Family recalls past crime while searching for missing loved one

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Resolution presented to family of slain woman

By Kacie Goode

The Ballard family has been here before.

Since Crystal Rogers’ car was found alongside the Bluegrass Parkway July 5, the family has scoured the woods and fields searching for answers, to no avail.

Throughout their ordeal, memories continue to surface of a three-year search that ended in tragedy more than three decades ago, and played a role in changing Kentucky law to make killing an unborn child murder.

The family was recently recognized by state lawmakers for its work on getting the law changed.

Freda Sharene “Sherry” Ballard, Rogers’ aunt, went missing from Bardstown in 1979. The family pleaded for information on the expectant mother’s disappearance, including a front-page article in The Kentucky Standard March 22, 1979, when Ballard was due to deliver her child.

Ballard’s vehicle was found near the Ohio River in Clarksville, Ind., shortly after her disappearance, a large rock placed on the gas pedal. In 1982 the investigation led to the arrest of Ballard’s estranged husband, Edsel “Eddie” Barnes, of Bardstown.

The remains of Ballard and her unborn child were found on a farm in western Nelson County, not far from where Rogers’ car was found with a flat tire with her purse, cell phone and other personal belongings still inside.

In the 1982 coverage of the murder of Sherry Ballard, her parents, Till and Betty Ballard, told the Standard that they never gave up hope that something would eventually break in the disappearance of their daughter.

That same perseverance is relived this week as the family is stricken with a second tragedy in the disappearance of Rogers, Till and Betty’s granddaughter.

Barnes was initially charged with two counts of murder, and his trial was delayed two years as attorneys debated the murder charge of the unborn child. The second charge was eventually dropped following a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling in a Wayne County case that determined a fetus couldn’t be a murder victim.

During his trial in 1984, prosecutors said Barnes’ motive was to avoid paying for the baby’s delivery and child support. Ballard was seven and a half months pregnant with her first child when she was killed.

Barnes was convicted of murdering Ballard and is currently serving a life sentence without parole in the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.

While he was never held accountable for the loss of Ballard’s baby, the crime and family’s testimony to lawmakers were instrumental in passing Kentucky’s fetal homicide law.

In 2004, the crimes of fetal homicide in the first, second, third and fourth degrees were added to the commonwealth’s penal code. Under state law, anyone who murders a pregnant woman can be charged in the death of her unborn child.

State Rep. David Floyd had originally drafted a bill to rename KRS 507A.010 to 507A.060 as “The Sherry Ballard Fetal Homicide Act.” However, the act had already been named.

“What we did instead, was a resolution,” Floyd said.

Teresa Ballard, Sherry Ballard’s sister, recently received a copy of the resolution adjourning the 2015 General Assembly in honor of Sherry Ballard.

“Whereas the Ballard family bravely took inspiration from Sherry’s own example of quiet fortitude, and provided personal testimony before this body regarding the need for fetal homicide laws in the commonwealth, joining far too many who had been similarly stricken by the loss of daughters, sisters, nieces, and cousins, who were carrying beloved future members of their families …” the resolution reads.

“It was passed for her and to remember her,” Till and Betty Ballard told the Standard in an interview following Floyd’s original proposal.

As the family relives the fear and uncertainty members felt when they lost contact with Ballard, Rogers’ disappearance from Bardstown just 12 days ago is taking its toll on a family that has already lost so much.

With unanswered questions, the search for Rogers stays strong and the family said they would continue to search until answers are found.