Bardstown man charged with conspiracy to commit murder in disappearance of Crystal Rogers

Published 4:17 pm Friday, September 8, 2023

By Kentucky Today

BARDSTOWN – A Nelson County man has been indicted and arrested in the July 2015 disappearance and presumed death of Crystal Rogers, the Bardstown woman whose body has never been found.

Media reports say 32-year-old Joseph Lawson has been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence. He was named in sealed indictments handed down by the Nelson County grand jury in June and July, but wasn’t arraigned until Thursday, since he was in the hospital after the indictments were returned.

Lawson is not charged with Rogers’ murder itself, but the conspiracy charge means prosecutors believe he was involved in some fashion with whoever killed Rogers.

Lawson pleaded not guilty, and his bond was set at $500,000. His next court appearance is a pre-trial conference scheduled for October 26 at Nelson Circuit Court.

While Rogers’ name did not appear in the indictment, according to local media, it did state that the crime was committed in Nelson County on July 3 and/or July 4, 2015.

Rogers disappeared on July 3, 2015, from the home she was sharing with her boyfriend, Brooks Houck, the couple’s two-year-old son and her other children.

Houck, who was the last person to see her alive, told authorities that Rogers was playing a game on her phone when he went to bed, and when he got up the next morning, both she and her car were gone. Her car was found on the shoulder of the Bluegrass Parkway on July 5 with her purse, keys and cell phone inside.

Investigators later named Houck a suspect in the disappearance but have never charged him with a crime. Rogers has long been presumed dead.

In what was thought to possibly be a break in the case, human remains were found on July 24, 2020, near the Nelson and Washington County line, but the FBI announced after extensive forensics work including DNA testing that the remains were not those of the missing mother of five.

The disappearance of Crystal Rogers is not the only unsolved mystery involving her family. In November 2016, her father, Tommy Ballard, 54, was shot to death while hunting on his property with his then-12-year-old grandson, Rogers’ oldest son. The boy was cleared, and authorities ruled out suicide, as Ballard’s gun had not been fired. No one has been charged in his death.