Hello, and welcome to the Unresolved Podcast, a podcast all about looking at stories that have no ending. These are the type of unsolved stories that leave more questions than answers, and may potentially leave you a little frustrated at either the lack of information or the lack of any real conclusion. The unfortunate truth is that many of the stories I take a peak at on this podcast will remain unresolved for days, months, or even years to come.
With that being said, welcome. I am your host, Micheal Whelan. If you are new to the podcast, I thank you for taking the time to download or stream this podcast. If you would like to keep in touch with me, either to parade me in compliments or to ridicule my fact-checking methods, you can do so via a variety of methods. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube... you name it, the podcast can be found. You can also send emails to "firstname.lastname@example.org," and now, you can even call in or text the fancy new podcast phone line at 831-200-3550.
Fair warning to anyone that calls in, however: if you leave a voicemail, I may be inclined to feature in an upcoming episode at some point. That depends on whether or not you leave a legitimate voicemail, or if you just try to creep me out.
Now that I got that business out of the way, I'll get going on this episode. Episode seven of the Unresolved podcast will be focusing on the town of Bardstown, Kentucky... at first glance, this town has the makings of a picturesque small town, the type of environment where everyone knows one another. But Bardstown has a seedy underbelly which has gone under-the-radar for a period of years, raising many questions about the town itself.
I'll warn you all now that this podcast might be a little shorter than your usual episode, and feature a few less twists and turns than the others. But that's because it is only one-half of the story, with the other half coming next week. Didn't mean to split it up, but I'll explain a bit more about it at the end of this episode.
For now, here we go, venturing down into the southern midwest of the United States, to visit Bardstown, Kentucky...
Bardsown has a deep history, dating back to 1780. European Americans settled the area during their expansion west, and Bardstown became the second oldest town in Kentucky history.
A visit to Wikipedia will enlighten you to the town's many claims to fame, including storied visits from US President Abraham Lincoln, the outlaw Jesse James, and the legendary frontiersman Daniel Boone.
More recently, Bardstown won a handful of awards compliment the beauty and the grandeur of the small-town. Rand McNally and other destination contemporaries have voted Bardstown as "the most beautiful small town in America" on more than one occasion.
The town has been made infamous for one reason or another since its inception, but in the past few years years, a more grimy, unsettling story has begun to write itself in the history book of Bardstown... this story you won't find on Wikipedia, because unfortunately, the truth isn't quite clear-cut and there isn't anything resembling a conclusion to this story.
But there's no better, or worse, place to start this story than on the fateful day of May 24th, 2013.
Jason Ellis was the epitome of America. Born in September of 1979, Jason was the one and only son of Denny and Pam Ellis. He had two sisters, Lacey and Kelly, and Jason grew up loving his family so much that he couldn't wait to add numbers to their ranks.
Jason was a star baseball player growing up. He played catcher for his Cincinnati-based high school team, eventually going on to play baseball at the University of the Cumberlands, which moved him south to Kentucky. During his athletic career for this liberal arts school, known as the Patriots, Jason played in 186 games and put up record numbers for hits, doubles, home runs, and RBIS... records which stand to this day.
It was while Jason attended University of the Cumberlands that he met Amy Phillips. The two were both college students, and on Valentine's Day in 2001, they met at a party being thrown by a mutual friend. They immediately hit it off, with Amy recounting later on how she knew Jason was "the one for her" on their very first date.
According to her, on their very first date, they were accompanied by Amy's mother, acting as an accidental chaperone and third wheel when Amy double-booked her evening. But the true spirit of Jason shone through when he picked up both mother and daughter for the date, bringing a bouquet of roses for both. That was just the type of person Jason was.
Jason and Amy would get engaged that next Christmas, in the latter days of 2002, and would marry in October of 2004.
Jason would eventually be signed by the Cincinnati Reds organization, his hometown baseball team, and he played for their minor league system for a period of time between 2002 and 2004.
