Prosecutor says gun believed to have killed Tommy Ballard in possession of state

The judge did not make a decision on Houck’s bond during Thursday’s hearing.
Published: Oct. 5, 2023 at 2:37 PM EDT
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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WAVE) - During Thursday’s court appearance for Brooks Houck, Prosecutor Shane Young told a Nelson County judge the state is in possession of the gun they believe was used to kill Tommy Ballard.

Brooks Houck appeared virtually from the Hardin County Detention Center for his court arraignment Thursday afternoon.

The judge did not make a decision on Houck’s bond during Thursday’s hearing.

Houck was arrested last week and charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence in the 2015 disappearance of his former girlfriend, Crystal Rogers. He has entered a plea of not guilty of all charges.

Since her disappearance, Houck was named a person of interest in the case. Houck’s attorney, Brian Butler, filed a motion in Nelson County Circuit Court to have Houck’s $10 million bond lowered to $500,000 full cash. He argued the bond “simply ignores Mr. Houck’s constitutional right to the presumption of innocence” and is both contrary to Kentucky law precedent and unconstitutional.

During the hearing, Butler reinforced the motion, saying the $10 million bond is excessive and that he has never seen one this high in his 28-year career. The motion asks for Houck to have a GPS monitor with work release if he posts bond.

“The court has to look at the statutes that Kentucky has passed,” Butler said. “One of the more recent statures requires the court to have pretrial services report prepared and a make a determination whether a defendant a low risk, moderate risk or a high risk. The reason is that Kentucky has made a determination that if a defendant is low risk, there shouldn’t be a cash bond at all. If a defendant is moderate risk, there should be a cash bond but the court should consider whether it’s necessary to have alternative conditions to the release to ensure the person does not leave the jurisdiction and flee the court’s jurisdiction and the community is safe from danger.”

Butler said Houck was evaluated and the risk of him not appearing in court is classified as low. The court’s pretrial services stated that the appearance probability for Houck is 87%

Houck was also assessed on the likelihood of him staying arrest-free pending trial. Butler said Houck was again classified as low risk.

“The court’s pretrial services report puts Mr. Houck’s likelihood of remaining arrest-free pending trial at 96%,” Butler said. “That is slightly lower than the risk that a tornado is going to hit the courtroom while this case is pending trial.”

Despite being named a suspect in the case eight years ago, Butler noted that Houck has remained in Nelson County running his business.

“There is absolutely in my mind no credible argument that Brooks Houck didn’t know if he was going to flee if he was a suspect,” Butler said. “But here he is.”

Butler claimed Houck stayed in Nelson County because of his strong ties to the area, including having his family, friends and business there.

“He cannot and he will not leave and he’s proven that,” Butler said.

Young responded to the argument, saying Houck’s bond is not punitive or excessive.

“The defendant bears the weight of an indictment,” Young said. “The grand jury heard this case over several months and issued an indictment and in open court, concurred with the recommendation of the $10 million bond. And not only concurred with the recommendation of the $10 million bond, some of the jurors thought it should be double.”

Young says bond is not generated based on crime alone, because each defendant is situated differently. As for Houck, Young argued that with the number of rental properties he derives income from on a monthly basis on top of the revenue made by running his business, a $10 million bond is a “fair bond.”

“Somebody with this vast amount of resources, $500,000 to an individual who is a multi-millionaire, when you are looking at the rest of your life in prison, is not a lot to pay to influence a case,” Young said. “The amount of bond is needed to ensure compliance with these conditions of release.”

When the judge asked if the Commonwealth wanted to go anywhere with any other investigations in regard to the Crystal Rogers case, Young responded yes, saying they are investigating the murder of Tommy Ballard.

“We are waiting for testing to come back on the firearm we believed was used to murder Tommy Ballard,” Young said. “The firearm that we purchased from Nicholas Houck, who was using a fake name when he sold the rifle. We know it’s the same caliber. There are five criteria that they’re looking at, and so far it’s matched four of the five criteria.”

Houck’s brother Nick was fired from his job as a police officer with Bardstown Police Department after he was accused of interfering with the investigation.

The judge did not make a decision on Houck’s bond during Thursday’s hearing. Houck’s next hearing date is set for February.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Crystal Rogers Disappearance