The Jeff Davis 8 Murders Discussed In Showtime's 'Murder In The Bayou' Are Still Unsolved
Showtime's new five-part docuseries, Murder in the Bayou, investigates a series of still-unsolved murders of eight sex workers known as the Jennings or the Jeff Davis 8. It's based on Ethan Brown's best-selling 2016 book of the same name and will likely cover the case quite thoroughly. But considering the details are as intensely complicated as they are grim, you may want to brush up on the basics before watching.
Brown serves as an executive producer on the series, which is based on his book Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8? from 2016. The book was based on his lengthy 2014 Medium article "Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8?" As he told People, Brown had read about the case in a 2010 article from The New York Times. In 2011, he traveled to Jennings in Jefferson Davis Parish and investigated the unsolved deaths for two years. The work he did back then was the basis for his Medium article.
Years later, the deaths of these eight women still haven't been solved. Murder in the Bayou will explore the factors around that, but here's just some of the information to help you begin to understand this complex case.
As The New York Times article reported, the bodies of eight women were found dumped along the rural outskirts of Jennings from May 2005 to August 2009. These women were Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis (28), Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson (30), Kristen Gary Lopez (21), Whitnei Dubois (26), Laconia "Muggy" Brown (23), Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno (24), Brittney Gary (17), and Necole Guillory (26).
Brown outlined in his Medium article how these women ran in a similar circle and all knew each other. Two were even related — Lopez and Gary were cousins. They all reportedly had a history of drug use and were sex workers, working out of the same motel, and were from low-income households. Even more eery, some of the women had spoken to the police about the deaths and then eventually ended up dead themselves.
Investigative Discovery noted how only two of the eight deaths (Patterson and Brown's) have been ruled as homicides because their throats had been slit. The bodies of the other six were too decomposed to make an official determination of the cause of death, so it's not entirely clear if all of the "Jeff Davis 8" (or "Jennings 8") were murdered.
The Police Investigation
In December 2008 after seven bodies were found, authorities set up a task force to investigate the deaths. They believed these presumed murders could have been perpetrated by a "common offender." Brown disagreed with this idea, writing, "My investigation, however, casts serious doubt on the theory that the Jeff Davis 8 is the work of a serial killer." As the documentary will show, he's not alone in his point of view with many members of the community being suspicious of the police.
In his article, Brown outlined a history of police misconduct perpetrated by the local police to prove his point. One particularly eyebrow-raising incident was when Chief Criminal Investigator Warren Gary unethically bought a truck from a prison inmate. A witness claimed that she had seen murder victim Lopez in that truck the day she died. But Gary had cleaned and resold the truck for profit by then and it couldn't be used as evidence in the case. Two women in prison alleged to Sergeant Jesse Ewing (who was later removed from the case) that Gary had intentionally bought the truck to destroy the evidence.
Another suspicious detail is that Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff Ricky Edwards had every investigator working on the case swabbed for DNA in 2009 due to public outrage. The sheriff's office has never commented on the results of the DNA tests.
As Brown sees it, "One fact is clear: local law enforcement is far too steeped in misconduct and corruption ... to run an investigation with the integrity that the murdered women and their families deserve."
Frankie Richard's Involvement
At the time his Medium article was published, Brown discussed his investigative work with the local CBS affiliate WWL-TV. He claimed that the police misconduct in the case "benefits the prime suspect in at least two of the homicides." That suspect is Frankie Richard.
Richard is a former strip club owner who has battled with crack-cocaine addiction. He knew the victims and even claimed to have had sex with a number of the women. Brown told People that he has had a "strange relationship" with Richard over the last eight years and Richard will be in the documentary.
Richard was briefly arrested for Lopez's murder, but the charges were dropped. One of the woman in prison interviewed by Sergeant Ewing also claimed that Richard killed the fourth victim Dubois. In both the cases of Lopez and Dubois, people claimed that Richard's niece Hannah Conner was also involved.
These reports haven't been proven and WWL-TV noted how Richard "adamantly denies" his involvement in the murders. "I didn't have anything to do with any of the killings. I never hurt any of them girls in any kind of way," Richard told the station.
If there weren't enough conspiracies going around, Brown outlined an event that many people believe started the killings. In 2005, the police did a raid on a home that an informant told them had "ongoing narcotics activity." During the raid, Probation and Parole agent John Briggs Becton shot and killed Leonard Crochet, whom Briggs Becton had suspected of having a gun. No weapons were found on the scene, but a parish grand jury ruled that Briggs Becton had not committed negligent homicide.
Lopez and Dubois were at the house during the raid, along with others connected to the murders. "Was the Crochet killing the spark that led to the deaths of the Jeff Davis 8? It is one theory suggested by some in the parish," Brown wrote. One witness even claimed to the task force, "The girls were being killed because they had seen something they were not supposed to see."
WWL-TV reported in 2014 how the newly-appointed Jefferson Davis Sheriff, Sheriff Ivy Woods, was making efforts to reexamine the case. However, five years later, the deaths still aren't solved. But maybe Brown's docuseries will do something to change that.