Bardstown, Kentucky touts itself as “The Bourbon Capital of the World.” Since as early as 1776, whiskey makers have made Bardstown their home and today more than 69-percent of the world’s bourbon production comes from Bardstown and the surrounding areas, according to the website of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Though Bardstown may be known internationally for its whiskey, in recent years Bardstown has become known for a lot more than just its world-class spirits.
On May 25, 2013 Officer Jason Ellis was shot and killed on his way home from the job. Many believe that he was intentionally ambushed after someone placed debris in the roadway, forcing him to exit his vehicle in order to remove it. His case remains one of the few in the country where a police officer’s death remains unsolved. Ellis’ murder is one that continues to perplex investigators, but there were more murders were to follow.
Less than a year later, 48-year-old special education teacher Kathy Netherland and her 16-year-old daughter had been asleep in their home when an unknown intruder had broken in. Netherland had been shot multiple times, while her daughter had been beaten repeatedly. Both victims reportedly had slash marks across their necks. Investigators have no leads on who the intruder or intruders could have been.
In 2015, Crystal Rogers, a Bardstown mother of five, was last seen by her live-in boyfriend Brooks Houck on the night of July 3, 2015. Rogers’ maroon Chevy Impala was later recovered from Kentucky’s Bluegrass Parkway. Her body was never located.
Five days later a fire leveled the three-bedroom home she and Houck shared. Investigators were able to scan through the rubble, but have given no indication on whether or not they found any evidence in the ashes.
At the time Brooks Houck was considered to be a person of interest. His brother, Nick Houck was also given a polygraph test in regards to Crystal’s disappearance. He failed and was let go from the police force. In August of 2016, investigators on the case admitted that they considered both of the Houck brothers people of interest in the case and that they believed that Crystal was dead. To date neither brother has been officially charged.
Tragically, on November 19, 2016, Crystal Rogers’ father, Tommy Ballard, was shot and killed during a hunting trip. So far, no connection has been made to the disappearance of Crystal Rogers.
All along the streets small cardboard signs reading “Solve These Murders” pepper the hedgerows. There has been no certainty on whether any of these cases are connected, but with any community that has been marred by unsolved tragedy after unsolved tragedy, the locals have their theories.
A friend of the Ballard family told a local NBC affiliate, “There are tons and tons of nervous people around this town right now. (We) don’t know…if there is a killer on the loose.”
In another story published by the same NBC affiliate, News Anchor Dawne Gee urges the public to submit any tips, no matter how small. “In all four unsolved cases, Kentucky State Police are asking the public if they have even the smallest piece of information to share. Something small could lead to the big break they need.”
Information on any of these cases can be referred to the Kentucky State Police at (270) 766-5078.