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Red String Murder Board aka The Jennings 8

Please note that this, and all episodes of Thrice Cursed have been adapted to text by myself, and some additional ad-libbed content may have been omitted. All content within is the sole property of Thrice Cursed Podcast. Please don't plagiarise. Plagiarism sucks. Hello, I’m Rebekkah Rosewood. And this is Thrice Cursed.

First thing’s first… Thank you all for the patience you’ve had with me in regards to waiting for a new release. Mental health aside, it’s been a busy few months, and I’m really working hard to make this podcast something positive for the true crime community. As we all recently saw with the tragic murder of Gabby Petito, the over-sensationalism in true crime has become an issue. The desire to make her disappearance into almost a mystery game was so pervasive and overwhelming that I actually had to avoid the internet for a while. And I can’t even imagine how it felt, and still feels, for Gabby’s family. Even prior to Gabby, I’ve felt the need to shift things into a different perspective. So, thank you for hanging in with me while I figure out exactly what that looks and sounds like. All that aside, I’m happy to be getting back into the swing of things, and to be bringing you another unsolved case out of Louisiana.

Before I get into that though, I have a correction to make in regards to my Heavens’ta Betsy aka Gary Lee Schaefer episode. Towards the end of that episode I mentioned that Schaefer had been stabbed to death by a fellow inmate. That was incorrect. I somehow confused Gary Lee Schaefer with Gerard John Schaefer. They’d both been in prison in Florida, and I messed up. I apologize. It’s my goal to get the information right every time, but I’m only human and tend to mess up sometimes. Tracking down Gary Lee Schaefer has been difficult as hell, but the person who brought this to my attention said that according to his mother’s obituary in 2008, Schaefer was still alive and kicking. I could find nothing beyond this. I’d like to say a quick thank you to Caroline for providing me with this information and bringing it to my attention. I truly appreciate it. And if you have no clue what I’m talking about… go listen to the Heavens’ta Betsy episode. It was an absolute doozy, and my best-performing episode thus far.

Corrections aside, let’s get into it. Today, the case we’ll be diving into is… Well, it’s a lot. Seriously, I was 3 seconds from pulling out the red string and turning the wall over my bed into a murder board. And I'd like to clarify that choosing the wall space over my bed has nothing to do with preference or an actual choice, but rather everything to do with a lack of other wall space. I’m not a psychopath. Over the bed wall space is for My Chemical Romance and Gerard Way shrines ONLY. The person, or people, responsible for the crimes I’ll be discussing, on the other hand? Well… I don’t know who they are so I can’t say for sure, but they’re probably psychopaths.

Whoever is responsible for the crimes I’m about to speak of is still out there, somewhere. Maybe even in the small town where it all began. In Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, lies the town of Jennings. Today, it’s a small town of only approximately 11,400 people. An article published November 16th, 2008 stated that Jefferson Davis Parish had a total population of 31,418 people in its entirety. Almost a third of that population resided within Jennings. And I know that I said Parish a second ago, probably getting your hopes up for some kind of cult story. Sorry to disappoint. Apparently, Louisiana has parishes rather than counties. I, too, was confused. I actually had to google what a parish was, because I thought I’d been confused about it all my life. I was not. Anyways, location-wise, Jennings is the halfway point between Houston,Texas, and New Orleans.

According to the city website, Jennings has something for everyone. And that’s true! If not exactly in the way they mean. There’s delicious food, historical buildings and museums, scenic wetlands, byways, and parks, and plenty of outdoor recreation. Unsurprisingly, however, the website leaves a lot to be discovered by the outsiders. Like with any town, there’s going to be the good parts, and the considerably less so. And I say this with absolutely no judgment. Every city has its struggles.

According to private investigator Ethan Brown, South Jennings is the poverty-stricken area of Jennings. And, as can often be said of areas with a high poverty rate, the drug and crime rates are higher. Right now, this doesn’t necessarily mean anything to the case -- cases?-- But later, it might. All that set-up behind us, let’s get into it.

