Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers & Death of Tommy Ballard

This case has remained unsolved for 8 years, 5 months, and 4 days.

Breaking News Update – September 2023

Brooks Houck, the former boyfriend of Crystal Rogers, was arrested on September 27, 2023 on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence. More details are expected to come out in early October. In the meantime, his bond has been set at $10 million cash.

Breaking News Update – August 2023

A 32-year-old man by the name of Joseph Lawson was arrested at the end of August 2023 on several charges that are related to the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, including conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence.

In 2012, Bardstown, Kentucky (KY) was named the “Most Beautiful Small Town in America” by USA Today. The town has a number of historical preservation ordinances in place, and the historic buildings and homes are kept well-maintained. It’s also been called the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” with plenty of establishments serving nothing but the best of Kentucky bourbon. 

For these reasons and more, it was a surprise when a local woman went missing in July 2015, seemingly without a trace. Crystal Rogers was a beloved mother of five when she disappeared, and to this day, the case remains unsolved. Suspicion has often fallen on her then-boyfriend, but he’s never been arrested or charged in her disappearance.

Then, in November 2016, Rogers’ father was shot dead while he was getting ready to go on a hunting trip with his grandson. Tommy Ballard’s murder, just like the disappearance of his daughter, also remains unsolved despite a number of different law enforcement agencies investigating the case. 

Now, nearing on a decade later, the FBI continues to investigate both crimes. A number of searches have been carried out, most on properties relating to Rogers’ then-boyfriend, but no arrests have ever been made in either case. What happened to Crystal Rogers, and who murdered her father, Tommy Ballard?

Table of Contents

About Crystal Rogers

Crystal Maria Ballard (later Rogers) was born in Kentucky on April 4, 1980 to parents Tommy and Shelly Ballard. The family was described as a close-knit one, and Rogers was described glowingly by friends and family: 

“There’s so much I could say about Crystal. She was fun, caring, happy, humble, beautiful….. I could go on and on. She was the best friend anyone could ever have.”

Beth Downs (Source: Crystal Rogers Task Force)
Crystal Rogers (center) and two of her daughters.
Crystal Rogers (center) and two of her daughters (WDRB).

A Troubled Marriage

For a time, Rogers was married to Keith Rogers, but the marriage reportedly deteriorated due to Keith’s issues with drugs. Although they separated, it doesn’t seem that they ever formally divorced.

At the time of her disappearance in 2015, Rogers was 35 years old and lived with Brooks Houck, her boyfriend and the father of her youngest child in Bardstown, KY. In addition to caring for her five children, she worked for Houck’s real estate business, attending to paperwork and payroll. 

No Known Enemies

As far as news reports go, Rogers didn’t have any known enemies, nor was she the sort of person who wouldn’t get along with people. She was described as a great mother who prioritized her children above all else. When the mother of five went missing in July 2015, everyone was shocked and couldn’t believe that she would have gone missing voluntarily.

The Disappearance

The circumstances surrounding Rogers’ disappearance aren’t exactly clear and I couldn’t find any news report that laid out the specific timeline of events. Most state that she was last seen on July 3, 2015 at the house she shared with her boyfriend at the time, Brooks Houck — and that’s it.

In order to ascertain more details, I watched Houck’s interview with the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office (NCSO), uploaded to YouTube by the Nelson County Gazette, to hear what he had to say about the day of Rogers’ disappearance. 

The details laid out below are taken from the interview, based both on what the interviewing officer said and what Houck said happened that night and susbequent days. Keep in mind that while some details can be substantiated up by evidence (like surveillance camera footage), some details cannot be and may be untrue.

The Evening of Friday, July 3, 2015

According to Houck’s police interview, he got home that day around 5 PM. However, he didn’t go inside the house right away because he had to fill their tractor with gas and get some livestock feed.

A neighbor reported seeing Rogers arrive back home around 5:15 PM. Later that night, around 7:05 PM, the family car with four people inside (Houck, Rogers, their two-year-old son, and one other person) was spotted on surveillance footage passing by a local Circle K store. (I think the implication is that they went to a nearby store to do some grocery shopping, but that wasn’t explicitly stated in the interview.) 

A photograph of Crystal Rogers.
A photograph of Crystal Rogers (WDRB).

