Five years after Crystal Rogers disappeared from her home in Bardstown, Kentucky, the FBI has taken over as the lead agency in the investigation are executing new search warrants at several properties connected to her boyfriend.
On Thursday, more than 150 state and federal law enforcement officers arrived in Bardstown, where they began executing nine federal search warrants and will be conducting more than 50 interviews, the FBI said in a press release. Federal officers returned to the area on Friday.
FBI Louisville officials said they are working with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Kentucky State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring a "fresh perspective" to the case, which has gained national attention over the years.
“A hallmark of the FBI is we never give up,” FBI Louisville Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown stated in the release. “The FBI is committed to bringing those responsible to justice, but we are going to need the community’s assistance.”
Crystal Rogers, who was featured in Dateline’s “Missing in America” series shortly after she disappeared, was last seen by her boyfriend, Brooks Houck, on the evening of July 3, 2015, at their home in Bardstown, Kentucky, where they lived with their young son.
Two days later, on July 5, Crystal's unlocked, maroon 2007 Chevy Impala was found abandoned along Kentucky's Bluegrass Parkway with a flat tire -- her keys were still in the ignition and her purse and cell phone were found inside, police said.
The same day, Crystal’s mother reported her missing to the police. For days and weeks and months, her family, friends and the community searched tirelessly in and around Bardstown.
In October 2015, three months after Crystal vanished, officials with the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office named Houck a suspect in her disappearance. Nelson County Sheriff Ed Mattingly also said at the time that he believed Crystal was dead.
In a bizarre twist, on the same day Houck was named a suspect, his brother Nick Houck, who worked as a Bardstown City police officer, was terminated from the department after officials say he interfered with the investigation of Crystal’s disappearance.
According to an order from Mayor John Royalty, Nick Houck called his brother during an interview with the Nelson County Sheriff's Department. He then told the Kentucky State Police that he told his brother "he should protect himself" and that "they might be trying to trip him up."
At the time, the family was content with the information and felt it meant their hard work was paying off.
"Since they named him a suspect, I feel like they're working now, which I always thought the Sheriff Department was doing a good job, but it makes me feel a lot better," Tommy Ballard, Crystal’s father, told WDRB in October 2015.
Crystal’s father, Tommy Ballard, was shot and killed by an unknown assailant on his family’s property in November 2016 as he was preparing to go hunting, according to FBI Louisville. His case also remains unsolved.
Several Julys passed before the next big update in Crystal’s case.
On July 23, 2020, investigators with the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office learned human remains had been discovered in a remote area near the Washington County line.
Investigators worked with the FBI to recover the remains, which were sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., for analysis. The identity of the remains has still not been released.
Crystal’s case is not the only unsolved mystery in Bardstown, Kentucky. Along with Crystal’s disappearance, four unsolved murders have pushed the small town into the headlines over the past few years. The FBI is investigating all four murders.
“Year after year, tragedies struck this small town,” Jessica Noll, journalist and host of the podcast, “Bardstown,” previously told Nancy Grace. Noll created the podcast to attempt to figure out if the crimes are connected and examine how the brutal murders impacted the small town of about 13,000.
In May 2013, Bardstown Police officer Jason Ellis was on his way home around 2 a.m. when he noticed the road was blocked by freshly cut trees. When he got out of the car to investigate, someone shot and killed Ellis.
Just a year later, in April 2014, mother and daughter, Kathy and Samantha Netherland, were found brutally murdered at their home. Kathy had been shot multiple times and Samantha had was found stabbed and her throat was slit.
The fourth person murdered was Crystal’s father, Tommy Ballard, whose death in November 2016 has been investigated as a murder, according to the Kentucky State Police, but there have been no updates in his case.
On August 6, 2020, FBI Louisville announced that it is now the lead agency in the case working with the IRS, KSP and the US Attorney’s office. The agency executed nine federal search warrants and conducted multiple interviews in Nelson County.
“I have committed publicly and privately that delivering long-sought justice in Nelson County is the highest priority case of the United States Attorney’s Office,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “Today’s efforts by our stalwart FBI, IRS, and KSP partners is a major step in honoring that promise.”
As an additional effort to help Crystal and her family, the FBI launched a website called crystalrogerstaskforce.com, dedicated to sharing information about her case. The FBI said the site will serve as the official source of information from law enforcement.
“Communication from this site paired with the release of previously withheld, new, and unique details will lead us to the last piece of the puzzle,” the press release stated.
FBI Louisville Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown also asked for the public to think about that Fourth of July weekend and any possible information that could help solve Crystal’s case.
“I ask that members of the community think back to July 3rd and 4th of 2015,” Agent Brown said. “For those individuals who have information about this incident but who have not yet spoken to law enforcement for whatever reason, please contact us.”
A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the whereabouts of Crystal Rogers.
“The Kentucky State Police continue to work tirelessly to bring about a successful resolve to several cases in Nelson County,” said Commissioner Rodney Brewer. “We have followed up on hundreds of tips from the public and logged thousands of investigative hours towards this endeavor. We will continue our efforts until justice is served and welcome the assistance of our federal partners.”