Five years and a month after the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, the FBI has taken over the investigation and is launching a new search for the 35-year-old Kentucky mother of five.
More than 150 state and federal law enforcement officers on Thursday were executing nine federal search warrants and will be conducting more than 50 interviews in Bardstown, Kentucky, the FBI said in a press release.
FBI officials said they would work with the IRS, Kentucky State Police and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to bring a "fresh perspective" to the case, which has attracted national attention over the years as family members in Nelson County and investigators seek answers.
"A hallmark of the FBI is we never give up," FBI Louisville Special Agent in Charge Robert Brown said in the release. "The FBI is committed to bringing those responsible to justice, but we are going to need the community’s assistance."
Who was Crystal Rogers? When did she disappear?
Rogers was from the small, tight-knit town of Bardstown, about 40 miles south of Louisville. She went missing over Fourth of July weekend in 2015. Her mother reported her missing July 5 after she hadn't heard from her daughter in two days.
Rogers' car was found abandoned on the Bluegrass Parkway with her keys, phone and purse still inside. Rogers, a mother of five children, was not known to go anywhere without her kids, according to the FBI.
"My mom is a very special woman," Rogers' daughter, K., wrote on a new website dedicated to the investigation. "The memory that will forever be in my heart is going to DQ and buying my momma lunch. We would always get the chicken strip basket with the toast and gravy to go with it. Going over to mamaw Martins and playing phase 10 and aggravation over and over while eating snacks. Since my mom’s been missing, life has been really hard. I always wonder what my life would be like if she and my papaw was still here."
Are there any suspects?
Properties searched Thursday morning included homes belonging to Brooks Houck, his brother and their mother, Rosemary Houck, the FBI confirmed to USA TODAY.
Rogers had been dating Brooks Houck, an initial suspect, who is the father of one of her sons. Houck has denied involvement with Rogers' disappearance and has never been charged.
Houck's brother, Nick, was a police officer with the Bardstown Police Department at the time and was fired after interfering in the investigation.
The mayor of Bardstown said Nick Houck interfered with the investigation by phoning his brother on July 8 when he knew Brooks was being interviewed by detectives, warning that his brother "should protect himself," and that investigators "might be trying to trip him up," the Kentucky Standard reported at the time.
City officials held an administrative hearing on Nick Houck's actions and fired him a day later.
In 2019, the home owned by Brooks Houck was burned down in what city officials said was arson. Bardstown Fire Chief Billy Mattingly said the house may have been set on fire by disgruntled employees who worked for Brooks Houck.
Possible human remains found near where Rogers disappeared
Possible human remains were discovered two weeks ago near where Rogers was last seen, the Nelson County Sheriff's Office said in a statement, leading to a swirl of rumors that the remains could belong to Rogers.
The remains were discovered July 23 near the border of Nelson and Washington counties, the sheriff's office said. The next day, the sheriff's office requested the assistance of the FBI Evidence Response Team because it was difficult to reach the location of the possible remains, which were sent to the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, for testing.
The sheriff's office did not immediately say who discovered the possible remains, or how.
"Out of respect for family members of multiple missing persons in these areas, we will not be commenting on this until we have more information from the lab," the office said in a statement.
What happened to Crystal Rogers' dad?
More than a year after Rogers disappeared, her father, Tommy Ballard, 54, was fatally shot while hunting on family property in a rural area outside Bardstown.
The Nelson County Coroner's Office said he was shot once in the chest, with the bullet entering his chest and exiting his back, according to WHAS-11. He was pronounced dead at the scene on a farm located on Ed Brent Lane.
Ballard's grandson, who was with him during the trip, was not responsible for Ballard's death, Kentucky State Police detectives said.
How is the Crystal Rogers case connected to ambushed police officer Jason Ellis?
In 2017, Kentucky State Police hired former troopers to investigate the cases of both Rogers and Jason Ellis, a Bardstown police officer who was ambushed in 2013 and killed by at least two people.
On May 25, Ellis, a husband and father of two young boys, clocked out of his shift at 2 a.m. and started his normal, 15-mile drive home on the Bluegrass Parkway. He took Exit 34, a narrow ramp bounded on either side by steep stone walls. Halfway around the ramp, someone had dragged a pile of branches into the roadway.
Ellis stopped, turned on his blue lights and got out of his cruiser to clear them. Someone, perched on top of the stone cliff above him, fired a shotgun. Ellis was hit multiple times, and died on the side of the road.
There were no witnesses.
FBI taking over the investigation
The FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to an identification, arrest or conviction in the Rogers case.
"I ask that members of the community think back to July 3rd and 4th of 2015," Brown said in the release. "For those individuals who have information about this incident but who have not yet spoken to law enforcement for whatever reason, please contact us."
The agency has set up a website for the case at www.crystalrogerstaskforce.com.
If you have information related to the disappearance of Crystal Rogers, you can visit the website, call the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI or contact your local FBI office, or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate.
Contributing: Justin Sayers, Claire Galofaro, Lucas Aulbach, Louisville Courier Journal
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Crystal Rogers: FBI takes over case of missing Bardstown, Kentucky mom