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Did Law Enforcement Bungle Eight Homicide Cases In 'Murder In The Bayou'?
Eight women from the same Louisiana town were found murdered, and the new docu-series "Murder in the Bayou" questions whether possible law enforcement negligence and corruption may have hindered the investigations.
When women began to disappear in Jefferson Davis Parish, the community turned to law enforcement to solve the series of disturbing murders—but a new look into the complex case suggests some of the very people assigned to protect the small town of Jennings, Louisiana may have been negligent in their duties, or even worse, may have helped cover up crucial evidence.
The eight murders, known collectively as the “Jeff Davis 8,” are the focus of the Showtime docu-series “Murder in the Bayou,” which delves into the world of drugs and prostitution in the small Louisiana community deeply divided along socio-economic lines.
More than a decade after the crimes began in 2005, all eight murders remain unsolved and some in the community believe law enforcement may know more about the brutal crimes than they’ve said.
“Jennings is just one crooked a—town. I’ve never seen a town be so incompetent,” Teresa Gary, the mother of one of the victims said in the series. “I think law enforcement knows everything.”
As the murder counts continues to grow, witnesses later show up dead, key evidence is seemingly never investigated and one of the men tasked with investigating the murders allegedly purchased and cleaned a piece of evidence that could have played a significant role in one of the murders.
Ethan Brown, the executive producer of the series and the author of a 2016 book about the murders, told Oxygen.com, he believes the new Showtime series uncovers law enforcement negligence and misconduct—as well as “troubling interplay” directly between many of the victims and law enforcement before the women were found dead in canals and desolate backroads that may have hindered the investigation.
The White Truck
One of the most egregious examples of misconduct, according to Brown, is the purchase of a truck believed to be connected to the murder of one of the women by the lead investigator of the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Witnesses had reportedly seen third victim Kristen Gary Lopez riding in a white Chevy Silverado truck with local resident Connie Siler, a known associate of suspected pimp and drug dealer Frankie Richard, before she died.
But instead of examining the truck for any possible evidence, Warren Gary, the lead investigator in the case at the time, purchased the truck himself from Siler and then allegedly had the car washed, before selling it for a profit.
“She was in that truck before she was killed and there are credible allegations that that truck was used to actually transport her body,” Brown told Oxygen.com.
In a taped interview with Jennings Police officer Jesse Ewing, one witness who was in custody at the time, told Ewing that Richard’s niece Hannah Conner had told her Gary had bought the truck to “discard of the evidence.”
“He cleaned the truck at the car wash,” the unidentified witness said in the interview aired on the docu-series.
The witness claims that at the time Gary knew there was blood and DNA left behind in the truck and that he wanted to help get rid of it because he and Richard, who remains a person of interest in the murders—were “good friends.”
But, law enforcement officers have said they don’t believe Gary—who was killed by his 17-year-old grandson in 2016 according to the American Press—knew the truck may have played a role in the crime.
“I don’t think Warren Gary had the knowledge at the time that the vehicle would have any evidence in it,” Jefferson Davis Parish Chief Deputy Chris Ivey said in “Murder in the Bayou.”
Gary was later cleared of any criminal charges, although he was fined $10,000 by the Louisiana Board of Ethics for the purchase.
He was taken off the “Jeff Davis 8” murders, but was promoted to be the head of the evidence room at the sheriff’s office, a decision that had some in the small rural community questioned.
“It just felt like a really bizarre move,” Scott Lewis, a former reporter with The Jennings Daily News said in the series. “I mean you have a guy who was just in trouble and in enough trouble that the state decided to fine him for it, regarding something that could be a piece of evidence being sold and now he’s head of the evidence room. It just felt kind of like a little, it felt like a f--- you.”
However, in an earlier interview with Brown, then Sheriff Ricky Edwards defended the decision.
“I don’t think it was a bad decision,” he said, according to a 2014 article written by Brown in Medium. “I understand how some people would question that, but no, I don’t think it was a bad decision.”
Delayed Testing Of Possible Forensic Evidence
Brown told Oxygen.com that examples of negligence by law enforcement officials could also be seen in the second murder of mom Ernestine Daniels Patterson, whose body was found floating in the water on June 17, 2005.
“What I found out about Ernestine Patterson’s case from reading the case file was frustrating and strange and bewildering because of the way in which the investigation was conducted,” Brown said in the documentary.
According to him, witnesses told investigators that Patterson had been out doing sex work when she hooked up with two men, Bryon Chad Jones and Lawrence Nixon. The trio allegedly drove out to an abandoned house, where Patterson was held down and stabbed to death, Brown said.
Nixon’s wife at the time had said she saw her husband carrying an industrial size trash bag that he laid on the porch of their home. She noticed blood was coming out of the bag, which she later sprayed off, Brown said.
Authorities never tested the floorboards of the porch for the presence of blood until 16 months later—and then tests “failed to demonstrate the presence of blood,” according to the Medium article.
Another witness reported that a jagged edged hunting knife used to carry out the crime had been left in the abandoned house, but it’s unclear whether that tip was ever investigated.
Brown told Oxygen.com they were “genuinely bizarre missteps” in the case.
