May 20 marks 14th anniversary of the first "Jeff Davis 8" body discovery
LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - May 20, 2019, was the 14th anniversary of the first of eight bodies found in or near Jeff Davis Parish - all women who came to be known as the Jeff Davis 8.
It’s a case that has intrigued so many in Louisiana, nationally and even overseas.
The mystery surrounding the women started in 2005. May 20 of that year, a fisherman discovered the body of Loretta Chaisson Lewis in a canal off Highway 1126. She had been seen alive three days before, but her body was too decomposed to determine a cause of death. Authorities said drugs and alcohol were in her system.
Over the next four years, the bodies of seven more women would be found; six in Jeff Davis, one in Acadia. Not all were ruled to be homicides.
The dead women were identified as Chaisson Lewis, Ernestine Daniels Patterson, whose throat was cut and she was is found in a canal off Highway 102, June 18th, 2005.
A year and nine months later, the nude body of victim three, Kristen Gary Lopez, was discovered by a fisherman in a canal off Highway 99. Again, the body was too decomposed to determine a cause of death, but, drugs were found in her system.
Victim four is Whitnei DuBois, found May 12th, 2007, on a rural road. The body is too decomposed to determine cause of death.
Then on May 29th, 2008, a police officer finds 23-year-old Laconia “Muggy” Brown. Her throat had been cut.
On September 11th, 2008, hunters found the body of victim six in a dry irrigation canal. Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno had been asphyxiated.
Scarcely two months later, victim seven, 17-year-old Brittney Gary went missing. Family and friends searched for Brittney, but it ended tragically November 15th, 2008. Her body was found in a field of Highway 1126. It’s a homicide with the cause of death ruled asphyxia and mixed drug intoxication.
August 19th, 2009, the body of victim eight, Necole Guillory was found, off Interstate 10 in Acadia Parish. It’s ruled a homicide, caused by asphyxiation.
Sheriff Ivy Woods says they still do not know that all eight were homicides.
“Like Loretta, possible overdose and she was wrapped up and dumped. Was she killed, or was it possible overdose? At this time, as far as I know, going back, it’s still unknown,” said Woods, who took office in 2012.
While there have been no breakthroughs, Woods says the cases remain open and that they check out any information received.
“It’s still a top priority at the Sheriff’s Office. We still have detectives assigned to the case. As soon as we get information that’s fresh, everybody jumps on it and tries to check the legitimacy of anything that we’ve got in," said Woods.
There is nothing official connecting the deaths or confirming they stem from a serial killer. But Woods says whenever a serial killer is arrested, they check for a possible connection.
"The Mickey Shunick case in Lafayette. We checked on that guy as well, and he happened to be in jail at the same time we had some of our bodies found," said Woods.
And he says they look at all suspects of violent crimes and sexual assaults in the area.
Woods admits anyone involved in the deaths could be in prison or dead.
"It's a great possibility. I mean it could be one of the two or he could have moved," said the sheriff.
Yet, he knows there are still those who wait for answers.
"There's eight individuals, eight families. Those families are still out there grieving," said Woods.
And though authorities admit, the passage of time is rarely helpful in solving such cases, Woods says investigators continue to do their best. The last of the eight to die was Guillory in 2009.
In the years since the women became known as the Jeff Davis 8, the cases have been the subject of several documentaries, blogs and at least one book.
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