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Brothers offering $20,000 reward for information, conviction in Tommy Ballard's death

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By Kacie Goode

It has been nine months since Tommy Ballard was shot and killed on family-owned land while hunting with his grandson. Police maintain the case’s status as a “death investigation,” but Tommy’s family believes he was murdered.

Mike and Roger Ballard, Tommy’s brothers, spoke with media late Wednesday morning regarding a $20,000 reward they have now posted for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for the death.

“We’re not taking donations, asking for donations, this money is coming from us,” Mike Ballard said.

The reward is separate from the current $70,000 being offered for information in the 2015 disappearance of Crystal Rogers, Tommy’s daughter, whom he searched for up until his death.

The brothers believe the person or persons responsible for Crystal’s disappearance are the same as those responsible for Tommy’s death, and that their brother was killed because of circumstances related to the search for his daughter.

“Maybe he was close to finding something, or maybe they just felt like he wasn’t going to quit or let up,” Mike said.

Tommy was remembered and praised for his efforts to find Crystal, keeping notes of every search, calling news stations, search and rescue teams and following up on numerous leads. As the community followed the disappearance, Tommy would often say he would never stop looking. Now, his brothers are carrying on what he started.

“We got a tip last week and followed that up,” on Tuesday, Mike Ballard said. “We are still looking in that area.”

Crystal’s disappearance and an investigation

Crystal Rogers, a mother of five, disappeared over the July 4 weekend in 2015 and was reported missing by her parents July 5 after her car was discovered abandoned and disabled on the Bluegrass Parkway with the keys and some personal belongings inside.

It wasn’t until October that Rogers’ live-in boyfriend at the time, Brooks Houck, was officially named a suspect in her disappearance. Police interviews later released, however, indicate he was a person of interest early in the investigation.

Around the same time Brooks was named a suspect, his brother, Nick Houck, was fired from the Bardstown Police Department for interfering in the investigation.

While no Houck family members have been charged with a crime, Crystal Maupin, Brooks Houck’s girlfriend, was arrested on a theft charge July 28 of this year, accused of stealing a sign showing support for the Ballard family from an area gas station. According to the arrest report from police, Maupin was on surveillance video removing the sign. The theft occurred the same time as many other similar signs were stolen or damaged in the area, but no other proof has been offered to connect Maupin to those cases.

Tension between the two families and in the community regarding the investigation has been evident. A few days prior to the string of sign thefts, videos circulated of a caravan of cars driving past Brooks Houck’s home blasting their horns. The caravan was on its way to a vigil marking two years since Crystal Rogers went missing.

In the time since Crystal Rogers disappeared, investigators have conducted searches at the Houck family farm and the home of Anna Whitesides, the Houcks’ grandmother, who invoked her Fifth Amendment right in May 2016 after she was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in connection to Crystal’s case.

Investigators returned to Whitesides’ home late last month to conduct another search, which her attorney suggested was vague and for “something about bullets and reloading equipment.” Police did not say if the search warrant was directly related to Ballard’s death or Crystal’s disappearance.

Tommy’s death

On Nov. 19, 2016, Roger Ballard received a call from Mike Ballard that their brother, Tommy, had been shot and killed.

“It happened so quick, I didn’t know what to think,” Roger said of trying to process the news. But he knew immediately, he said, that the shooting was connected to Tommy’s search efforts.

In the months leading up to his death, Tommy had told some of his family that he “felt he was being followed,” the brothers said. Roger said his little brother had even been running surveillance on his truck. But the tape didn’t seem to be rolling the day Tommy Ballard died of a single gunshot wound to the chest.

“Every day I think about it,” Roger Ballard said, adding that he and Tommy are just a year apart and were close.

“He was a good brother,” said Mike Ballard, the youngest. “He always took up for me, so now, it’s time for me,” to take up for him.

The loss of Tommy Ballard is just the latest tragedy the family has faced, made even more difficult as it followed the disappearance and assumed death of Crystal Rogers. Tommy is not the first sibling the Ballard brothers have lost.

In 1979, their sister, Sherry, who was pregnant at the time, went missing from Bardstown. Her vehicle was found near the Ohio River in Indiana and Sherry’s remains and those of her unborn child were later uncovered on a farm in western Nelson County. It wasn’t until 1982 that an investigation led to the arrest of Sherry’s estranged husband, Eddie Barnes, who was convicted and given a life sentence in prison.

Mike and Roger want justice for Crystal and Tommy not only for their own peace of mind, but to offer a sense of peace to their parents.

“To lose a daughter, then a niece and then a son has been really bad on them,” Mike Ballard said.

Seeking information

To do their part, Mike and Roger are working to not only keep Crystal and Tommy in the public’s mind, but also continue to plead for those with information to come forward.

“I do believe there is somebody out there that does know something and you just gotta get that right person to break,” Mike Ballard said.

In Tommy’s case, an email account has been set up at tipsfortommy@outlook.com for tips and information to be provided.

“All it takes is one, the right email to get,” Mike said, adding that any pertinent information would be turned over to investigators.

The family is also asking anyone who was on the Bluegrass Parkway the morning of Nov. 19 between mile markers 23 and 24, or on Ky. 49, around the time of Tommy’s death to come forward and share information.

Much like Tommy, the brothers said they would not stop seeking answers.

“We’re not going to let them get away with murder,” Roger Ballard said.