Family, friends: Clues sought suggest shooting death of Tommy Ballard more ambush than accident

This is the area where Ballard was shot to death Saturday. (Source: Sharon Yoo/WAVE 3 News)
This is the area where Ballard was shot to death Saturday. (Source: Sharon Yoo/WAVE 3 News)
Published: Nov. 21, 2016 at 10:50 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 22, 2016 at 12:18 AM EST
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Sherry and Tommy Ballard (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Sherry and Tommy Ballard (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Crystal Rogers (Source: Family photo via Nelson County Sheriff's Office)
Crystal Rogers (Source: Family photo via Nelson County Sheriff's Office)

BARDSTOWN, KY (WAVE) - His own daughter, a mother of five, has been missing since July 2015. Now, two days after his own death by gunfire on his family's property, family and friends of Thomas Marvin "Tommy" Ballard, 54, are becoming convinced his death was neither coincidence nor accident.

"I was very lucky to have such a loving husband with a heart of gold," his widow, Sherry Ballard, texted WAVE 3 News Monday. "I do not feel like this was an accident."

"There are tons and tons of nervous people around this town right now," said a family friend, who was so shaken she asked we not show her face nor reveal her name. "(We) don't know...if there is a killer on the loose."

Kentucky State Police joined the investigation shortly after the Nelson County Sheriff's Office received word of the shooting just before 8 a.m. Saturday. Ballard, and the oldest son of his missing daughter, Crystal Rogers, had gone hunting on a family farm off of Ed Brent Lane.

"His juvenile grandson who was accompanying him is not believed to be involved or at fault in his grandfather's death," read a release from KSP's Elizabethtown Post Monday morning. 

Rather, investigators are trying to reach any driver who may have been on the Bluegrass Parkway between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Saturday, to learn what they may have seen between the 21st and 25th mile markers.

"We ask them not to lose faith in us and let us do our job, and let things play out," Trooper Jeff Gregory told reporters Saturday. "Not get the rumor mill started."

Ballard had "devoted the last 16 months of his life to Crystal and trying to find her," his widow's text read.

Gregory would not say what investigators have learned about the weapon and the round of ammunition that took Ballard's life. But a coroner's investigator has confirmed Ballard was struck in the chest, with an exit wound in his back.

Family friends said neither Ballard nor his grandson heard a gunshot; rather Ballard had yelled to the boy that he'd been struck and told him to call for help. Both were wearing brightly-colored vests, friends said - Ballard's rule when hunting, or when searchers traversed wooded areas seeking signs of his daughter.

"I don't know all the information as far as who - a perpetrator or would have fired the shot is," Gregory said Saturday.

+ Nelson County plagued by unsolved high-profile deaths
+ KSP seeks information from drivers about shooting death of missing woman's father

Crystal Rogers' father shot, killed in hunting incident
Coroner: Ballard shot in chest
Report: Ballard's death considered possible homicide
Ballard never stopped searching for daughter
Lead suspect in Crystal Rogers' disappearance in court

"I do believe that (Ballard) was getting closer and closer to finding out the truth (about Rogers' disappearance,)" a friend said.

Other friends described Ballard as disciplined, protective and a man of habit; insisting that family members install security cameras at their homes and carry firearms since his daughter's disappearance.

"He hunted those woods as often as he could," one friend said. "You would have expected him to be there Saturday morning."
"Being who he is and that his daughter disappeared, I'm sure that's what people have on their mind," Gregory acknowledged Saturday. "We have no way right now to link any of that together."

Ballard's family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Houghlin Greenwell Funeral Home in Bardstown. His funeral mass will be at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph's in Bardstown.

"Line the street," a friend and organizer said. "Let them know that we have not forgotten Crystal, we won't forget Tommy."

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