That Night

After returning home, the family ate some dinner. Then Houck, Rogers, and their toddler son went to “the farm” (which may be in reference to Houck’s mother, who owns a farm, but it’s not explicitly stated). Again, the family’s car was spotted on a local restaurant’s surveillance footage driving toward the farm, and it’s thought they arrived sometime around 7:20 PM

From what I can gather from the interview, the family went to the farm in order to feed some cattle. Houck then lit a bit of rubbish on fire, something he said he did so that he didn’t have to drag a bunch of items to the county dump. The family left the farm around 11:55 PM, with the car’s departure being caught on security cameras.

A Strange Call

During the course of the investigation, authorities learned that Houck received a phone call around midnight that lasted approximately 13 seconds. Houck claimed that he didn’t remember receiving a phone call, who he talked to, or what the call was about. 

Later in the interview, Houck called the number back and put his cellphone on speakerphone. It turned out to be someone who worked for him, and the man said that he’d “called to ask about the numbers for a house” regarding their rental business. According to the caller, Houck had replied that he’d “have to call Crystal” to get that information. 

The investigator then astutely asked why Houck would have replied that if Rogers was in the car next to him at the time. Houck answered that he figured Rogers wouldn’t have wanted to deal with business that late.

It’s estimated that the family arrived home around 12:20 AM, as a motorist reported seeing the family car on the road around 12:10 AM. Houck said that he went to bed “immediately” after arriving home, but his son and Rogers stayed up even later, playing games on her phone.

Crystal Rogers (left) and her parents Shelly and Tommy Ballard.
Crystal Rogers (left) and her parents Shelly and Tommy Ballard (WHAS11).

The Morning of July 4, 2015

Houck stated that he woke up the next morning between 6–7 AM. Their two-year-old was in bed with him, but he didn’t see Rogers anywhere. He tried to call her, but when he didn’t get a response, he assumed she was at a friend’s house.

Without Rogers, Houck took their son and returned to the farm sometime that morning as he had some work to do there. It’s not clear if Rogers’ other children were still at the home, or if he left them without supervision.

Sometime that morning, Houck also received another phone call with someone asking him to “do some work for him.” Houck said that he went straight to the farm and didn’t do whatever was asked of him by the phone caller.


At the farm, Houck said he used the bulldozer to move some items around to stop water from leaking into the barn for several hours. When the investigator asked what they did for lunch, Houck said that he “may have went home,” but that he didn’t remember. 

When asked if he attempted to call Rogers again that day, Houck said that he probably did, but that he was hesitant to call her too many times as she’d gotten upset with him when he did that in the past. 


That night, Houck and his son ate dinner at his uncle’s home because there was a 4th of July of gathering for around 150 people. The investigator asked if anyone mentioned Rogers’ absence, but Houck replied that it wasn’t uncommon for Rogers not to attend such large family gatherings. He and his son reportedly returned home before the fireworks went off.

One of Houck’s neighbors and real estate manager came over to the home that night. Father and son then went to bed, still with no sign of Rogers.

July 5, 2015: Missing Persons Report Filed

Sunday, July 5 around noon, Houck explained that he’d stopped at a fuel station at some point and had run into Sherry Ballard, Rogers’ mother. Ballard asked where her daughter was and Houck replied that he didn’t know. Houck then called another one of Rogers’ friends, asking if she knew where Rogers was, but that friend didn’t know either.

Later that day, Rogers’ mother — perhaps after speaking with Houck and still not getting any answers about where her daughter was — reported her as missing since she hadn’t seen or heard from her daughter for several days. “It’s not like my daughter not to get in touch with us,” Ballard told a news outlet. It seems that the two talked daily, and it was very unusual for Rogers not to make contact with her mother for several days.

Rogers’ Car Found

Later that same day, Rogers’ car, a red Chevrolet Impala, was found along the Bluegrass Parkway near mile marker 14 in Bardstown. According to Houck’s interview with the NCSO, someone who knew Rogers’ family had spotted it and contacted her parents, at which point Rogers’ father, Tommy Ballard, went out to investigate.

The Bluegrass Parkway.
The Bluegrass Parkway (Wikimedia).

The Impala had a flat tire, which was perhaps why it was pulled over on the side of the road. In the car, Rogers’ keys, cell phone, and purse were found— seemingly strange items to be left behind if someone was missing voluntarily.

