BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WDRB) -- A jury found Brooks Houck not guilty Thursday on charges that he stole roofing shingles from a Nelson County Lowe's store.
The case involved the theft of more than 200 bundles of roofing shingles, stolen from a Lowe's store in Nelson County during four visits in 11 days.
The jury's verdict was announced just after 3 p.m. Thursday, after less than two hours of deliberations.
Houck was silent as he rushed with security and loved ones at his side from the Warren County Judicial Center. He faced 20 years in prison if convicted for the felony theft charges.
"It was his mistake and their mistake but 80 percent theirs, because the workers, every one of them, has only been there one or 2 months, and that one girl that came up said she lied so she wouldn't have to be a witness on the case," said Peyton Gentry, a juror in the case. "Plus, we had a contractor on the jury with us, and he said when they get it, they load it and take it to a site. They have other people work for them, so they may never look at it."
The trial was held in Bowling Green, because Houck's attorneys argued they wouldn't get an impartial jury in Nelson County.
Houck is the main suspect in the disappearance Bardstown mother Crystal Rogers, but the verdict is unrelated to that case.
During closing arguments Thursday morning, Houck's defense attorney, Brian Butler, called his client "a builder trying to clear his name," and criticized the training and attentiveness of the staff at Lowe's, arguing that loss prevention employees didn't adequately investigate the alleged thefts before charges were filed.
Prosecutor Joe Ballard acknowledged mistakes on behalf of Lowe's but added that, "Just because someone is letting you take shingles doesn't mean you have a right to do it."
He said that despite Houck owning 129 properties and 11 houses, he felt the need to steal from Lowe's four times over 11 days. He compared Houck to celebrity parents recently caught up in the so-called "Varsity Blues" college bribery scandal, arguing that, "Rich people steal too."
The defense blamed Lowe's, saying the hardware store had inattentive and ill-trained workers, pointing out that Houck never loaded the shingles in his own truck and routinely shopped at the store as a career contractor.
"We always felt like since there had been such publicity against Brooks in his hometown, that we needed to move somewhere he was just another citizen and he would get 12 members of the community to decide this case on the merits of this case, not rumors about other things," said Brian Butler, Houck's attorney.
Previously, witnesses had told the jury what happened on several dates in 2018 when police said Houck stole the shingles.
Michelle Lovvorn worked at Lowe's and checked Houck out on a day he allegedly stole shingles.
"I'm pretty sure he told him more [shingles] than was on the ticket, and the ticket wasn't seen," she said.
She testified Wednesday morning and told WDRB News that Houck asked her to help him with this issue back in October of last year.
"He tried to contact me to help him get out of it, and I told him there was nothing I could do," Lovvorn said. "I said 'Look, Brooks, if you did wrong, you did wrong. If you didn't, you didn't.' So be it."
Houck's name is known in Bardstown, Kentucky, as he is the only suspect who has been named in the disappearance of Rogers, his ex-girlfriend and a mother of five. Houck and Rogers previously dated and had a child together. Rogers disappeared on July 3, 2015. Two days later, her car was found on the Bluegrass Parkway with a flat tire and her purse, keys and phone inside.
Rogers' family was in the courtroom for the entire trial, heartbroken by Thursday's verdict.
"It had guilty written all over it to me," said Sherry Ballard, Rogers' mother. "He just got away with something else again. I just can't believe it."
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