On May 20th, 2005, Welsh resident Jerry Jackson made the approximately 10-mile trip to Jennings. His destination? The Grand Marais Canal, where he could drop a fishing line and catch himself some white perch. From his place up on the Canal bridge in the east fork of the Grand Marais off of Louisiana 26, Jerry stared down at the muddy water as he prepared his line. Startled, he noticed what appeared to be the shape of a human body. At first, he wasn’t entirely concerned. In an interview, he said, “It had come up on the news that someone had stole some mannequins, so I thought that one of the mannequins ended up in the water somehow.” After looking more closely, however, he realized that wasn’t the case. “I saw flies,” he said. “And mannequins don’t attract flies.” In a panic, he called 911 from his cell, where his call was transferred to the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office. --That’s a fuckin’ mouthful I tell ya whut.

It was 11:46am when Jerry was connected to the Sheriff’s Office. Within approximately 5 minutes, a swarm of deputies and detectives arrived at the foot of the bridge. Jackson quickly sped home, fearful that he himself would be killed because of his discovery. By the time the recovery crew pulled the body from the river, it was the afternoon. The body was that of a woman. She was wearing blue jeans, blue underwear, and a short-sleeve white blouse. Her body was in a state of decomposition consistent with having spent 3 or 4 days in the drainage ditch she’d been found in. When the body was identified, the timeline was consistent. Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis went missing on May 17th, 2005, just 3 days before she had been found dead in the drainage ditch of a muddy river. A toxicology report revealed “high levels of drugs and alcohol” in her system, including the antidepressants Zoloft and Celexa, as well as cocaine. Her blood alcohol content measured .16, and due to the advanced state of decomp, they were unable to collect or identify any significant evidence. They were also unable to determine her cause of death, though police did suspect she asphyxiated. Aside from a small patch of blood under her scalp, there was no evidence of any additional injury.

Loretta was a mother of 2 boys. Her husband, whom she’d been separated from, said that she would call her boys every single day. It didn’t matter where she was, or what she was doing, nothing was more important to her than those boys. So when she didn’t make her daily phone call, alarm bells went off. Something was clearly wrong.

At the time of her murder Loretta had lived in the South side of Jennings with her friend Jessica Kratzer. According to Jessica, a couple of days before Loretta was found, she’d asked Jessica to walk to the bar with her. Upon arriving at the bar, Loretta’s demeanor completely changed. It was as if she’d seen something at the bar that disturbed her. At that point, Loretta turned to Jessica, handed Jessica her purse, and told her to put it “at the top of [Jessica’s] mom’s closet just in case if anything happens.” Jessica never saw Loretta again.

Loretta often resorted to sex work to make ends meet. She had a history with the Jennings police department, with multiple charges against her, though several times those charges were dropped for unknown reasons. Most of the charges were tied to sex work or drugs. According to a friend, Loretta had actually sworn she was going to leave her life of drugs and sex work behind to better take care of her children. 3 days later, she was dead.

The day after the body of Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis was discovered, both the Jeff Davis Sheriff’s Office, and the Daily News were bombarded with phone calls, demanding to know if there was a serial killer on the loose. Obviously, this is very bizarre. Only one body had been found. Why would anyone think this had something to do with a serial killer unless there was something they knew that the police didn’t?

Regardless of the lack of any additional victims at the time, the rumors persisted. It got to a point that Sheriff Ricky Edwards actually had to release a statement. The statement read, “We aren’t investigating any other homicides. We’re only investigating the Lewis case.”

Unfortunately, public information on the investigation into Loretta’s death is practically non-existent, at least as far as I could ascertain. Perhaps that’s because on June 18th, 2005, less than one month later, another body was found. It was the middle of the night when a group of froggers began to notice a foul smell. It wasn’t long before they discovered the body of a Black woman in the water near Louisiana 102, south of Jennings. This was only 6 miles from where Loretta’s body had been found. The body found was partially nude, and appeared to have been submerged for approximately 2 days. Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff Ricky Edwards stated, “There’s definitely obvious physical injuries. There was definitely a struggle.” Unlike Loretta, the cause of death was apparent. Her throat had been cut. And while Loretta had no evident injuries, this new victim had several defense wounds. One of her hands was severely bruised, and her face was unrecognizable. So much so, that it took 2 or 3 months to officially identify her. When asked about a possible connection between this woman and Loretta Lewis, Sheriff Edwards said it was too soon to compare the two, as so far, the only similarities were that they both were-- direct quote-- “dumped off.”