The Investigation

Authorities quickly determined that Brooks Houck, Rogers’ boyfriend, was the last one to see her. Originally, Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly touted Houck’s cooperation in the case:

“The last person we know Crystal was with was her boyfriend or common law husband . They have a child together and live in Bardstown. His name is Brooks Houck and I want everyone to know he is being completely cooperative with our investigation.”

Sheriff Ed Mattingly (Source: WDRB)

Houck Interviewed by NCSO

Houck was brought into the NCSO for an interview on July 8, three days after the missing persons report was filed. The investigating officer brought up that there were some rumors that Houck and his business might’ve been under investigation by the IRS, but Houck denied that this was true. (Later, IRS agents would be seen conducting a search on a property related to Houck.)

Although he was originally cooperative, halfway through the interview, Houck received a cell phone call from his brother, Nick Houck, who happened to be a police officer with the Bardstown Police Department (BPD).

In the call, Nick advised his brother not to speak to authorities any longer. Houck then ended the interview, and no further information was gleaned from him. It wasn’t clear why Nick felt compelled to call his brother during the interview, but many speculate it was so that Brooks Houck wouldn’t say something to incriminate himself.

Nick Houck Fired from BPD

On July 15, Nick Houck was brought in for questioning regarding why he interfered in his brother’s interview process. Nick agreed to take a polygraph test regarding the interference, reportedly failed the polygraph, and then was eventually fired from the BPD in October of 2015.

A missing sign for Crystal Rogers.
A missing sign for Crystal Rogers (IMDB).

A Troubled Home Life

Things were not all sunshine and rainbows in Rogers’ relationship with Houck. Shelly Ballard, Rogers’ mother, explained that things were troubled:

“She looked at me out of the blue — we were not talking about that — and she’s like, ‘Mom, [Houck] thinks I’m an idiot.’ She said, ‘But I have everything. I have all of his rentals, I have his tax papers, I have everything. And I hid that.’”

Shelly Ballard (Source: WDRB)

Even Houck himself agreed that things weren’t always easy in the relationship. He told the investigating officer during his NCSO interview, “It has been, at times, a stressful relationship.”

During his interview with the NCSO, Houck also mentioned that there had been an incident between himself and Rogers’ 16-year-old daughter in which he’d allegedly taken her cell phone away for an indiscretion and denied that any sort of physical punishment was meted out. He mentioned something about an injury to her wrist, and that Child Protective Services (CPS) had started an investigation, but he claimed that CPS eventually dismissed the case as unsubstantiated

A Kid-Free Evening?

Investigators also learned that on the night of Friday, July 3, there were some text messages exchanged between Rogers and one of her friends discussing how excited Rogers was to have a “kid-free evening” and that they’d gotten a babysitter for that night. This contradicts Houck’s recollection of events that night where he said that they’d gone shopping and then gone to feed the cows on the farm — with their son in tow.

Many Searches Conducted

Many different law enforcement agencies participated in the search for Rogers. Several lakes were searched, scent dogs were utilized, and volunteers scoured rural areas to try to find the missing mother of five, but no sign of her was uncovered.

A map of where search warrants were carried out in the Crystal Rogers case.
A map of where search warrants were carried out in the Crystal Rogers case (WHAS11).

Strangely, according to investigator who interviewed Houck, the bloodhounds didn’t pick up any traces of Rogers’ scent at the farm, hinting that she may not have even been there at all. During his interview, Houck stressed that Rogers had definitely been at the farm.

Case Passed to Different Agencies

Rogers’ case started off with the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office, then went to the Kentucky State Police, and now is with the Louisville FBI. Despite being passed along from one law enforcement agency to the next, the case still remains unsolved almost a decade later. That, and another murder would take place in the interim.

Another Murder Occurs

It had been 16 months since Crystal Rogers disappeared, and there was still no sign of her. Tommy Ballard, her father, had spent countless hours trying to find her, putting up flyers, conducting searches — anything that might lead him to Rogers.

A photograph of Tommy Ballard.
A photograph of Tommy Ballard (

Despite searching tirelessly for his daughter, no sign of her had been found since the abandoned Chevy Impala was found on the side of the Bluegrass Parkway.

A Fatal Bullet

On November 19, 2016, Tommy Ballard was getting ready to go on an early morning hunting trip with his 12-year-old grandson. They were on his family’s property when he was shot dead, struck once in the chest from behind with a well-placed bullet that killed him instantly.