It was his love of Amy, and his desire to start a family, that led him away from baseball. In 2004, Jason played his last game of professional baseball for the Billings Mustangs, the Pioneer League affiliate for the Cincinnati Reds. Amy was pregnant with their first child, Hunter, who would be born just two weeks after Jason left baseball behind. Hunter was born with Down Syndrome, but that didn't stop Jason and Amy from loving him with all of their hearts.
From that day forward, Jason put his heart and soul into fulfilling another dream he had held since childhood... becoming a police officer and starting a family.
The young lovebirds would eventually settle upon Bardstown, Kentucky, Amy's hometown, which was just forty or so miles away from where the two had gotten married in Louisville. They immediately got to work on building a family of their own, and eventually brought another son into the fold: Parker, born just two years later. As he got older, many would comment that Parker was the spitting image of Jason, and the two shared an extreme love of baseball.
The Ellis Family
Jason Ellis joined the Bardstown police force in 2006, and he served there until the day he died.
May 24th, 2013 - A day like any other, for this idealistic young family in the heartland of America. It was the Friday right before Memorial Day weekend, so the extended weekend was right in their sights.
Jason had now served the Bardstown police force for close to seven years, and had become an upstanding member of the community, winning Officer of the Year in 2008. He was a canine officer, in fact, the only one in all of Bardstown. On this chosen day, however, his canine-equipped vehicle was in the shop, so he was using a run-of-the-mill police cruiser, his German Shepherd partner Figo taking a small stay-cation at the family home.
It was approximately two o'clock in the morning, and Jason uses his car radio to inform dispatch that he's off for the night.
"139 Adam off-duty," he says, just like any other. Dispatch confirms his call, and Jason begins his drive home. He goes south down Stephen Foster avenue, then heads onto the overpass which leads him onto Bluegrass Parkway.
This is the same route Jason uses to drive home every single night. His work schedule keeps him away from his family on most nights, due to him working the evening shift. On the road, there is barely another soul in sight, and the entire area of Bardstown seems almost vacant, everyone squirreled asleep in their houses this early on a Friday morning.
It takes him roughly ten minutes to reach his stop, Exit 34. This is the stop just minutes away from his home, a heavily-shrouded, wooded road that leads to Springfield and Bloomfield.
It's not this night that Officer Jason Ellis meets his fate. On this night, at approximately two-thirty in the morning, Jason makes it home. His German Shepherd police companion, Figo, waits for him outside, just like he does every night the two are apart. He's greeted at the door by Amy, who fitfully sleeps on the couch until he arrives home every night.
Amy goes to bed, but Jason stays up for a little bit to watch TV. Eventually he gets tired enough to go to bed, and when Amy is woken up by her alarm clock at 5:45, Jason is deep asleep right next to her.
The day proceeds just like any other Friday. Amy wakes up the kids and heads to school, where she works as a substitute teacher. In the chaos of the morning, she forgets to kiss her husband goodbye, letting him sleep throughout the morning.
The day proceeds like any other Friday, with some small exceptions. Amy, along with Hunter and Parker, celebrate the school's Field Day with a flurry of activities. The family has a brief encounter at home: just as Amy and their sons are getting home from school, Jason is departing for his shift.
Jason starts his work day like any other. "139, on-duty" he says over his car radio, at approximately 3:52 in the afternoon. He begins his beat in downtown Bardstown, making a couple of traffic stops, but nothing drastic.
A little bit after 5:30, Jason arrives at Dean Watts Park, where Amy is watching their son play T-ball. Jason coaches the team along with his fellow officer, Andrew Riley, a police veteran that had become Jason's best friend since joining the police force.
But on this early evening, Jason comes to the field in a pretty dour mood. He is only there for a few minutes before being called away to work. He leaves in a hurry, not even saying saying goodbye to Amy or their sons. He probably believes that, just like any other night, he'd get to see them in just a few hours, and they'd begin their holiday weekend like all families should: together.
Jason answers the police call, a domestic disturbance about an ex-boyfriend harassing a young woman at her house. The call ends with Jason writing a ticket for the ex-boyfriend and leaving the scene peacefully, hoping to make it back to his son's T-ball game.
