Jeff Davis 8 murder case remains unsolved after 10 years: Was it an elaborate police cover-up?
Jennings, Louisiana, is a rather quiet space and the parish seat of Jefferson Davis. The tiny city made headlines when the bodies of eight young women showed up over the span of four-and-a-half years between 2005 and 2009.
The bodies had been dumped in canals or on the side of the road in and around Jennings. There seemed to be a link between all eight murders but no answers were found.
Showtime's five-part series titled 'Murder in the Bayou' looks deeply into the case and highlights the negligence, harmful environment, and lack of police involvement that surrounds the untimely deaths of these women.
The show is based on investigative journalist Ethan Brown's 2016 book 'Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?'
When the body of victim number one, 28-year-old Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis, showed up in 2005, her death was associated with her drug habits and a possible fallout in the trade.
Less than a month later, victim number two, 30-year-old Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson, was found in a canal off a highway. The next two years saw no victims until in 2007 when a third victim, 21-year-old Kristen Gary Lopez, was found in another canal.
The next year saw the bodies of 26-year-old Whitney Dubois, 23-year-old Laconia "Muggy" Brown, 24-year-old Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, and 17-year-old Brittney Gary showing up.
The one common link between the victims was that they were all somehow involved in the sex trade and had difficulties with drug abuse. All the bodies had been found in canals or off the highway.
It was not until the seventh body that a task force was set up with the FBI, the local and state law enforcement agencies assisting. Their heightened security was not enough to prevent yet another murder, taking the body count to eight when 26-year-old Necole Guillory was spotted off I-10.
Law enforcement failed to make any arrests and barely had a list of suspects. Despite the large body count, the evidence collected was close to none.
One of the prime suspects was drug addict, pimp, and former strip-club proprietor Frankie Richards who was known to brag about his violence and conquests in bed.
According to investigative journalist Ethan Brown, Richards was known to all eight of the victims and had often partied or done drugs with the girls. Despite the fact that Richards' path crisscrossed with the police and all eight victims, he managed to remain free for many years after the murders.
As Brown pointed out, Richards had multiple allegations made against him and had been arrested around 23 times but was never convicted for any of his crimes.
The fact that he had been able to walk scot-free so many times definitely raised a lot of eyebrows about the nature of his relationship with the police. A raid of Richards' home in 2009 found weapons, cash, and drugs in his possession.
As a result, Richards was arrested but over time the evidence against him slowly started to disappear from the police department and Richards was out again after his charges were dropped.
The community of Jennings lost faith in the police who were anything but helpful or effective in their search to find the killer. According to family and friends of the victims, many of the girls had served as police informants and had seemed scared or anxious before they died. None of them had been able to count on the police for protection.
The residents of Jennings explained that the north side of Jennings is full of the privileged and rich while the south side is known for poverty, prostitution, and drugs. The fact that all eight victims hailed from the south seemed to pacify the case and numb the much-needed police action.
Families and friends of the victims have also commented on the silence from the police and their slow attitude towards the case. The families were kept uninformed about the progress of the case and some even said that the task force that had been set up to help find the killer refused to take tips.
Another point to be noted is the drug epidemic in the city given its location off a major highway. Drug busts would reveal kilos of cocaine and crack, and thousands of pills.
In a town with a population of around 10,000, the excess amount of easily available drugs resulted in corruption, addicts, and people looking to make some easy money. Residents have gone as far as to accuse the police to be involved in benefitting from the drugs and the chaotic environment.
With a lack of evidence, a narrow list of suspects, the heavy involvement of the police in prostitution and drugs, the Jeff Davis 8 case looks to be more the work of a complex cover-up than the work of a serial killer. The case remains unsolved until today with no new leads to give the victims' families the closure they deserve.
The Showtime series released on September 13.