Sheriff’s Office updates public on Rogers investigation

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By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

The lead investigator in the disappearance of Crystal Rogers provided a wide-ranging update to the case Thursday afternoon that quantified, for the first time, in numbers, the efforts of detectives.

“It is far from a cold case,” said Capt. Jon Snow, the deputy sheriff who has worked as the lead detective since Rogers disappeared in July 2015. “We work on it — if not every week — then at least several times a month. We conducted an interview regarding it yesterday, so it is definitely not classified as a cold case.”

Snow provided some numbers to illustrate those efforts. Included in those were:

• From July 2015 to December 2016, Snow worked only the Rogers case. He amassed over 400 hours of overtime and approximately 3,100 regular hours.

• Snow has written 72 search warrants in the case. Not all of those were on property, some involved seeking information from companies and other entities.

• Approximately 13 agencies have contributed to the case. Some of those agencies did not want to be listed because doing so could harm the investigation, but those who agreed to be listed included: the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office, Bardstown Police for evidence collection, Kentucky State Police, Louisville Metro’s dive team and investigators, Louisville Metro fire, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Hardin County Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI has lent investigators, polygraph experts, forensics and evidence collection and testing.

• Investigators have collected 172 pieces of evidence.

• Snow has traveled to three states following up on leads.

Thursday’s press conference with local media was a reaction to recent national television coverage including a segment on Investigation Discovery and a six-part series on Oxygen. The Oxygen series, in particular, implied that investigators had not done a thorough job in investigating some aspects of the case. The premise of the show was that a retired homicide detective from Washington, D.C., and an “investigative journalist” were conducting their own inquiry and enlisting their own experts to try to solve the case of what happened to the missing mother of five whose car was discovered abandoned on the side of the Bluegrass Parkway during the July 4 weekend of 2015.

Brooks Houck, Rogers’ live-in boyfriend at the time and father to her youngest child, was named early in the investigation as the prime suspect in her disappearance, but no charges have been brought against him in connection with the case.

Nelson County Judge-Executive Dean Watts attended the press conference and gave his view, as well, especially in how the community responded to the television series, and he said he thought the department was depicted unfairly.

“After the first episode, I was bombarded with questions,” Watts said. “I think the story portrayed you guys as some country sheriff’s department that didn’t know what they were doing.”

Snow said he did not watch the show, but was aware of the content, and said he had gotten a lot of feedback, mostly from outside the community.

“We haven’t gotten any actual, what I would consider, leads generated by that show specifically,” he said.

Other information discussed at Thursday’s press conference included:

Processing Rogers’ car

Snow said allegations that investigators did not search Rogers’ vehicle were “completely untrue.”

The show used its own forensic investigator, who also turned up no new evidence.

Building in White Mills

Snow also said he was familiar with a building in White Mills that was featured in the sixth episode of the show, which it suggested could have been set on fire more than a year after Rogers disappeared to dispose of her body.

Snow said he had not been to the location, but producers with the show had told him they had a confidential informant who had information about Rogers’ body being burned in a building in White Mills.

“When I asked them for information about that, they did not provide it to me and have not provided it to me, and as best I know, they have not provided that information to the Kentucky State Police,” Snow said.

Recovering a body and prosecution

“We may someday find some remains if someone has not concealed them in such a manner that would prevent us from doing that,” Snow said.

But while he “could not speculate,” he said based on his experience finding a body was unlikely given the amount of time that has passed since she went missing.

Snow said it was not up to him to prosecute the case, but that he speaks with prosecutors “probably a couple times a month if not more than that.”

“If at some point in the future, when we’ve decided that we’ve reached the point where we want to put this case to a grand jury and potentially to a jury trial, then that’s where we will go with it.”

Connections to other cases

Several people in the community, and the Oxygen Network show, have voiced opinions that Rogers’ disappearance is connected with the 2013 murder of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, the 2014 double homicide of Kathy and Samantha Netherland or the 2016 apparent assassination by sniper of Rogers’ father, Tommy Ballard. All of those cases are being investigated by the Kentucky State Police.

“I’m more of a hard-evidence type of person,” Snow said. “I wouldn’t specifically say that I have found anything that puts them together. I know there’s a lot of speculation out there about it, I think a lot of it revolves around the fact they are all around the same geographic area. But at this point, I don’t have any hard evidence.”

Snow said he meets regularly with KSP and discusses the case. Snow said cooperation has been good.

“Everybody’s been great about providing us resources,” he said. “I don’t have one complaint about any of the agencies that have worked with us.”

Results still pending

“We do have a couple things that are still out,” Snow said of lab testing.

He said the FBI has some evidence for testing at its lab, but when something of a national interest comes up for the lab that can result in other jobs being pushed back.

“We’ve been very patient with them, and they’ve been very gracious to give us their resources,” Snow said.

A detective dedicated to unsolved cases

Candidates running for November’s election for Nelson County sheriff have brought differing views on dedicating manpower to the case.

Democrat Ramon Pineiroa has said he would like to explore options to bring in an expert on a contractual basis to review the Rogers case as well as some other, unrelated cases.

Republican Todd Harper has advocated hiring a full-time detective to work unsolved cases in Nelson County, which would require additional funding from county government, and has referred to many of them as “cold cases,” which is not a correct term for the Ellis, Ballard, Netherland or Rogers cases, all of which are considered active investigations.

“I have enlisted the help of numerous detectives throughout the investigation and continue to do so,” Snow said.

He said he has not turned down any detective who has asked to help with the case.

“At this point, unless something else starts happening with it, there’s not generally enough for a full-time person to do,” Snow said.

Snow said they have “had a lot of different sets of eyes” on the case over the past few years.

Tommy Ballard’s box of files

The Oxygen Network’s investigators were given access to a box of notes that Ballard kept while he ran his own investigation into the disappearance of his daughter. They said at the time that no one else had seen the notes.

Snow confirmed he had not, and still has not, and said he did not think his review of them was necessary.

“I have not seen them,” Snow said. “Tommy would regularly call me with things he found out, he felt needed to be checked out, places he was going to go, why he was going to search there.”

He said the family had not asked him to look at the notes.

Feedback mixed from public after Oxygen series debut

“We got a lot (of feedback). Some positive. Some not so positive,” Snow said.

“Quite frankly, we got a lot from outside the Nelson County community that was not positive.”

Snow said most of the feedback came after the two-hour premiere, which also was the episode that cast doubt on the thoroughness of the processing of Rogers’ car. The episodes were structured so that the show’s experts were shown testing the car in the first week, but did not reveal any results until a week later.

“Apparently they seemed to indicate we didn’t do our job (in the first show), and then when nothing came of their investigation, we didn’t get much feedback after that,” Snow said.