Crystal Rogers’ family questions timing of Bourbon Festival, removal of signs

Updated: Aug. 6, 2020 at 1:41 PM EDT
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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WAVE) - Family and friends of Crystal Rogers and several community members claim the signs about her disappearance were taken down for fear that it makes the city look bad before its upcoming Bourbon Festival.

Officials said they’re not targeting the Rogers signs, telling WAVE 3 News they’re only enforcing a city ordinance. Rogers’ mother, Sherry Ballard, is crying foul, saying the move is an attempt to hide the negativity of the town’s murder mystery.

“I’m going to put them back out and (city officials are) going to be upset with me, but I don’t care,” Ballard said. “That they would do this to me is uncalled for.” Family and friends of the Rogers family say they hope the signs put pressure on officials to solve her disappearance, and will help solve several other local homicides that remain unsolved.

A WAVE 3 News crew on Wednesday found few signs still up, most at private homes.

City leaders in Bardstown, along with the community, are excited for its upcoming Bourbon Festival. Signs tout the event that begins Sept. 18, along with others, about bourbon and the beauty of the town. Far fewer signs were the ones dedicated to getting answers on the unsolved Rogers case. Family and friends also are looking for answers in the homicides of Tommy Ballard, Kathy and Samantha Netherland and Jason Ellis.

“We all think it’s a little weird, you know?” Bardstown resident Johnna Brown asked about the signs. “We’re shoving our small town issues under the rug and putting on the pretty face.”

“I just think as it gets closer to Bourbon Festival, they want to clean up the area and clean up the town,” business owner Mary Taylor said.

Taylor, who owns Liberty Tax, said she had an unexpected visit Monday.

“Code enforcement officer, she’s a new officer,” Taylor explained of the request to remove her Rogers signs. “A sweet lady comes by and tells my staff they have to come up.”

Taylor questioned why, after more than a year without problem, her signs now have to come down. She posted on Facebook that some of the signs were found next to cityp property. But Tuesday night, during Bardstown’s PLG TV 13 report, Bardstown City Human Resources Director Greg Ashworth said it’s not true.

“No one within the city of Bardstown organization is removing these signs,” Ashworth said.

Ballard replied: “I don’t believe them. It’s not coincidental that this happened at this time of year.”

WAVE 3 News was told the mayor wasn’t in his office, which eventually shared a statement, part of which read: “The city of Bardstown’s policy has never been to remove and dispose of the prayers for Crystal signs out of respect for the family. The city of Bardstown has an ordinance prohibiting temporary signs in the public right of way and has been proactive in trying to make that ordinance clear to the public.”

But another city official said he understands the confusion, saying the ordinance that’s more than 30 pages long is complicated. Brown said she doesn’t understand if her signs have to be back 20 feet if they’re on private property.

“I don’t know about the codes,” Brown said. “I don’t know how far off the roadway I have to be, but I don’t want my signs taken down.”

Community members toold WAVE 3 News that Bourbon Festival or not, they’re going to keep putting the signs up in Bardstown.

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