At one point Bardstown, Kentucky was named the most beautiful small town in America. It is a charming town in the cradle of the Bourbon industry. The second oldest city in the state, it is 60 miles from Lexington and 41 miles from Louisville. It is a beautiful town in a beautiful location. Due to the vigilant work of WHAS11 reporter Shay McAlister and a grieving mother and wife, Sherry Ballard, the town is also known for three unsolved murders and a missing person case that began in 2013.
I knew of the murders because the first victim, policeman Jason Ellis, was a former student of a friend that I regularly ride horses with on weekends. She was very shaken by what appeared to be an ambush on an exit of the Bluegrass Parkway near her family’s farm.
After working on the case since the beginning, Shay and her company decide to take the story to a wider audience. In 2019 the podcast Bardstown was released. It quickly became a hit. If you have never been to Bardstown, listen to the podcast and you will feel like you have been there and you that you know people there. She is a master at allowing the grieving family to tell their story. The other thing I most enjoyed was hearing the accents and phrasing of the family and community members. It made the podcast real for me.
Last night in a crowded theatre on my town square, I had the opportunity to hear Shay speak. She stated that her responsibility is to be an advocate for the victim. Her dedication to her work and her empathy for the grieving families. She spent an hour and a half taking 500 hundred people through the timeline of the Bardstown cases and answering questions. Though I knew no one in the theatre, I felt like I was with my people. During the question-and-answer time, theories started to leak from those asking. It was interesting to see how many of us had come to very similar conclusions.
Though presses several times, she would not give us her theory on the murders because then she would no longer be an objective reporter. Shay is dedication to solving these cases and other in the state and does a regular series on these cases for WHAS11. There is a new podcast in the works that will focus on unsolved cases around the state.
After arriving last night, I settled into an aisle seat near the back. There was a couple in the row behind me. An attendant come and asked us to move as a VIP party of ten had just arrived and they needed seats together. We moved. After settling into my new seat, the thought came to me that there is a reason for everything. I scoffed thinking, “yeah, moving seats has a big reason.” After the last question, Shay wanted to introduce some guests. She had Sherry Ballard stand. She and her family were in the seats the couple and I had vacated. I’m glad I moved.