Investigators question whether Tommy Ballard's shooting death was an accident or murder

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Was it murder or a mistake?

The question lingers days after the father of a missing Bardstown woman was shot while hunting. Today there was a call for help finding the answer. 

You'd be hard pressed in Bardstown these days to find anyone who didn't have Tommy Ballard's death on the mind. 

"I'm hoping it was an accident some way or another," said community member Betty Greenwell, who lives in a home Ballard built with his father in the 1990s. 

The small tight-knit community has been rocked by another tragedy.

"All these killings and murders and things going on here -- it makes you nervous," said Greenwell. "Very nervous."

The search for answers has turned to a section of the Bluegrass Parkway between mile marker 21 and 25. Detectives are asking anyone who was on that stretch of road on Saturday between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and who saw anything out of the ordinary -- a person or a car -- to contact investigators. 

"Whether they think it's important, whether it's something they noticed and could not be anything to them, it may be huge to us," said Kentucky State Police Trooper Jeff Gregory.

Ballard was shot in the chest Saturday, just before 8 a.m. while hunting with his grandson on family property. On Monday, we learned the child did not pull the trigger and troopers are definitely looking for a shooter. 

What's unclear is the intent: Was it an accident or murder?

The other question is whether Tommy Ballard's death is tied in any way to the disappearance of his daughter, Crystal Rogers. The mother of five vanished more than a year ago and is presumed dead.

Investigators called her boyfriend, Brooks Houck, the lead suspect in her disappearance, but he has never been charged. 

Ballard marks the fourth unsolved death in the community in the past three years. Other cases include the murders of a local teacher and her daughter, and the ambush murder of Bardstown Police officer Jason Ellis. 

"That's why I was hoping this was not a murder or something like that to be solved here," Greenwell said.

With a daughter missing, and her father now dead, the question is only on the shooter's intent. It's also about whether the Ballard family is safe. 

"That's a great question," said Trooper Gregory. "I don't know how to answer that, other to say that they've had some rough tragedy in their family and obviously it has been at the hands of other people. Yeah, we'd like to say that they're safe, but there's been some rough things going on over there lately."

Tommy Ballard's funeral arrangements were released Monday afternoon. Visitation will take place on Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Houghlin and Greenwell Funeral Home at 1475 New Shepherdsville Road, in Bardstown. Visitation will continue there on Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The funeral will take place on Friday at 11 a.m. at the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral at 310 W. Stephen Foster Avenue. He will be buried at St. Thomas Cemetery.

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