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Jeff Davis 8: The unsolved murders behind Stan's baffling true crime series, Murder in the Bayou.

While preparing to cast a fishing line out over the bridge of the Grand Marais Canal on the outskirts of a small town called Jennings in Louisiana, retiree Jerry Jackson thought he could see a mannequin floating beneath the water.

But as he moved closer to get a better look at the floating shape he quickly discovered it was, in fact, a human body.

The body of a 28-year-old woman named Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis was pulled out of the canal, located in the Jefferson Davis Parish, on May 20, 2005 and although local police launched an investigation into her death, as she was a prostitute with a history of drug addiction, her death was quickly labeled just an unfortunate fallout of the rampant drug trade that ran through the area.

Just one month later, another body was found in different canal winding through this same location just outside of Jennings.

The victim was named as 30-year-old Ernestine Patterson who also worked as a known prostitute in the area. 

Her throat was found to be slashed, and local police ruled her death a homicide. While two men were held for second-degree murder in the case of Ernestine Patterson, the charges were later dropped due to a lack of credible evidence.

The bodies of five more women were then found between 2007 and 2009, all seemingly dumped in the puzzle of murky waterways that lined the small town of Jennings. In a town that was only home to 10,000 poeple the mysterious body count soon began to attack attention.

The other bodies were soon identified as Kristen Gary Lopez, 21, Whitnei Dubois, 26, LaConia “Muggy” Brown, 23, Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, 24 Brittney Gary, 17 and Necole Guillory, 26.

By the time they were all discovered, their bodies were in such an advanced state of decomposition that although the coroner stated that one of the deaths could be due to asphyxia, the exact causes could not be fully determined.

These women, who are now known as “The Jeff Davis 8”, were not only linked to each other through their deaths but also in their lives.

Watch the official trailer for Stan’s Murder in the Bayou below. Post continues after video.

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Not only had they all been known to each other and were known as sex workers in the area, it was also later revealed they had also all worked as criminal informants for the local police at one point or another before their bodies were found.

Some of the victims were even related, in the case of cousins Kristen Gary Lopez and Brittney Gary, or had at some point shared the same home, in the case of Kristen Gary Lopez Gary who lived with Crystal Benoit before she was killed in 2008.

This is the story outlined in The New York Times best-selling book Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8? written by journalist Ethan Brown which also forms the basis for Stan’s new true crime documentary series Murder in the Bayou.

Brown wrote of the investigation at the time that “the victims were mired in poverty and mental illness, and all had hustled Jennings’ south side streets for drugs and sex” which he suggests is why the case quickly became convoluted and corrupt.

In December 2008 an investigative team made up of delegates from federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies came together to search the area for what they thought was a serial killer at work.

According to an article published in The New York Times entitled 8 Deaths in a Small Town, and Much Unease,The deaths have caused considerable soul-searching among victims’ relatives here worried about the plague of drugs and prostitution that might have contributed to the women’s deaths.”

However, as the investigation went on, a wave of mistrust built up in the community over how police were handling the investigation.

“There has been anger at what many local residents view as missteps by sheriff’s investigators, like lost or missing evidence, and fury at the possibility that a serial killer might be loose,” reported The New York Times. 

In another perceived misstep with the case, The New York Times also noted that “the chief investigator bought a pickup truck from an inmate known to be friends with one of the victims. A witness later said she saw Lopez, the third victim, in the truck on the day of her disappearance, but by then the vehicle had already been washed and resold.”

According to both The New York Times and investigative journalist Ethan Brown, “This investigator was fined and removed from the case – and then placed in charge of evidence at the Parish sheriff’s office.”

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In an article entitled Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8?,  Ethan Brown wrote that after conducting witness interviews and foraging through documents, he concluded that the Jeff Davis 8 killings had different yet interconnected lead suspects – meaning that the deaths were not the work of just one killer.

“In 2007, Richard himself was briefly charged in the Lopez killing, but those charges were dropped after witnesses provided conflicting statements and a key piece of physical evidence was mishandled. He remains free and is often perched on the porch of his family home in Jennings.”

“She knew what was going on,” Melissa Daigle, Lopez’s mother, told Brown as part of his article. “They were scared, them girls. I think she knew about it and was too scared to say.”

As the case went on, there were multiple allegations of misconduct against the investigative task force.

On this episode of Mamamia’s daily entertainment and pop culture podcast, the hosts recommend watching Murder in the Bayou on Stan.

A series of witnesses who were interviewed stated that local law enforcement officials were completely implicated in the murders. In 2009, the sheriff ordered that every investigator working on the Jeff Davis 8 case be swabbed for DNA in response to the overwhelming accusations against them and their investigation into the murders.

However, the office refused to comment on the results of DNA testing.

Some people believe these officials to have played a role in the murders of the Jeff Davis 8. In the book about the case written by Brown, there were allegations that officers had sex with the women who later died.

A multitude of evidence from the case of the Jeff Davis 8 remains missing.

To this day, the murders of the women known as the Jeff Davis 8 remain unsolved and multiple police officers who have been accused of playing a part in or covering up their deaths still walk free.

Murder in the Bayou premiered exclusively on Stan on 14 September, with new episodes dropping weekly.


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