NELSON CO., Ky. (WHAS11) – The town voted most beautiful in America has been rocked by something very ugly—almost sinister.
Bardstown, Ky. is the epicenter of several unsolved cases. It began with Officer Ellis' murder. A year later, Kathy and Samantha Netherland, a mother and daughter, were murdered inside their home outside Bardstown. Crystal Rogers has been missing since July of 2015, and her father, Tommy Ballard, was shot and killed last November.
The State Police Commissioner of Kentucky, Rick Sanders, said it is unusual for this many unsolved cases in a three to four-year time frame, and so close together. His agency is in charge of all these cases except for Crystal Rogers.
As a former homicide investigator, he said he asked the same questions he knew I was about to ask.
We start with Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis.
This month marks four years since Ellis was gunned down. Though the reward money tops $200,000, the case is still unsolved.
Sanders said that tells him very few people know what happened, and they feel loyalty or fear to tell the truth.
It appeared to be an ambush-style killing. Branches were placed on the exit Ellis used on the Bluegrass Parkway to go home. He was killed when he got out to move them.
Major Jeremy Thompson, who helps to oversee these cases, said we can’t assume Ellis was the target. That limits the investigation. There must be facts to back it up.
I ask Sanders about rumors that Ellis perhaps stumbled upon something with narcotics or was about to turn in a bad cop. He said they have heard it, and have investigated thousands and thousands of tips.
To show me the volume of the Ellis files, some of the detectives working these unsolved cases brought them out. It took five of them to carry in just the Ellis case.
They are vested and hopeful they will solve not only the Ellis case but also the Netherland case.
Kathy, a special education teacher, and her daughter, Samantha, were killed inside their home in April of 2014.
Police thought they had their break with a picture of a black Chevy Impala. Major Thompson believes whoever was in that car was in the house when the crime was committed.
In the Crystal Rogers case, her boyfriend Brooks Houck is considered the main suspect in her disappearance despite multiple searches and no signs of Crystal. That case is being handled by the Nelson County Sheriff's Department.
KSP is in charge of her father's case. Tommy Ballard was shot and killed while hunting last November. Could it have been an accident or murder?
Tommy Ballard and his wife Sherry were relentless in their search for answers about their daughter. Was he getting too close to the truth?
I ask Commissioner Sanders why we can’t call Ballard’s death a homicide. He said we need to keep all options open, but it is being treated as a homicide investigation.
I ask if the cases are connected, but Thompson said we can’t go that far.
Sherry Ballard has now lost her husband and her daughter, but she still no answers.
We took some of her questions and frustration to Commissioner Sanders.
She wanted to know if they’re working the cases day to day. Sanders personally visiting Sherry to reassure her that these cases are still being worked on by him, and this team of investigators who won't give up.
In fact, they say they can't let go, and never will. The investigators say they too are vested and lose sleep thinking about these cases.
Commissioner Sanders hopes our interview might generate another lead and fill in some missing pieces of the puzzle.
Major Jeremy Thompson is hoping someone's conscience will kick in and they will come forward with information.
Sanders said Bardstown is a lovely city that needs to go back where it was, with no fear.
If you have information in any of these cases, you are asked to call (270) 766-5078.
To email tips, send them to ElliscaseEtips@ky.gov.