The Disappearance of Crystal Rogers is a 2018 documentary series on the disappearance of Crystal Rogers in 2015 and the other murders surrounding her disappearance in Bardstown, Kentucky.
8 out of 10 stars. This could have been done better, but I appreciate the thoroughness with which they tried to find more evidence to bring these families peace.
In the small town of Bardstown, Kentucky in Nelson County, crime used to be rare. Murder was especially rare. Then in 2013 began a series of unsolved homicides:
- On May 25, 2013, Memorial Day weekend, K-9 police officer Jason Ellis was murdered on his way home from work just after 2 am. He was driving a temp car since his K-9 vehicle was in the shop and his K-9 dog was not with him. Only an insider with this information could have set up this murder. He was shot in a seam of the bulletproof vest he was wearing. Only an insider would know where the vest’s seam was. Ellis was a K-9 cop and worked mostly drug-related cases. In the past few years, a Mexican drug cartel had moved into Bardstown. He was also investigating a series of storage facility burglaries that involved drugs and high-end antiques.
- On July 21, 2014, schoolteacher Cathy Netherlands and her teenage daughter Samantha were violently tortured and murdered in their home. Both were outspoken critics of a local gang and their violent murders were thought to be part of a gang initiation. Sam’s murder was especially brutal. Most of the bones in her face were broken.
- On July 3, 2015, mother of five Crystal Rogers disappeared and was never seen again. Her live-in boyfriend Brooks Houck immediately became the lead suspect along with his police officer brother Nick Houck who was fired from the police for interfering with the investigation into Crystal’s disappearance. Both men were remorseless and refused to cooperate with police. They both failed their polygraph tests.
- On November 19, 2016, Crystal’s father, Tommy Ballard, who had relentlessly searched for his daughter since her disappearance, was murdered on his property in front of Crystal’s 10 year old son Trent. Shortly before his murder he had told his family that “this is so big it goes way beyond Kentucky” and was thought to have been referring to the drug network that had taken over the area.
Why the cases are still unsolved
Jason Ellis, Crystal Rogers, and Tommy Ballard’s murders are linked to each other, the drug cartel, and to Nick Houck, a former police officer in Nelson County. Ellis worked the same shift as Houck and in the same circles. Crystal lived with Nick Houck’s brother Brooks and they had a son. Tommy was Crystal’s dad and had an ongoing adversarial relationship with the Houcks after Crystal’s disappearance. Both Ellis and Nick Houck worked drug crimes and at least one person interviewed suspected that Crystal had overheard something Nick and Brooks were talking about (drugs) that got her killed.
There was a lot of anger over the Kentucky State Police and Nelson County Sheriff’s Department’s behavior in all of these murder cases:
- Multiple witnesses came forward and tried to give statements, but in most cases, the police ignored them.
- Kentucky law only allows 10 pieces of forensic evidence to be tested. The police’s response to this was to not even bother collecting more than 10 pieces of forensic evidence.
- Nelson County Sheriff’s Department is in charge of the investigation into Crystal Roger’s disappearance while Kentucky State Police are in charge of the other murders. This creates cross jurisdictional issues. Crystal’s case in particular was difficult because it’s still classified as a missing persons case rather than a homicide.
- The police almost immediately released Crystal’s car without processing it through forensics. The documentary hires a forensics expert who finds a treasure trove of forensic evidence inside. There is a huge section of carpet in the car that responds to Blue Star (Luminol).
- The timeline Brooks Houck provided to police of Crystal’s whereabouts during the 24 hours up to her disappearance was proven wrong by multiple sources. She disappeared at least 12 hours before Brooks claims she did, when she was with him. She was last seen by unbiased witnesses (outside the Houck family) shortly after 5 pm unloading her purchases from Walmart in front of her and Brooks’ home. Walmart video footage shows her buying those items half an hour earlier. Another witness saw Crystal’s car dumped on the side of the highway at 10:30 pm that evening. Brooks claims she was home with him until 8 am.
- Brooks behavior toward Crystal was corroborated by several witnesses to be controlling, manipulative, and sometimes violent. He refused to pay for food for her other four kids and he controlled all of Crystal’s money so she couldn’t leave him. He refused to take care of the son he had with Crystal so Crystal had Eli with her 24/7, but on the day she disappeared Brooks had Eli with him and never reported Crystal missing, claiming he wasn’t worried. He told the police and Nancy Grace that Crystal was always going to her cousin Sabrina’s house and spending the night. In the three years he’d been with Crystal, she had never spent the night at Sabrina’s house. In fact, Brooks was so controlling that in the three years they were together, she only went to Sabrina’s house twice, both times for less than two hours. Even though he was constantly and consistently lying to police to mislead them, they never pushed when questioning Brooks. And Nick was constantly covering up for Brooks.
- Without a body, Nelson County’s prosecutor refused to pursue any leads in Crystal Roger’s disappearance.
