," but gave Snow a chance to meet with the press and talk about the active state of the investigation.
The disappearance of Crystal Rogers remains an open and active investigation.
Despite the choices made by Brooks and Nick Houck in the immediate aftermath of her disappearance, neither of them have been charged for any crimes. Nick was fired from his job, and the Houck family's real estate empire has suffered significantly, but the two have not been charged with anything pertaining to this case.
In July of 2018, Brooks Houck - Crystal's boyfriend and father of her child - was indicted on charges of theft. He is believed to have stolen shingles from a Bardstown-area hardware store, leading to a large-scale investigation for what was ultimately described as petty theft. Brooks pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his case is currently pending.
More recently, the mother of Crystal Rogers - Sherry Ballard - has continued her family's legal battle against Brooks Houck for custody of his and Crystal's only child, Eli. Eli is now six years old, and is the only one of Crystal's five children that doesn't live with Sherry Ballard and the rest of their family. Just a few days ago, in fact - February 12th, 2019 - a Nelson County Circuit judge ruled that Sherry can't visit with Eli until her ongoing custody battle with Brooks Houck is resolved - which, like his other legal entanglement, remains to be determined.
Sherry Ballard has long known that something terrible likely happened to Crystal. Running away from her family isn't even a possibility, as far as she is concerned, and she knows that something would have had to have happened to Crystal to cause such a long absence. Speaking to Dateline reporters, Sherry stated:
"Deep in my heart, I know that Crystal's not coming home. But it's very hard to accept. So now we are doing anything we can to get answers."
Crystal's sister, Brooke Ballard, told those same Dateline reporters:
"People say that it'll get better, but it hasn't. She was my best friend. And she's not here anymore."
Unfortunately, the heartache of Crystal Rogers' family was just beginning.
I originally covered Crystal's disappearance back in February of 2016, when her disappearance was still in its infancy. She had been missing for less than a year at that point, and I remained hopeful that her story would be resolved before long.
But the months continued to pass. Soon, a year had come and gone. I spoke to some local residents, who filled me in on the local gossip, and... things seemed to be moving forward.
You see, in addition to the official police investigation, there was an independent effort being led by Tommy Ballard - Crystal's father. He had been organizing search efforts in the region around where her car had been discovered, along mile marker 14 of the Bluegrass Parkway. These search efforts - which included dozens of volunteers from throughout the region - began spreading outwards. Soon enough, Tommy Ballard and his group had covered acres of terrain, and had begun including volunteers from more than three states.
Well into 2016, they had continued these efforts, which were fueled by Ballard's persistence. In addition to spearheading these search efforts, he had also been conducting his own independent investigation; documenting any piece of information he came across - whether it be something found on the volunteer searches, or just gossip picked up from locals. He forwarded anything of value to the investigators, but seemed willing to take risks that the official investigators couldn't. After all, he wasn't a police officer - just a worried father.
Many in the region seemed emboldened by the efforts of Tommy Ballard to keep his daughter's case alive - not only in the press, but with a "boots on the ground" mentality.
That is, until November 21st, 2016. That's when I received a call that would change my opinion of this story forever.
That's next time, on Unresolved.
Written, hosted, and produced by Micheal Whelan
Published on February 17th, 2019 (updated version)
Originally published on February 18th, 2016
Joao Picoito - "Third Floor"
Rest You Sleeping Giant - "Dead Waters"
ROZKOL - "Last Train in the Station"
Graham Bole - "Nae Shaam"
Borrtex - "Going Undercover"
Blear Moon - "Cold Summer Landscape"
Parvus Decree - "Subway Reflections"
ROZKOL - "Spider’s Web"
Borrtex - "There Is Always A Reason"
Kai Engel - "Soli"
ROZKOL - "Burn It All Down"
Other music created and composed by Ailsa Traves