Houck theft trial underway

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

For additional coverage of Day 1 of Houck's theft trial, click here

Perhaps the most notorious man in Nelson County goes on trial this week, although not for the crime many suspect him of committing.

The opening of prosecution of Brooks Houck was scheduled to start Tuesday in Warren County on theft charges, too late to make deadline for this edition. Ongoing coverage can be found at kystandard.com. Filings in the case indicate court officials expect it to take “several days” before the jury is asked for a verdict.

Houck is the named suspect in the 2015 disappearance of his girlfriend, Crystal Rogers, but has not been charged in that case.

The developer stands accused of stealing roofing shingles for some of his construction sites from Lowe’s home improvement store last year.

Prosecutors had not offered a plea deal as of an April 8 filing, which is almost routine for most people with no criminal history facing class D felonies, the lowest classification that carry one to five years each.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Ballard submitted a list of 27 potential witnesses. Many of them are former or current Lowe’s employees, along with police and other officials. But the first two names are Rosemary Houck and Nick Houck, Brooks’ mother and brother, who have also faced scrutiny in the Rogers disappearance.

Prosecutors have also filed a supplemental crime report by Bardstown Detective Chris Smith that claims in November Houck was seeking out potential witnesses.

One of those witnesses described a situation similar to what Houck stands accused of, where he purchased several bundles of shingles but when he went to pick them up inflated the number.

This witness told the detective “he believes Brooks was targeting the new cashiers” in order to confuse them and get shingles for free.

The detective’s report suggests a pattern of deceit and theft on Houck’s part.

A second witness told the detective “Brooks had already tried pulling this stunt and got her in trouble three years ago.”

Houck was indicted in July on four felony counts and other misdemeanors last summer, but prosecutors last week amended one of the felony counts and dropped one of the misdemeanors. He is accused of stealing the shingles last April.

Houck pleaded not guilty and his attorneys successfully argued that he could not face a fair trial in Nelson County because of the widespread media coverage of Rogers’ disappearance and his suspected involvement. Nelson Circuit Court Judge Jack Seay decided to move the trial to Warren County, where it is hoped it will be easier to find jurors with no knowledge of the Rogers case.

But last week Seay denied a request from Houck’s attorneys to sequester the jurors for the entirety of the trial. Seay ruled it would be a “major hardship” on jurors to be removed from their families during a trial that is expected to last “several days.”

“One of the main reasons the court moved the trial to Warren County is because Warren has no Louisville TV stations in its cable TV services and is too distant from those stations for residents to receive their TV signals via roof top antennas. The court expects this will reduce the chance of exposing jurors to news accounts during the trial,” Seay ruled. “The court recently contacted the circuit judges in Warren who advised no sequestration had been necessary for any pre-deliberation jury in over 30 years, even in capital cases.”