Jeff Davis 8
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|Jeff Davis 8|
Span of crimes
The Jeff Davis 8, sometimes called the Jennings 8, refers to a series of unsolved murders in Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana. Between 2005 and 2009, the bodies of eight women, all of whom had an involvement with drugs or prostitution, were found in swamps and canals surrounding Jennings, Louisiana. Most of the bodies were found in such a state of decomposition as to make the actual cause of death difficult to determine.
Author and investigative reporter Ethan Brown has revealed how police investigations have been plagued by missteps in the sheriff's office, contributing to lost or missing evidence. Brown's work has revealed that there are multiple suspects in the Jeff Davis 8 case and that therefore it is unlikely that this is a serial killer case; furthermore, Brown has revealed that law enforcement's own witnesses have named members of local law enforcement as suspects in the case.
After some speculation that the first season of the HBO series True Detective is based on the Jeff Davis 8 case, creator Nic Pizzolatto claimed in a DVD Commentary that he had not heard of the specific case until after the episodes had aired.
The first victim, Loretta Lewis, 28, was found floating in a river by a fisherman on May 20, 2005. Other victims included Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson, 30; Kristen Gary Lopez, 21; Whitnei Dubois, 26; Laconia "Muggy" Brown, 23; Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, 24; and Brittney Gary, 17. The final body of Necole Guillory, 26, was found off Interstate 10 in 2009.
Causes of death
Patterson and Brown had their throats slit; the other bodies were in too advanced state of decomposition to determine the cause of death, though asphyxia is a suspected cause of death.
Brown's investigative work reveals many tangled connections between victims, suspects, and the police. Most of the victims knew each other well. Some were related by blood (such as cousins Kristen Gary Lopez and Brittney Gary) or lived together (Gary lived with Crystal Benoit shortly before her death). The victims also shared in common traits such as poverty, mental illness, and histories of drug abuse and prostitution.
The women all also served as informants for the police about the local drug trade and often provided police with information about other Jeff Davis 8 victims before their own deaths.
Kristen Lopez, one of the victims, was present when police shot and killed a drug dealer named Leonard Crochet in 2005 along with several individuals connected to the Jeff Davis 8 case, including Alvin "Bootsy" Lewis, who fathered a child with victim Whitnei Dubois and is also the brother in law of the first victim, Loretta Chaisson Lewis. A grand jury investigated the shooting and determined there was no probable cause for a charge of negligent homicide against police even though a Louisiana State Police investigation into the Crochet shooting concluded that he was unarmed when he was shot to death by law enforcement. However, witnesses told investigators they believed the police had killed many of the victims because of what they knew about the shooting of Leonard Crochet.
In December 2008, a task force consisting of 14 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies was formed to solve the killings. From the outset, the task force was searching for a serial killer. However, Brown's recent investigative work exposing connections between victims, suspects, and the police casts doubt on the theory that the Jeff Davis 8 is the work of a serial killer. Family members of the victims suspect the police are actually responsible for the deaths.
Allegations of misconduct
Task force investigative reports reveal a series of witness interviews in which local law enforcement were implicated in the murders. Statements from two female inmates portrayed suspects working with the sheriff's office to dispose of evidence in the Lopez case. However, the sergeant who took the statements was forced out of his job, and the allegations were ignored by law enforcement.
In 2009, the sheriff ordered that every investigator working the Jeff Davis 8 case be swabbed for DNA in response to the accusations against investigators. However, the office refuses to comment on the results of the DNA testing.
Police have arrested or issued warrants for the arrest of four people in connection with the case. Two people were held on murder charges for months before being released due to issues with evidence.
Frankie Richard, a local strip club owner and suspected drug dealer admitted to being a crack addict and to having sex with most of the victims. He was among last person seen with one of the victims, Kristen G. Lopez. Law enforcement's own witnesses have connected Richard to the Sheriff's Office. The two female inmates who stated the Sheriff's Office disposed of evidence in the Lopez case alleged that the evidence was discarded at the behest of Richard.
Byron Chad Jones and Lawrence Nixon (a cousin of the fifth victim, Laconia Brown) were briefly charged with second-degree murder in the Ernestine Patterson case. However, the sheriff's office did not test the alleged crime scene until 15 months after Patterson's murder, and found it "failed to demonstrate the presence of blood."
- Robertson, Campbell. "8 Deaths in a Small Town, and Much Unease". New York Times.
- Brown, Ethan. "Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8?". Medium.[self-published source]
- Crosley, Hillary. "In Louisiana, 8 Women Were Murdered and Cops May Be Their Killers". Jezebel.
- Perlstein, Mike. "Jennings 8: Unsolved murders haunt town, police". WWLTV. Archived from the original on 2014-03-02.
- Schmidt, Theresa. "Jeff Davis 8: Why A.G. Buddy Caldwell doesn't intervene". KPLCtv.
- Wolcott, James. "The Jung and the Restless". Vanity Fair.
- "In the matter of Warren Gary". Louisiana Board of Ethics. Archived from the original on 2014-03-01.