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A third arrest has been made in connection to the death of Crystal Rogers, the mother of five who vanished from the small town of Bardstown, Kentucky eight years ago.
Steve Lawson, who spoke with Ms Rogers’ former boyfriend Brooks Houck on the phone the night after her disappearance, has been indicted on charges of criminal conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence in her case.
According to the indictment, Mr Lawson agreed to “aid one or more persons in the planning or commission” of the death of another and then “destroyed, mutilated, concealed, removed” or altered physical evidence on 3 July 3 or 4 July 2015, when Ms Rogers vanished.
Her car was later found along the Bluegrass Parkway and inside were her keys, cell phone and purse. Ms Rogers’ body has never been found, but has been presumed dead since October 2015.
Mr Lawson is the third man to be arrested in the case after eight years of investigation. Within the last few months, his son Joseph Lawson, and Mr Houck have also been indicted.
Brooks Houck, Ms Rogers’ former boyfriend, who has long been considered the main suspect in the case, was arrested in September. He has been charged with murder and tampering with physical evidence, with a judge setting at bond at $10m.
Houck mentioned Steve Lawson’s name in one of the very first police interviews between Houck and Nelson County Detective Jon Snow early in the investigation.
The name came up when the detective asked Houck who was on the other end of the line, during a late-night phone call, on the night Rogers disappeared.
Houck responded that Steve Lawson worked for him, but that he couldn’t remember why Mr Lawson had called him so late. The recorded video of the police interview then shows Houck calling Mr Lawson from inside the interrogation room.
“The other night you called me really, really late,” Houck is heard saying. “I can’t remember what you were calling me about.”
Mr Lawson responded that he had called him with a question about rental properties, to which Houck replied he had to ask Ms Rogers about it and would call him back.
“So that begs the question in my mind – if she’s in the truck next to you when she called, why would you need to call her?” he asked, recalling a previous statement Houck had made about Rogers whereabouts at that time.
Multiple searches have been conducted at the Houck properties over the years while Houck has denied involvement with Ms Rogers’ disappearance.
Prior to Houck’s arrest, another man was arrested in August on charges stemming from the disappearance.
Joseph L. Lawson, 32, has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy to commit murder and tampering with physical evidence in connection with the death of Ms Rogers.
Joseph Lawson is the son of Steve Lawson, his attorney Theodore Lavit confirmed to WDRB, telling the outlet that the elder Lawson “always maintained his innocence and always revealed he would never hurt that lady. And he never did hurt that lady in any way whatsoever.”
Mr Lawson’s bond has been set at $500,000 cash. He is expected back in court on 21 December while his son is due back in court on 5 January. Houck is set to be in court on 8 February.
What happened to Crystal Rogers?
For years, the mystery of what happened to the 35-year-old has puzzled law enforcement, tortured her loved ones and haunted the small town of Bardstown, a place marred by a slew of unsolved killings in recent years.
Three months after Ms Rogers’ disappearance, Houck was named a suspect in the case. Investigators at the time said they believed she was dead. But her body has never been found.
Ms Rogers’ family never gave up the search for her and never stopped fighting for justice as her story continued to be shared on true crime podcasts and TV series.
Tommy Ballard looked for his daughter every day, creating the “Team Crystal” Facebook page to help spread the word.
But 16 months later, the dedicated father was preparing to go on a hunting trip when an unknown assailant approached him at his family property and shot him in the chest, killing him instantly. His case also remains unsolved.
Ms Rogers’ case is not the only unsolved mystery in Bardstown, Kentucky. There are also four unsolved murders that have thrust the small town into the headlines over the past few years. The FBI is investigating all four murders.