Ballard’s grandson called Shelly Ballard, crying and upset, to let her know what had happened. Shelly explained the call:

“He was so upset and he’s like, ‘Memaw, Papaw has been shot!’ I was panicking, you know, I was trying to throw my clothes on and get ready and I went in the bathroom. I told [grandson], I said, ‘I’m going to call 911!’”

Shelly Ballard (Source: WHAS11)

Authorities Investigate

Kentucky State Police spearheaded the investigation into Ballard’s death, although the originally suggested that the killing might’ve been the result of a hunting accident. Shelly Ballard vehemently pushed back against this theory: “This is my husband, and this is a murder and you know it. And you’re saying it’s a hunting accident? No, I’m not okay with that.” Authorities later revealed that they were investigating the case as a potential murder.

Case Goes to FBI

The case eventually went to the FBI, and to this day, they’re continuing to follow leads and tips for any information into Ballard’s death. Former FBI profiler Candice Delong thinks that Ballard’s death is connected to the disappearance of Rogers:

“I think there’s a reason that he was shot and killed in that open field. The shooter was sending a message to you and to anyone else who’s sticking their nose into the case of Crystal to find out where she is.”

Candice Delong (Source: WDRB)

And unfortunately, like the disappearance of his daughter, the case of Ballard’s death remains unsolved.

FBI poster for the murder of Tommy Ballard.
FBI poster for the murder of Tommy Ballard (

Theories on What Happened to Rogers

There are a number of plausible theories in this case, although the most common and popular one is that Houck had something to do with Rogers’ disappearance.

Houck Did Something to Rogers

The most prominent theory in this case is that Rogers’ then-boyfriend, Brooks Houck, did something to make her disappear. Rogers’ mother, Shelly Ballard, agrees:

“I didn’t trust Brooks Houck to begin with. I knew what kind of relationship they had and how he treated her and the minute that I knew she wasn’t in contact with anyone, then that’s when I knew that something was definitely wrong.”

Shelly Ballard (Source: WDRB)

Although Houck is considered the main suspect in this case, he’s never been charged by authorities.

A Disgruntled Tenant Did Something to Rogers

Because Rogers helped run her boyfriend’s rental business, some suggest that a disgruntled tenant — perhaps someone who was evicted — might’ve done something to her as a means of revenge.

Rogers Intentionally Went Missing

Some have suggested that Rogers intentionally went missing in order to get away from everything, or possible even to take her own life. (As an aside, if you’re struggling, please reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.) However, even Houck doubted that Rogers would’ve harmed herself: “Crystal is not that kind of person. I don’t believe [that she would have committed suicide] at all. I don’t feel that way at all.”

As for Rogers running away, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that she ever accessed her bank accounts or credit cards again, or that she took out any amount of money before disappearing. 

What Do I Think Happened?

Before I watched Houck’s interview, I was suspicious of him simply because according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics for 2021, the numbers prove that most women are murdered by someone they know (76%). Breaking that down further, 34% of murdered women are killed by an intimate partner, and in this case, Houck just so happened to be that intimate partner. 

The Interview is Very Suspicious

After watching Houck’s NCSO interview, I’m even more convinced that Houck knows more than he’s telling authorities. Here are some questions I have: 

  • In Houck’s recollection of the timeline of the night of July 3, it can be extrapolated that the family returned home from grocery shopping, put away groceries, cooked dinner, cleaned up, and left in the span of 20 minutes. Is that really what happened? It’s possible that they had something quick to eat, like sandwiches, but wouldn’t the two-year-old need to be changed and tended to as well?
  • If Rogers was in the car with Houck when he received the phone call late at night on July 3 from a worker, why did he state that he’d have to “call Crystal” later? Couldn’t she have just answered the worker herself?
  • If Rogers organized to have a sitter and a “kid-free evening” for the night of July 3, as text messages from her phone revealed, why did they supposedly bring the youngest child along with them to the farm? Wasn’t the point to be without kids that night?
  • Why did Houck use the term “loved” (using the past-tense of the verb) rather than “love” during his interview with the NCSO? We tend to use the present-tense when referring to people who are still alive and the past-tense for people who are deceased. 
  • Why was Houck so seemingly unconcerned about Rogers’ absence for several days? Most people I know would be extremely worried if their significant other vanished without a trace.
  • Did Houck just leave the rest of the children at home on July 4 without any supervision? He states that he only took the youngest with him to the farm. Why were the other four children left behind? 

