Ex-Boyfriend Arrested in Disappearance of Kentucky Mom Crystal Rogers

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Nelson County Jail
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Nelson County Jail

The former boyfriend of missing Kentucky mom Crystal Rogers was arrested Wednesday morning in connection to her 2015 disappearance.

Brooks Houck is charged with complicity to murder and tampering with physical evidence, according to Fox affiliate WDRB. The FBI’s Louisville field office said Houck’s indictment is sealed and that details on the case will be revealed at his Oct. 5 arraignment. He is being held on a $10 million bond.

In footage captured by the TV station, a pair of detectives in suits hauled Houck into the Nelson County jail. The 41-year-old dad, handcuffed behind his back, wore a gray T-shirt bearing the name of a tool company and khaki shorts. “Where’s Crystal Rogers?” a woman, presumably a reporter, shouts. Houck didn’t reply.

The arrest follows Rogers’ family’s eight-year battle for justice. Since the mother-of-five vanished, her parents Tommy and Sherry Ballard never gave up in their search for answers. In 2016, as he collected clues on his daughter’s whereabouts, Tommy Ballard was gunned down while hunting with a grandson. His murder remains unsolved.

Earlier this month, another arrest marked the first big break in the case.

Joseph Lawson, 32, was charged with conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence, and an indictment alleges that he “agreed to aid one or more persons in the planning or commission of the crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit the crime when he, and/or, a co-conspirator intentionally caused the death of another.” He pleaded not guilty.

Whether Joseph Lawson knew Rogers is unknown, but a man who appears to be his father, Steve Lawson, worked for Houck’s real estate venture.

Rogers was last seen alive over the Fourth of July weekend in 2015, when she was visiting Houck’s family farm with the couple’s young son.

Houck told a Nelson County sheriff’s detective that he and Rogers left the property—which cops searched multiple times after Rogers went missing—just before midnight on July 3. He said that when they got home, he went to bed and Rogers stayed up playing games on her phone.

When he woke the next morning, Rogers was gone but their 2-year-old son was in bed next to him, he claimed. “I wasn’t even alarmed,” Brooks told the detective, adding that he figured his girlfriend was with her cousin or her sister. (He would later tell Nancy Grace that his relationship with Rogers was sometimes “stressed” and she’d cope at a relative’s home.)

After Rogers’ parents reported her missing on July 5, her maroon Chevy Impala was discovered, keys in the ignition, on the shoulder of the Bluegrass Parkway. Inside the car were her purse, cellphone, and a diaper bag.

In 2018, Sherry Ballard told The Daily Beast that Rogers met Houck seven years earlier after renting one of his properties and she began working for him.

America’s ‘Most Beautiful Small Town’ Is Murder, U.S.A.

“She was just a normal everyday girl that wore her heart on her sleeve,” Sherry said of Rogers, the oldest of three children. “Crystal’s kids were like our kids. We were a close family. They were here all the time.”

While Houck joined family get-togethers, his ties to the Ballards began to sour by 2014. Sherry claimed that Houck sprained the wrist of one of Rogers’ daughters while ordering her to put away her phone and once cut off the family’s water in anger.

According to Sherry, Rogers planned to dump Brooks before she went missing.

A cousin of Rogers, Mandy Greenwell, pointed out that Brooks never volunteered to help search for his then girlfriend. “Why did he never help search?” Greenwell told The Daily Beast in 2018. “Even if there was differences between him and Sherry and Tommy, their number one goal was to find Crystal. Sometimes you just have to let bygones be bygones.”

Police named Houck the main suspect three months after Rogers disappeared.

Meanwhile, his brother, former Bardstown cop Nick Houck, was fired in October 2015 after he called Brooks and warned him that investigators might try to “trip him up.” Nick had also failed an FBI administered polygraph test, which he’d twice tried to avoid.

When an FBI expert asked Nick if he knew where Crystal was and whether he was hiding information about what happened to her, the cop turned hostile. “I don’t give a goddamn what your fucking computer said, OK,” Nick replied. “I’m telling ya that I have been 100 percent honest with you.”

Man Arrested in Cold Case of Missing Kentucky Mom Crystal Rogers

Authorities also looked into another relative of Houck: His grandmother, Anna Whitesides, whose Buick was spotted in a strange location on the family farm. When investigators tried to seize the vehicle, the octogenarian said she sold it to a dealership. Police would search her home at least five times.

“I will not let this rest until I find justice for my daughter and my husband,” Sherry previously told The Daily Beast. “If you think she’s gonna be a pile of paper on a desk, that’s not happening.”

Over the years, Houck continued to make local headlines over his brushes with police. He was arrested on a warrant for traffic violations in 2022. (A prosecutor would dismiss five of his seven charges and he pleaded guilty to two.) And in 2018, he was charged with stealing roofing shingles from a Lowe’s hardware store.

He faced 20 years for felony theft but a jury acquitted him.

“I know it has nothing to do with my daughter, but … I’m happy that’s getting out there,” Sherry told The Daily Beast of his theft charge.

“People are starting to see the person that I already knew.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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