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The Bluegrass Conspiracy

This will be a bookend of sorts to a previous piece of mine, The Bardstown Conspiracy.

Many weeks ago I was approached online about that article, resulting in my being interviewed for many hours, by Jessica Noll, a producer for Vault Studios, and Shay McAlister, a reporter for WHAS, the local ABC network affiliate. Both Vault and WHAS are subsidiaries of Tegna, a media monolith. The product of that interview has now gone public as a 10-part weekly podcast series concerning the many unsolved murders of the Bardstown, Kentucky area. As the local crank I was one of several persons interviewed, my zingers generously peppered throughout. I gathered they wanted an unaffiliated citizen journalist knowledgeable of local history but crazy enough to draw certain conclusions to save more respectable citizens the trouble of voicing it themselves. No problems with that whatsoever.

In past recountings across diverse media of the night officer Jason Ellis was gunned down, former Bardstown police chief Rick McCubbin has alternately said he was woken with the call that Ellis was killed, and said he was told an officer may be down, learning in transit it was Ellis. He never tells the exact story twice, details constantly shifting. Anybody is free to search engine past news stories concerning the Jason Ellis murder and compare results for themselves.

Ellis wasn’t just coming home from a late shift, and in a different car as his normal one was in the shop, but he was coming home much later than he generally would, either from picking up an extra shift or staying late to catch up on paperwork. Meaning that the killer or killers didn’t only know his exact route and were informed to expect differing wheels, but they knew that his schedule was off. McCubbin has said he wanted proof of cop involvement- that was it. If the police are saying otherwise now, then they contradict dozens of prior statements from their own precinct. Journalists should very seriously wonder at why that might be.

Currently, McCubbin serves as chief of police in neighboring Shepherdsville within Bullitt County, while the 60 Days in Narcoland TV show follows his department pinning that city and its county’s entire drug problem on Mexican cartels. Despite a prior special deputy with Bullitt County being indicted on drug charges just a few years earlier. And in spite of a previous Bullitt County sheriff caught aiding and abetting a drug-trafficking scheme since then. As though drug monies are never used for propaganda purposes. It’s not foreign cartels running vast acreage of homegrown or maintaining meth labs, or moving the ample supply of over-prescribed opioids. Detectives in Louisville, the closest big city, aren’t much better. With a few decades of local law enforcement under his belt, one would think McCubbin would be better informed, or at least capable of keeping his facts straight.

While older disgraces are obliged to step down from higher ranking positions back into the streets, and newer detectives given reins to these unsolved cases, ultimately it is all shadowplay. The entire hierarchy of senior officers have played musical chairs since it all began, and yet still, who else has the means to blockade any serious investigation? What if people *have* come forward with evidence, but get shot down, metaphorically or not?

An inconvenient coincidence that gets zero coverage concerns the drunk couple who were first on the scene of the Jason Ellis shooting. Antonio, one half of that couple, is adopted brother to Mona Boehm, long-time best friend of the most recent girlfriend of Brooks Houck, Crystal Maupin, herself the girl arrested for removing “prayers for Crystal” signs from private properties around town. Maupin has been fired from nursing jobs in the past over stolen pills. For several years now, Boehm’s only son Anthony Lawrence has been laboring for Houck, as are his cousins Steven Lawrence, Matt Roby, Marty Lawrence and Gary Hilbert. All by total happenstance have records involving possession of narcotics. I know this as all are first cousins to me. And, because this is Kentucky, Maupin previously dated Anthony’s dad, and Houck himself also dated Roby’s girlfriend. Which means Houck has had at least two relationships since his ex-girlfriend Crystal Rogers went missing just a few years back. The number of occasions in which that man has found himself in court over entirely different matters, since being named the only suspect in Crystal’s disappearance, is a joke with no punchline. If nothing else, there would seem to be a misallocation of guardian angels in the area.

I maintain that one cannot look into the unsolved murders of Bardstown without also looking into the drug trafficking scene. Both Houck and Anthony’s mom Mona “earn their living” through real estate, through managing properties, usually as slumlords. I know this too, as I have painted quite a few houses for Mona, often over a weekend and always underpaid. Mona’s husband Ted, stepdad to Anthony and brother in law to Antonio, runs his own security camera installation business, with the work taking him all over the Bible Belt. Years ago, while working for Mona I saw enough evidence to prompt myself into approaching the closest FBI field office in Louisville, reporting Ted and Mona for interstate drug-trafficking. I am no rat, but I cared about my younger cousin, and his daughter, my goddaughter. I was informed that the Feds knew of the activity, but that they were not major players enough to warrant the pursuance of charges. Implying many others players on the field.

I think for the lack of answers, many are eager for a tidy package, like a single serial killer or criminal mastermind responsible for all of what ails the Bluegrass. But when everyone knows everyone, there’s no other explanation for the lapsed closure but that everyone knows someone they worry over, or are intimidated by.

As McCubbin himself is proud to note, the Cornbread Mafia of the region was split up 20+ years ago. Yet the drugs and murders have somehow dramatically escalated in the years since. There have been more bank robberies in the last few years than throughout the decades of the CB. I assert, I insist, that this is due to the CB never ending, but that local law enforcement inserted itself atop that pyramid, in conjunction with land-owners willing and able to shelter regional manufacture and/or distribution of their pills and narcotics. There have been no arrests in the murders because they all have dirt on each other. If there is a unifying thread to all the unsolved cases, this is it, and I bet my life on it. Ellis was in the way. The Netherlands were in the wrong place, wrong time and it followed them home. Former candidate for Nelson County sheriff Houck and his second patrolman brother had the reach to cover the disappearance and likely murder of Crystal Rogers. Crystal’s father Tommy had become a fierce advocate for police accountability. All dead, so that various cops could profit off of drugs and god knows what else.

Voltaire had that line centuries ago, about how to learn who rules over you by observing who you are not allowed to criticize. With so many families utterly destroyed, either local police are so grossly incompetent they should have their badges permanently removed, or they are complicit. Either way they are not worth defending. But who watches the watchmen? No members of the prom kings union. No respectable/paid investigator has ever thought to look into the specific alibis for each and every member of the Bardstown PD and Nelson County Sheriff’s Office for the times of these murders. We haven’t found answers yet. These two facts are directly connected, as what stone is left unturned? Why omit several dozen able-bodied men and women, one and all trained in the use of firearms and with the rather direct resources necessary for evading arrest? But as though looking behind the badges were not an uphill battle already, ours is a world where law enforcement are entitled to spy upon the private spaces of the public without warrants, while withholding their own body-camera footage at liberty even from court summons.

It was actually a Catholic historian who first said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…” but in the town with the oldest proto-cathedral outside of the 13 colonies, nobody would dare consider such a thing.

If the Bardstown community, or serious journalists or nonpartisan outside investigators are unwilling to even consider looking under every single possible stone, then they do not truly want answers, or closure. Even should it mean killers continuing to walk free among us. I say, that the people of Bardstown themselves are complicit. The killers are co-workers of Bardstown employees, neighbors to Bardstown residents and members of Bardstown family trees. And who or what might possibly have the reach to suppress Bardstonians from remembering their better angels, from acting on their virtues, but the long arm of the law? I’m not advocating for the totalitarian “If you see something, say something,” as the Federal Bureau of Investigations showed me personally how abundantly ineffectual that is. But I adamantly believe that if you sense something which both logic and emotion assure is in the wrong, you must do everything in your power, no matter how limited your power, to stop it. Because a society where evil is openly harbored regardless of intentions is not a society worth perpetuating, laws be damned.