Now, there could be perfectly logical explanations for all of the aforementioned questions. That being said, even if Houck is perfectly innocent, the fact that there are so many suspicious, unanswered questions does not bode well for him. I’m not saying he’s guilty, but he didn’t do himself any favors in that interview.

A photograph of Tommy Ballard.
A photograph of Tommy Ballard (WHAS11).

Are the Cases Connected?

As the former FBI profiler suggested, it seems likely that Ballard’s murder was connected to Rogers’ disappearance: “[Ballard’s death] was a pre-meditated murder, and whoever shot him was skilled at firearms.” 

From my research, I didn’t find anyone who might’ve had it out for Ballard: no upset friends, no angry coworkers, no crazy ex-lovers. However, it would make sense that if he was poking around in his daughter’s case, whoever had committed the offense might not want him uncovering too much information. Maybe he was getting too close to the real answer.

Both Rogers and Ballard Deserve Justice

Regardless of who committed both offenses, both Rogers and Ballard deserve justice. “It’s been like torture. I can’t believe I’ve had to wait eight years,” said Shelly Ballard in a news interview, speaking of her daughter’s disappearance and her husband’s murder. It’s time for those who have information to come forward to authorities.

Case Updates

There have been a number of updates in this case, but so far, no arrests for Rogers’ disappearance have been made.

August 2018: TV Miniseries on Rogers’ Disappearance

In August 2018, a TV miniseries called “The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers was released on Oxygen, documenting the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

February 2019: Shelly Ballard Goes on Dr. Phil

In February 2019, Rogers’ mother, Shelly Ballard, went on the Dr. Phil Show to try to raise awareness about her daughter’s disappearance and to seek leads in the death of her husband.

Sherry Ballard on the Dr. Phil Show.
Sherry Ballard on the Dr. Phil Show (Dr. Phil).

August 2020: FBI Searches Properties

In August 2020, the FBI searched several properties connected to Brooks Houck. They also teamed up with other agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, Kentucky State Police, and the US Attorney’s Office. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they found enough information to charge anyone with Rogers’ disappearance.

October 2022: FBI Searches Farm

In October 2022, the FBI searched Brooks Houck’s mother’s farm. They stated that evidence was collected during the search but did not release what was found. 

November 2022: Houck Arrested for Traffic Violations

In November 2022, Houck was arrested on a bench warrant for failure to pay traffic fines. The prosecutor eventually dismissed five of the seven charges, and Houck pleaded guilty to two charges. He was in jail for a short time before he posted bail.

January 2023: Special Prosecutor Appointed

A special prosecutor was appointed in January 2023 to look into the unsolved cases of Crystal Rogers, Tommy Ballard, and a policeman who was killed in 2013 named Jason Ellis.

July 2023: FBI Statement

The FBI Louisville office released a statement on Twitter stating that they are pursing “every available lead” in Rogers’ case.

Statement via Tweet by FBI Louisville.
Statement via Tweet by FBI Louisville (Twitter).

August 2023: Joseph Lawson Arrested

A 32-year-old man by the name of Joseph Lawson was arrested at the end of August 2023 on several charges that are related to the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, including conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence.

September 2023: Brooks Houck Arrested

Brooks Houck, the former boyfriend of Crystal Rogers, was arrested on September 27, 2023 on charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence. More details are expected to come out in early October. In the meantime, his bond has been set at $10 million cash.

Do You Have Information?

There is currently a $25,000 reward for information leading to the identification, arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the disappearance of Crystal Rogers. At the time of her disappearance, Rogers was 5’9 and around 155 lbs. with blue eyes and blonde hair. If you have information, please reach out to FBI Louisville at (502) 263–6000 or submit a tip online.

A missing poster for Crystal Rogers.
A missing poster for Crystal Rogers (

Cold Case Questions

  • What do you think happened to Crystal Rogers?
  • Do you think Tommy Ballard’s murder is connected to Rogers’ disappearance?
  • What do you think about Brooks Houck? Do you think he was involved with these crimes or is he being unfairly targeted by the media and law enforcement?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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