Nelson County judge denies request to lower bond for Brooks Houck

Nelson County judge denies request to lower bond for Brooks Houck
Published: Oct. 9, 2023 at 3:15 PM EDT
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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WAVE) - A Nelson County Circuit Court judge has denied a request to lower the $10,000,000 bond placed on the man charged with murdering Crystal Rogers.

In issuing his ruling, Judge Charles Simms III said the court believes Brooks Houck has “access to substantial financial resources,” and could also be “a flight risk” because of the possible prison sentence he would face if found guilty.

Simms also cited the safety of witnesses and others connected to the case and his want for both sides to receive “a fair and impartial trial.”

“Typically in murder cases, judges err on the side of caution,” said Leland Hulbert, a defense attorney and former prosecutor.

Hulbert said both lawyers made good arguments.

“It sounds like the microscope is probably just too high on this case to lower the bond,” he said.

Rogers was last seen on July 3, 2015. Her car was later found abandoned on the Bluegrass Parkway, but her remains have yet to be located.

In his ruling, Simms said five members of the Houck family were called to testify before the Nelson County Grand Jury. Prosecutors allege each secretly recorded their grand jury testimonies. One of those recordings was reportedly made by Rhonda McIlvoy, the sister of Houck.

A male voice is heard on the recording, which prosecutors say belongs to Houck. The man is trying to convince McIlvoy that she needs to take the recorder into the Grand Jury room because “we need to hear it.”

On Saturday, November 19, 2016, Crystal’s father, Tommy Ballard, was shot and killed while hunting on land his family owned. During the Oct. 5 arraignment of Houck, Special Prosecutor Shane Young told the court the state believes they have the weapon used to kill Ballard and that it was purchased from Nicholas Houck, the brother of Brooks. Young said the weapon is the same caliber as the one that killed Ballard and was sold by Nick, who used a fake name.

The ruling said the rifle is undergoing testing but “testing has already determined the presence of four of the five criteria need to match this gun to the one used in Tommy’s killing.”

At the time, Nick was an officer with the Bardstown Police Department but was later fired for interfering with the investigation.

Simms ordered the Nelson Circuit Clerk to seal the audio recording and FBI transcript of the conversation between Brooks and McIlvoy.

Hulbert said just because the request was denied this time, it doesn’t mean the bond can’t be lowered in the future.

“Because if the prosecution says there could be other charges and there’s not, that would be a reason to ask to lower the bond. You can argue adamantly for your client without pushing too hard because there may be opportunities down the road,” Hulbert said.

Read the full court document below.