Man charged in connection with Crystal Rogers’ disappearance pleads not guilty

Posted at 4:03 PM, December 21, 2023

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (Scripps News Lexington) — A man charged in connection with the 2015 disappearance of Crystal Rogers has pleaded not guilty in Nelson County court.

booking photo of Steven Lawson

Steven Lawson was indicted by a grand jury on charges of criminal conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence. (Harrison County, IN Sheriff’s Dept. via Scripps News Lexington)

53-year-old Steven Lawson was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month with criminal conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence.

In court Thursday, Lawson waived a formal reading of the charges from the indictment and entered a not-guilty plea.

Lawson’s attorney requested a bond hearing to lower his bond, which is scheduled for January 4, 2024. A status hearing was also scheduled for February 8, 2024. He was previously incarcerated in Harrison County, Indiana, and has since been transferred to Nelson County, Kentucky.

His son, Joseph Lawson, was the first to be indicted on the same charges in September, followed by Rogers’ then-boyfriend, Brooks Houck, who is charged with murder in the case.

READ MORE: Court records offer clues into Crystal Rogers investigation amid new arrest

Rogers, a mother of five, disappeared around July 4, 2015, and her body has never been found.

Steven Lawson’s name came up early in the investigation when Brooks Houck was first interviewed by police days after Rogers vanished.

Authorities wanted to know why Lawson made a late-night call to Houck the night Rogers disappeared. In the interview, Houck said Lawson worked for him and told the investigator Lawson called to inquire about rental property that Crystal managed for Houck.

joseph lawson and crystal rogers combo image

(L) Joseph Lawson (Nelson County Detention Center), (R) Crystal Rogers (NamUS)

During that 2015 call the night Rogers disappeared, Steve Lawson said that Houck had told him that he’d call Rogers to ask her about something work-related. But the detective pointed out that Houck had told police she was with him at the time of the call with Lawson.

“Okay, so that begs the question in my mind, if she’s in the truck next to you when he called, why would you need to call her about getting numbers for rental properties?” the detective asks Houck in the video.

Steven Lawson’s arrest came days after authorities with multiple law enforcement agencies searched part of an area in Nelson County. At the time, special prosecutor Shane Young confirmed to Scripps News Lexington that it was in connection to one of three unsolved death investigations in Bardstown.

Along with Rogers, Young has been assigned the death investigations of Tommy Ballard and Jason Ellis.

16 months after Rogers vanished, her father, Tommy Ballard, was shot and killed by an unknown gunman while hunting on his own property.

In May 2013, Bardstown police officer Jason Ellis was killed in a surprise attack on his way home from work. A decade later, no arrest has been made in connection with his murder.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Lexington, an E.W. Scripps Company.