- Nick Houck’s testimony was proven a lie as well. Brooks eventually came in for questioning on July 8, 2015, but abruptly left after getting a phone call from his brother Nick ordering him to leave. Nick picked Brooks up from the Sheriff’s Office and took him to the family farm where they are thought to have disposed of evidence. But when Nick was brought in for questioning, he denied doing this and claimed he couldn’t remember what he did that day (7 days earlier). When the police sprayed his car with blue star (luminol) it lit up like a Christmas tree (this may have been a lie by police to elicit a confession from Nick).
- On July 10, 2015, the police search the Houck farm, but no arrests are made and the police will not reveal to the family what evidence was recovered. Yet Crystal is still designated a missing person rather than a possible homicide victim.
- On October 16,2015, The Sheriff of Nelson County announces that Crystal Rogers is presumed dead and Brooks is a suspect. But he gives no reason for this announcement and there are no arrests in her case.
- On July 12, 2015, cadaver dogs from a volunteer search team are taken on Melody Lake near the Houck farm. They both hit on the same location of the lake. Divers only dive a small area and find nothing. The mud/silt on the bottom of the lake is two feet deep.
Most of the documentary focuses on collecting new evidence since the police and sheriff’s departments won’t release anything they’ve found. During the year Tommy investigated his daughter’s disappearance, he amassed boxes and boxes of evidence including police interviews (presumably through the Freedom of Information Act). Within these boxes they find evidence that is new and begin pursuing it.
- Anonymous witness number 1 saw Brooks and Nick Houck’s grandmother’s car a mile from Crystal’s car the night she actually disappeared (12 hours before Brooks claims she went missing). Their grandmother, Anna Whiteside, was never questioned by the police. She sold the car. They find the car and a GPS unit under the front seat, but it stopped recording back in 2014, a year before Crystal disappeared.
- Brooks continued to subvert the investigation even as the documentary investigators were filming. Brooks’ new girlfriend, a criminal named Crystal Dawn Maupin, took down the signs asking for information in Crystal Rogers’ disappearance. She is arrested and a few days later, signs with Brooks’ statements to the police pop up around town, exposing Brooks’ lies.
- They take two cadaver dogs on Melody Lake and they hit on the same location. They send it two professional forensics divers who search for hours, but find nothing. It would take months and a lot of money to search the entire lake.
- They take two cadaver dogs on a search of the Houck farm. The dogs hit on the same spot near one of the buildings where something has obviously been burned. The Kentucky State Police Department comes and takes samples.
- Anonymous witness number 2 saw a white vehicle near where Tommy was murdered at the time he was murdered. The car was backing up and the indoor light went on like the driver had just picked up someone (the shooter).
- In one of Tommy’s boxes was a letter from a prison inmate who had evidence in all the cases. He’d tried giving it to police and they refused to listen to him. This letter, dated February 2016, says the following:
- Crystal’s body is in White Mills, Kentucky near highway 62.
- The Netherlands murders had no forced entry and a cell phone jammer was placed near the front door.
- Jason Ellis was murdered by at least three guys. He was investigating a series of storage facility robberies that included high end antiques and drugs and he was using an informant. That’s what got him killed and the witness has the remains of the destroyed shotgun used to kill Ellis.
- When the Ballards received this inmate’s letter in February of 2016, they made an appointment to see him in the prison. He was moved immediately before they arrived so they weren’t allowed to see him or know where he was moved. Eight months later, Tommy was murdered. The documentary investigators make an appointment to see the inmate and, once again, he is moved the day they are to see him. So they write him a letter and tell him to call them. He does. He tells them the following which they verify to be true:
- Crystal’s car was planted after her murder. Her body was taken to White Mills, Kentucky, to a garage off the freeway where it was dismembered. The garage later was burned to destroy evidence of this. 911 records show the garage was burned multiple times in Jun 2016,Feb 2017, and Apr 2017.
- Ellis was murdered because he was investigating a series of storage facility robberies involving high end antiques and drugs. He was using an informant and got too close. One shooter killed him, but there were at least three other men there including the inmate. They were hired to kill him.
- The Netherlands were murdered as part of a gang initiation. They were tortured in chairs and a cell phone jammer was placed at the front door. Cathy Netherlands’ surviving daughter confirms the torture and chairs. The jammer is new news but explains why Sam was never able to call the police.
Why you shouldn’t live in Kentucky
- At several points in the film they point out that a prominent Mexican drug cartel has taken over the highways in Kentucky. Bardstown is at the merging of two major freeways, making it the perfect home for them to traffic drugs.
- Murders and violent crimes have risen dramatically in the past 8 years due to the drug cartel’s activities. Only a fourth of these are solved. A state law states that only 10 pieces of forensic evidence can be processed in any case which guarantees that crimes remain unsolved.
- The prosecutors in the District Attorneys’ offices throughout Kentucky refuse to prosecute cases unless they’re sure they can win because they want to preserve their percentage of won cases.
- Nothing will change until the Republicans (especially Mitch McConnell) lose control of the state. Over the years they’ve diminished the resources available for crime solving. Most of that money is diverted to their political campaigns.
8 out of 10 stars. Shocking but true. If every millionaire and billionaire gave one percent of their fortune to solve crimes like this and produce documentaries like this to inform people, it would be a much happier place to live.