Prosecutor links murder of Tommy Ballard to Crystal Rogers in court

Posted at 3:11 PM, October 5, 2023 and last updated 4:46 PM, October 5, 2023


NELSON COUNTY, Ky. (Court TV) — For the first time, prosecutors have publicly linked the murder of Tommy Ballard to his daughter’s 2015 disappearance.

A man appears on a video call on a monitor

Brooks Houck appears via video at his arraignment in Nelson County Court. (Scripps News Lexington)

Brooks Houck appeared in court for a bond hearing on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to charges that he murdered Crystal Rogers. Brooks was arrested and charged with murder and tampering with evidence last week, more than eight years after his girlfriend’s disappearance.

Rogers was last seen at Houck’s family farm on July 3, 2015. Her car was found with a flat tire on the side of a parkway in Bardstown with her phone, purse and keys still inside.

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

At Thursday’s hearing, special prosecutor Shane Young said that the investigation into Ballard’s death remains open and is potentially related to the death of Rogers. Young said that during the investigation, they learned that a gun was purchased from Nick Houck, Brooks’ brother. Nick Houck allegedly used a fake name when he sold the firearm. At the hearing, Young said that test results are pending but that investigators have speculated that the gun was used to kill Ballard.

The FBI had previously linked the two cases, as had Rogers’ family, who said they believed Ballard’s murder was connected to Rogers’ disappearance.

Houck appeared at the hearing via video from jail, where he wore a white shirt. His attorney argued that his bond, initially set at $10 million, was “unprecedented” and “excessive,” citing cases similar in notoriety where suspects were granted $3 million bond.

“We are not asking for any favors; we are asking for a bond that is consistent with the bonds set in other cases,” Brian Butler, Houck’s attorney, argued. Butler also noted that Houck has no criminal record, was arrested without incident and has strong family ties in the community.

A family sits in the gallery of a courtroom

Crystal Rogers’ family attended Brooks Houck’s hearing on Oct. 5, 2023. (Scripps News Lexington)

Young opposed the motion to reduce bond, telling Judge Charles Simms that some of the grand jury members believed that the bond amount should have been doubled. Young also noted that Houck has vast resources, including multiple companies and 74 rental properties, and is a multi-millionaire.

Simms took the issue of bond reduction under review and will give his decision at a later time, to be determined.

In court, prosecutors also accused the Houck family of recording the grand jury proceedings, which are supposed to be secret. Young accused Houck’s family of violating the sanctity of the proceedings.

A second man, Joseph Lawson, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with evidence in Rogers’ death. Investigators have not detailed any link between Lawson and Houck or what they believe may have happened to Rogers.