BARDSTOWN -- Kris Phillips drives past the spot every day. Always, there are flowers, or ribbons or a cross. Sometimes, she pulls onto the shoulder of the narrow exit ramp and walks to the makeshift memorial to Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, her son-in-law.
Occasionally she'll find trash, maybe a beer can, and her mind wanders. Is this litter blown here by the wind? Or was someone drinking here, toasting their kill?
She worries people have started to forget. Or that the case has become old news. Perhaps people have moved on?
She never thought she'd be here, five years later.
Surely, she had thought, the ambush killing of a police officer would be solved quickly.
Now, she's not so sure.
Five years after Ellis was killed on a ramp off the Bluegrass Parkway on his way home, Phillips is among the family and friends still dealing with anguish and frustration over the unsolved case.
"Looks like without someone stepping forward, this is gonna go cold," she said a few days before the anniversary. "I feel like it was cold from day one, now, looking back."
A procession May 25 retraced Ellis' final ride past the Bardstown Police Department down the parkway to the Exit 34 ramp.
It's the path the seven-year veteran of the department traveled the night he died, the route he traveled most days as he headed home to his wife, Amy, and two young sons.
That night, five years ago, seemed like a normal Friday in the small town 40 miles southeast of Louisville, known for its historic buildings and bourbon distilleries.
It was around 2 a.m. on May 25, 2013. Ellis had just finished his shift and was headed home. He veered right, exiting the highway but stopped on the ramp when he saw something blocking the road. He stepped out of his vehicle to remove the tree debris, which police say was deliberately placed there. Out of the moonlit sky, bullets flew, killing Ellis. He was 33.
Sgt. Michael Medley, one of Ellis' colleagues and best friends, had spoken with him only hours before. Medley was heading out for the night while Ellis was coming into the station to fill out paperwork. Their words were nothing special. Just one of countless exchanges between close co-workers.
Medley was in his car a few hours later when he heard a garbled voice come across the police radio.
He couldn't understand the woman at first. "Officer down," he eventually heard, but the radio was known to pick up messages from other counties. The trouble must be someplace else, Medley thought.
It wasn't. When dispatch mentioned the location, Medley knew it was close, turned around his vehicle and stepped on the gas.
What followed, what he saw as he drove down the Exit 34 ramp, he will never forget. He was among the first to find Ellis lying on the road.
"It was a hard time there for about a year, year and a half," he said. "It was really rough."
Medley now waits for answers as Kentucky State Police investigate.
As the lead investigative agency on the case, state police were initially flooded with tips. Investigators pored over Ellis' past cases, interviewing people he arrested and looking for possible clues or suspects. They tracked down leads from coast to coast.
Last year, the state police announced two retired troopers had been hired back to focus full time on the Ellis case and a small handful of other unsolved cases in Nelson County, including the 2014 slaying of Bardstown teacher Kathy Netherland and her teenage daughter Samantha as well as the 2015 disappearance of Crystal Rogers, a mother of five.
The state police continue to receive tips on the Ellis case, spokesman Scotty Sharp said, though he did not have specific numbers.
"Our main focus is Officer Ellis' family," Sharp said. "We want to solve this case for them and bring this person to justice and find out why they did this. We want closure."