The body of the second woman was sent off to the Calcasieu Parish Coroner's office for an autopsy, where a DNA test using bone samples was performed. Through that, it was determined that the body pulled from the water belonged to Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson, aged 29. She had gone missing 2 days prior, once again confirming the estimated timeline. Like Loretta, Ernestine was a mother. She left behind two sons, and two daughters. Also similar to Loretta, Ernestine was a sex worker. While hindsight may be 20/20, I’m starting to see a pattern here. I don’t know about you. Another similarity was the toxicology report. She too had high levels of drugs and alcohol in her system. At this point, some of the police force began to speculate that the cases were connected, but due to the difference in injuries, they didn’t immediately jump to that conclusion.

Once again, information about the search for Ernestine’s killer is sparse. Making matters worse, on August 23rd, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit, killing at least 1,836 people, and leaving 135 missing. Katrina caused a breach on the east side of the 17th street Canal levee. While this didn’t cause severe flooding within the entire parish, some of the lower-lying areas received significant water damage. People were warned not to return to the area for at least one week. Shortly after Katrina, in September 2005, Hurricane Rita hit, worsening the damages already done by Katrina. Parishes in Southwest Louisiana where Rita hit suffered flooding and wind damage, and several areas of Louisiana were without power for several weeks.

Why do I bring this up? Well, water has a nasty habit of washing away evidence. Not to mention, an inability to access some of the more lower-lying areas, such as drainage ditches or places right near bodies of water, may do quite a bit to hamper the investigation of murders where the bodies were dumped in said areas. A lack of power could interfere with the ability to maintain an ongoing investigation, and an inability to access certain roads out of town could interfere with testing of evidence. Add in the need to spread out the police force to assist with ongoing search and rescue efforts, along with all of the other things that come with hurricane relief efforts… That doesn’t leave much manpower for a murder investigation.

Once the murder investigation was able to continue, police sat down for an interview with a woman named Laconia Brown. Laconia traveled in some of the same circles as the two women, and appeared to have some insight into what may have happened. She was able to point police in the direction of her cousin, Lawrence Nixon. Nixon seemed to remain tight-lipped until the interrogating officers reminded him that he’d initially lied to them until he was made aware that his wife had spoken to authorities. Nixon’s wife Lucenda told investigators that on the night of Ernestine’s murder, Byron Chad Jones had gone to Ernestine’s and had sex with her inside while her husband, Lawrence Nixon waited outside. The two men then returned to Lucenda’s home with a bloody garbage bag containing a bloody shirt. She also stated that her husband had confessed both of their guilt to her.

Laconia also brought up a story that she’d heard when she was down by the San Francisco Grocery on Main Street. There was a story circulating that Ernestine’s death had been retaliation against her for a robbery she’d helped commit against migrant workers. According to the interrogation notes, Laconia either had, or offered no other useful information.

Following the lead she was able to give them, authorities focused in on 32-year-old Bryon Chad Jones. Prior to hurricane Katrina, Jones fled New Orleans. He evacuated to South Carolina, where he was apprehended on January 19th, 2006 for the murder of Ernestine. On January 20th, a news report was released stating that investigators were considering filing charges for other individuals involved as accessories after the fact. As of January 20th 2006, investigators still did not feel that Loretta and Ernestine were connected incidents, but “[did] not rule it out” as a possibility.

Jones was charged with second-degree murder, which was eventually changed to the lesser charge of manslaughter, to which he entered a not guilty plea in the 31st Judicial District Court. Along with Jones, Lawrence Nixon was also charged with second-degree murder. However, despite the existence of several witnesses implicating the men, the sheriff’s office dropped the ball in a major way. For some unknown reason, they failed to test the alleged crime scene until 15 months after Ernestine’s murder. By the time they finally did get around to testing the scene, it was found to have “failed to demonstrate the presence of blood.” Why the huge gap between recovering the crime scene and actually testing it? To potentially answer this question, you’ll need to know the whole story, so I’ll come back to that. Due to a lack of evidence, the case against the two men completely deteriorated. All charges were dropped, and both were released.

The cases seemed to continue this way. They were considered individual death investigations despite the similarities. And any time a potential suspect appeared to fit the bill, the evidence seemed to either disappear, or simply not exist.