Half an hour or so, Jason returns to the field, but the game is already over. Families are packing up everything and leaving, and Jason doesn't stay long. Again, he forgets to say goodbye to Amy and the kids, leaving for work.
Amy and the kids head home, piling on the couch and falling asleep to the Disney Channel. She tries to call Jason a couple of times, but the call doesn't go through, Jason likely busy with his route.
At around 9:00, Jason and a couple of his fellow officers decide to grill up some sausage, so he stops by his regular convenience store to pick up some cheese. A couple of hours later, he meets up with friend and fellow officer, Andrew Riley, in a parking lot. The two regularly do this on slow nights like this, parking alongside each other and just talking about whatever's going on in their lives.
A short while later, after the two separate, they text each other about a large cardboard cutout of Jason that sits in the window of a local drug store... the two joke about it, Andrew refers to it as "freaky shit" and mentions uploading it to Reddit.
It's around eleven o'clock at night when Jason calls home, barely missing Amy, who has nodded off with the kids. She immediately calls back, and have the short conversation that's been eluding them all day.
They end the conversation by telling each other that they love one another, and Jason says that he'll see her when he gets home.
The next couple of hours for Jason are consumed by a single call. Responding to a drunk and disorderly man by the name of Joseph William Hamilton, Jason is surprised and infuriated by the ordeal.
Hamilton only has one arm, but is drunk to the point of being hostile, and suffered a head wound during his drunken ordeal. He is bleeding, and Jason calls for an EMS to assist him after detaining Hamilton.
Jason heads back out on his route, undoubtedly hoping to spend the rest of his shift in peaceful solitude. But just a few minutes later he is warned that Hamilton, still conscious and drunk, is causing trouble for the EMS taking him to the hospital. So he is called to assist the EMS at the hospital and ensure Hamilton is obedient enough to receive care for his head wound, at which point he is to be taken to the county jail.
When they arrive, they find the security guard trying to restrain a thrashing Hamilton, who immediately recognizes Jason as his arresting officer.
Hamilton immediately launches into a tirade, threatening to kill Jason in very explicit, graphic ways. Jason brushes off the threats as being all bluster, and begins taking Hamilton to the Nelson County Jail.
The process is simple enough, and within minutes, Hamilton has been locked up in county, awaiting bail. He jokes with Sergeant Nancy Sheckels, not knowing that she'll be one of the last people that he'll ever talk to.
He gets back in his cruiser, then heads down Stephen Foster Avenue on his way home. The same route he drives down every night. Amy, Hunter, Parker, and Figo all await him at home, just twenty or so minutes away.
He calls off-duty for the last time.
Officer Jason Ellis takes Exit 34, the road that leads towards Springfield and Bloomfield, but more importantly, home.
As he exits the freeway, slowing down on the gas pedal, he begins to approach... something. Something in the middle of the road, an obstruction of sorts.
What we know about Jason is that he wasn't the sort of man to just let someone else deal with the mess. He stops his police cruiser and gets out, hoping to quickly clear away the obstruction so that he can get home to his family.
The obstruction is a mass of branches and tree limbs, which isn't an odd thing to see in this wooded, shrouded area. But while Jason is beginning to clear away the obstruction of branches and tree parts, a figure waits on a nearby ledge overlooking the road.
This wasn't an accidental obstruction, this was an ambush.
Whoever was waiting for him - whoever had planned this attack - fires down upon him with a shotgun. He's hit with at least two different types of ammunition, ammunition usually used for hunting rodents and other small animals.
Officer Jason Ellis is shot three times in all, getting hit multiple times in the chest, abdomen, right arm, and head area. Within minutes, he is dead, executed by someone that had planned this attack well ahead of time.
A short time after the attack on Jason Ellis, a group of citizens approached the crime scene, hesitant to help out. They didn't see Jason laying there at first, bleeding profusely from several wounds.
Chad Monroe was a farmer and worked at the nearby Heavin Hill Distillery, who had just gotten off of work and was headed home. Just ahead of him was a car with two drunk adults, being driven by the woman's teenage son, who was hesitant to exit the car to examine the scene.