Commander Ramby Cormier of the sheriff’s office declined to address specific evidence in any of the open murder investigations, he did tell filmmakers the goal of law enforcement is evaluate evidence quickly.
“Your ultimate goal and your best-case scenario would be to test items as quickly as possible, but sometimes you can’t control that for different reasons and you just have to do the best you can with it,” he said.
Nixon and Jones were both charged in connection to Patterson’s murder—but the charges against both men were later dropped.
“The DA’s office obviously has the charging responsibility and they determine who to prosecute and when to prosecute. In that particular case, the DA’s office decided not to prosecute,” Cormier said in the documentary airing on Showtime.
Jones was later arrested again in 2010 for allegedly stabbing a woman in the mouth, according to local station KPLC-TV.
The Relationship Between Many Of the Women And Law Enforcement
One of the most startling discoveries during Brown’s research into the murders was that all of the women had been police informants before they were later found murdered.
“There’s a really dangerous interplay with the victims as informants for the cops,” he told A&E Real Crime.
One of the victims, Laconia “Muggy” Brown, had been interrogated about Patterson’s murder before she later disappeared herself, according to the Medium article.
Kristen Gary Lopez, the third victim, had also been questioned during the investigation into the death of first victim Loretta Chaisson.
“She knew what was going on,” Lopez’s mother Melissa Daigle would later tell Brown.
All of the women were connected by drugs and alleged prostitution—often turning tricks at the now shuttered Boudreux Inn. At least seven also had connections to Frankie Richard, who memorably says in the series that he made his living by “selling pussy.”
The women’s association with the illicit activities often landed them behind bars—for minor offenses such as drug charges, theft or writing bad checks—and put them in close contact with law enforcement authorities.
“These girls were sort of caught between a very precarious place between the Jennings underworld and law enforcement,” Matthew Galkin, director of “Murder in the Bayou” told Oxygen.com. “A lot of the girls had deep relationships with members of law enforcement. Most of the girls were informants for the police, so that put them in a very dangerous position.”
The eighth and final victim, Necole Guillory, had a lengthy rap sheet—however, many of the charges against her would later mysteriously be dropped often with the district attorney’s office citing that they were unwilling to pursue the charges against her, the article in Medium states.
There is no formal record of Guillory being an informant, but her family members claim Guillory believed she would be the next victim before she died.
Her mother, Barbara Guillory, said in the series that Necole had been telling people she believed police were involved in what was happening in the town—but never offered any specifics and was later found dead before she could provide any additional information.
“Necole knew a whole lot,” Frankie Richard would tell Brown for his initial article on the murders. “about a whole lot.”
The relationship between the women, law enforcement and members of the Jennings “underworld” gets even murkier as the lines between the groups begin to blur.
One witness in the documentary claims to have seen Terrie Guillory—the warden of the parish jail and a cousin of final victim Necole Guillory—having sex with first victim Loretta Chaisson in her jail cell.
“Terrie knew most, if not all, of the Jeff Davis 8,” Brown said in the series, adding that he was also rumored to make “trades” with women in the area to make legal problems go away in exchange for information or other favors.
Other witnesses reported former jailer Danny Barry and his wife Natalie Barry often enlisted girls to come to their home to smoke drugs and have sex in a makeshift “sex dungeon” they had in their trailer.
“He and his wife Natalie were seen by numerous witnesses over the span of several years picking up sex workers in their vehicle and taking them back to Danny’s trailer outside of Jennings,” Brown said in “Murder in the Bayou.”
At least one witness reported seeing the youngest of the victims, 17-year-old Brittney Gary, get into a car being driven by Barry and his wife the last night she was seen alive, according to the documentary.
After seven of the eight murders, Edwards announced the formation of a special task force known as the multi-agency investigative team, comprised of state, federal and local investigators to examine the string of murders. But Brown questioned the placement of Terrie Guillory’s wife at the time—Paula Guillory—as one of the task force’s prominent members.
Law Enforcement Response
Despite the suggestion of possible corruption among law enforcement officers as the cases continued to go unsolved, Edwards denied any cover up by the department.
“There’s a lot of people (who) want to say cover up and all of this, I have ever nor will I ever, as I don’t believe any sheriff in this state would cover up any wrong doing in our offices,” Edwards said in a news clip in the series. “None of us are above the law, nor do we want to be.”
In a message posted after Brown’s initial article about the murders, current Sheriff Ivy Woods called Brown’s report a “fictional conspiracy theory” and said the new administration was working hard to earn the public’s trust.
“They have drudged up investigations and incidents, some going back thirty years, insinuating corruption in our Sheriff’s Office. Well, I don’t dispute the Sheriff’s Office has had problems, but the past is the past,” he wrote.
In another statement from the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office to the Dr. Oz show, which looked into the murders as part of its series on true crime, investigators say there has been “no cover up.”
“Everyone involved in the cases when the task force was formed wanted to solve these cases. It was unfortunate that a fictional story by an author that compiled incidents from the 1970's to 2000, including murders that occurred in Calcasieu Parish in the 90’s to try and discredit police,” the statement read.
Investigators insist they continue to try to solve the crimes today.