Society of Professional Journalists Cincinnati 2105

Best Beat Reporting, Heroin

GEORGETOWN, Ohio - Kilee Brookbank wakes up early. No alarm needed. Her nerves have the best of her on this big day.

Getting dressed for school would normally have taken a couple minutes. But today, her first day back, it takes 10 minutes to put on her pink, zip-up hoodie and black yoga pants. That's because they need to be delicately pulled on over the tan medical dressings that protect her healing skin.


BARDSTOWN, Ky. - Tucked halfway between Louisville and Lexington sits Bardstown - Kentucky's second oldest city. It's a town of how y'all doin', friendly handshakes and warm smiles; where American flags line the main street.

It also holds a secret.

Someone, somewhere knows something about what happened on May 25 as Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, a Batavia native and former Cincinnati Reds minor league player, turned from Bluegrass Parkway onto Exit 34 toward home after signing off for the night.


From ashes to smiles: Kilee's long journey back

Jessica Noll

Society of Professional Journalists Cincinnati 2105

-Best Feature (1st) | Exit 34
-Best Photography (2nd) | Exit 34, Amy Ellis portrait

Heroin kids: Addicts get first taste in high school

UNION, Ky. – By all accounts, Keegan is a happy, smiling 5-year-old boy loving life, especially when he gets to play with his train set. But behind his smile are the lasting effects that his mother passed onto him, hindering him for a lifetime.

Keegan’s birth mother was a heroin addict.


Heroin's innocent victims

Exit 34: The last watch of Officer Jason Ellis

Photos by Jessica Noll

FLORENCE, Ky. – Like a lot of high school kids, Hailie Blair wanted to fit in. But in her longing to be accepted, she risked her life and her future, starting on a path to heroin addiction as a junior in high school.

Now 19, she is in recovery at Brighton Center in Florence, thinking about how her life changed.

“I thought I’d be in college," she said. "I’m a felon sitting in rehab.”


Journalist | WRITER | photographer | STORYTELLER

BARDSTOWN, Ky. – The fallen hero posters have faded, the tape wearing thin. Flags that line the street in this idyllic town, in the middle of Bourbon country, somberly wave in the gentle, southern breeze. Seasons have come and gone.

But the aching questions remain:

Who would ambush Bardstown Police Officer —and Batavia, Ohio native —Jason Ellis on that cool, clear morning a year ago as he finished his shift and headed home to his wife and two young sons?

Who wanted Ellis dead? And why? 


One year later: Office Jason Ellis no closer to justice, death still unsolved