Understandably so, for a good while, residents of Jefferson Davis Parish, and more specifically, Jennings, Louisiana, were becoming increasingly uneasy. Two women were dead, and police seemed no closer to catching the people who did it than the day the investigations began. Two years later, the police were still investigating the deaths. Things in Jennings seemed to almost go back to normal for the residents not directly affected by the loss of Loretta and Ernestine. People thought it was over. That is until March 6th, 2007, when 21-year-old Kristen Elizabeth Gary Lopez went missing. A renewed sense of fear descended on the residents of Jennings, Louisiana. Particularly for those that lived on the south side of the train tracks.

On March 18th, 2007, everyone’s fears were confirmed when Kristen’s nude body was pulled from the Petitjean Canal near Lake Arthur. An autopsy form dated March 20th stated that Kristen’s body was positively identified using dental records. It also stated that she had no obvious injuries, but that there were a lot of horseshoe-shaped puncture wounds, consistent with the frontal jaws of alligators. It was believed by the examiner that all injuries observed were caused by the marine life after her death. Her cause of death was unknown, and her toxicology report showed high levels of drugs and alcohol in her system.

It was at this point in the investigation that Sheriff Ricky Edwards linked the 3 women as having run with the same crowds. He also tied them together through their drug use, as well as their involvement in sex work. He released a statement that rightly infuriated most of south Jennings. “These deaths are most likely not random.” All girls lived high-risk lifestyles. He then finished off his statement with “If you’re in this lifestyle, now is the time to get out.” I’d like to just dissect that for a moment. First, the need to state that all 3 women lived high-risk lifestyles makes it sound a hell of a lot like blaming them for their own deaths. Then following that up with a call to action that’s like “hey, if you don’t want to get murdered, just stop doing all of this.” So A, gross victim blaming. And B, as if it’s THAT simple to just “leave the life.” For starters, most women don’t just instantly say “Oh I know! I’ll sell my body for money!” when they have other options. If you know someone who did or does? Hey, more power to you I’m not judging. But to assume that these women had other choices that would allow them to just leave like it’s some choice is dismissive. In addition, a drug addiction also isn’t something you can just stop, or leave. Nor is it something that you necessarily choose. Again, maybe they did, and that’s not my place to judge either. Additionally, rehab is expensive, and typically not readily available for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money. This statement, understandably, made most of South Jennings doubt the police department’s dedication to solving the murders. They were, after all, just drug-addicted sex workers. (And for clarity, I’d just like to say that statement does not in any way, shape, or form my opinion. Everyone deserves justice. EVERY. ONE.)

Almost another 2 months passed with no developments. No arrests had been made, and it seemed that the Jennings PD was no closer to finding the killer or killers than when they had first started. And then, another woman went missing.

On May 10th, 2007 26-year-old Whitnei Charlene Dubois went missing. 2 days later, on May 12th, local police responded to a phone call early in the morning. The body of another young woman had been found. Unlike the others, however, Whitnei had not been left in any kind of water. This time, she was left on a roadway, only to be found by Jamie Trahan.

Trahan was, according to Whitnei Dubois’ cousin Sonya, “some drughead.” The discovery of Whitnei’s body, like many things in this case, is rife with contention. According to a man named Chad Richard, Jamie Trahan had been with Chad the night prior, along with Chad’s ex-wife. Chad and his ex-wife had been celebrating their anniversary, and that meant doing some drugs at a motel. Jamie, who is Chad’s ex-wife’s brother, joined in the celebrations. Just the drugs, y’all, don’t make it weird.

And now I’ll be directly quoting an interview with Chad from Murder in the Bayou. Be warned, there’s a somewhat graphic description of what Whitnei’s body looked like on the side of the road coming up, so just in case, I’ll be warning you mid-quote to skip ahead. “Later, we take a ride, and Jamie started acting funny. It’s like he had something on his mind and had a mission. As we’re taking a ride, we turn off Highway 102 onto Bobby Road. And when we turn, Jamie makes a big, long,wide turn. I looked out, and I could see what appeared to be a body in the road. I said, ‘Jamie. There’s a body. We need to stop.’ He said ‘Oh no, that’s a deer.’ The body shone off the headlights of the truck as he turned.” --If you don’t want to hear the more graphic details, here’s where you should hit that 15 second skip button. Once or twice should do it.--”It was in a curled up position. Like, her back was up, and you could see like a sheen of wet. And that’s why I knew it wasn’t a deer, ‘cause a deer has hair. This was not a deer. It-it was a shiny body. And I argued with him for quite some time, and we just continued forward. