3 men indicted in Crystal Rogers' murder appear in court: What to know

Crystal Rogers disappeared in Nelson County in July 2015. Her body has never been found, but she is presumed dead.
Crystal Rogers disappeared in Nelson County in July 2015. Her body has never been found, but she is presumed dead.

More than eight years since Bardstown mother Crystal Rogers first disappeared, the three men indicted in connection to her murder will appear in Nelson Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.

While Rogers' body has never been found, she is presumed dead by investigators, with Brooks Houck, her then-boyfriend, facing a criminal charge in connection with her murder. Steven and Joseph Lawson, whose relationships with either Houck or Rogers have yet to be shared by investigators, have also been charged.

While a trial date has yet to be set for anyone involved, here's what to know about Rogers' disappearance and how investigators say each man is linked to the case:

What happened to Crystal Rogers?

Rogers, a 35-year-old mother of five children, went missing around July 3, 2015, from Bardstown. Her car was soon found abandoned on the Bluegrass Parkway with her keys, phone and purse inside.

Rogers was not known to go anywhere without her kids, according to the FBI.

"Since my mom’s been missing, life has been really hard. I always wonder what my life would be like if she and my papaw was still here," one of Rogers' daughters wrote on a website dedicated to the investigation.

Her disappearance sparked national attention, including a five-part investigative series premiering on the Oxygen television network in 2018.

The investigation into Rogers' disappearance was initially handled by the Nelson County Sheriff’s Office and Kentucky State Police before the Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the lead investigative role in 2020.

Brooks Houck, then boyfriend, charged in connection with Rogers' murder

Brooks Houck, who is also the father to her youngest child, faces charges of murder and tampering with physical evidence.

Houck, 42, told officers he'd last seen Rogers alive when they visited his family's farm the night before she disappeared. He was named a suspect early in the investigation, but criminal charges were not filed against him in the case until September 2023 when he was arrested at a job site by the FBI. He has pleaded not guilty.

His bond was set at $10 million at his arraignment in October. He has also been ordered to not have any contact with Rogers' family.

Who are Steven and Joseph Lawson?

Father and son Steven and Joseph Lawson have both been charged with tampering with physical evidence and conspiracy to commit murder in connection to the case. Joseph Lawson, 33, was the first arrest announced by investigators, soon followed by Houck.

Steven, 53, was arrested in December 2023. WHAS-TV previously reported Houck referred to an employee named Steve Lawson when interrogated by the Nelson County Sheriff's Office.

What's happened in court so far?

While each man has been arraigned, trial dates have not yet been set. In a slew of pretrial conferences, the three men have each asked for their bonds to be lowered.

Houck's bond request was denied, keeping it at $10 million, while Steven Lawson's bond was cut in half — from $500,000 to $250,000.

Joseph Lawson's request is still pending.

At Houck's arraignment, prosecutor Shane Young shared a few key details from the investigation, including claims of interference from the Houck family.

According to Young, Houck's family members recorded secret grand jury proceedings in 2015. Young also said investigators recovered a gun sold by Houck's brother under an assumed name that could be a match for the murder weapon in the killing of Rogers' father, Tommy Ballard.

On the morning of Nov. 19, 2016, just 16 months after his daughter's disappearance, Tommy Ballard was preparing for a hunting trip with his 12-year-old grandson on family property next to Bluegrass Parkway in Bardstown. An unknown person fired one shot and hit Ballard in the chest, instantly killing him, according to the FBI.

No one has been charged in connection to Ballard's murder.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Crystal Rogers murder case moves forward in court