Chad Monroe is the person who finds Jason's body, and as he begins to look for a pulse or administer CPR, he commands the drunk woman to use Jason's police radio to inform them of an officer down. She does just that, but the call itself is rather hard to listen to.
Andrew Riley, Jason's fellow officer and texting buddy, is one of the first officers to arrive on the scene. He arrives to find Jason's body pierced by what looks like gravel; his first thought was that Jason had been hit by a car and dragged some distance. But on further inspection, he finds that the small piercings and bruises on Jason's skin weren't caused by gravel, but by buckshot.
One can't even imagine the kind of horror that must have overwhelmed everyone - not only those that knew Jason well, like his family or fellow officers - but the community itself. To have a beacon of the community - a father, a decorated police officer, a T-ball coach - executed in cold blood... it's something that nightmares are made of. And to be killed so close to home, by someone that had obviously been lying in wait makes it worse.
Later that day, Police Chief Rick McCubbin held a press conference, and vowed not only justice, but vengeance against the person - or persons - responsible for the death of Officer Jason Ellis.
Jason Ellis was buried just a short distance away from the home where his widow and sons still live. His funeral was a tragic affair, culminating in many tears and his German Shepherd partner, Figo, placing a mournful paw upon his casket.
Amy Ellis, along with the couple's two sons and the rest of the community, began to mourn Jason's death. But a dangerous sentiment began to spread throughout Bardstown:
If something like this had happened to a police officer, a paragon of honor throughout the community, how would any of them be safe?
And a much more important question began to be asked: exactly who was responsible? The investigation was headed by the Kentucky State Police force itself.
Unfortunately, the case file got cold before the investigation ever got hot.
Well, everyone... I thought that I would be able to fit everything about this story into a single episode, but I guess it just became a bit larger than anticipated. On the surface, this isn't a huge story... it may look just like a senseless killing of a police officer to you. But the investigation and the events that follow are rather crazy, and I think it would be best to split apart the story for many reasons.
One of those reasons is time. I don't want it to be another month before I release an episode, so I'd rather give you all half of the story now and then the other half in a week or so.
The second reason, among many, is that the next half of the story is very scattered. It's far less linear, more based upon guesswork and happenstance, but I would appreciate an extra couple of days to try and smooth it out... make some sense of it all, I guess.
So anyhow, I apologize for the abrupt ending. This isn't the last you'll be hearing about Bardstown and the events that followed Officer Jason Ellis' death.
On a personal note, the reason that the podcast has slowed down to a crawl is simply... work. The day job has been rather crazy lately, and I've been working later than the norm, so I've just had less time to dedicate to the podcast. It's only a temporary thing, and I hope to return to the regular biweekly schedule following this story.
I mentioned this in the show's intro, but if you're interested in staying in touch with the podcast, you can do so in a variety of ways. Twitter: @UnresolvedP. Facebook.com/theunresolvedpodcast. Theunresolvedpodcast@gmail.com. And now we have that fancy new phone line, so you can call in or text at 831-200-3550. I've tried working up a fancy anagram for that, but the best I've gotten thus far is 831-200-ELK-0. Not very catchy.
If you're interested in reading along with the podcast, or finding out where I got a lot of this information, you can do so at the podcast website, theunresolvedpodcast.com. There are a couple of great articles there that detail Jason Ellis' final day and the investigation that followed, so I'd highly recommend checking those out, along with links to the music played throughout the episode.
Before I say goodbye, I need to give out some major props to a couple of fellas that have been helping me out recently. Tyson and Nick have been huge benefactors of the podcast, for two different reasons, but have been helping me out on the production and the research ends, so I can't state how greatly I appreciate it. Thanks, guys.
And lastly, thanks to all of you for listening and supporting the podcast as it gets going. Even though we're on episode seven, I feel like this podcast is still just a baby and has so much more to grow and improve. I couldn't have made it this far without all of you, so thank you.
But that's it for me this week. Until next time, stay safe, and I'll be speaking with you all soon! Adios.
ALERT: Ky. Police Officer Carefully Ambushed, Shot to Death from Hill - Chief Vows 'Eye for an Eye' - WHAS 11 News
Additional Research Links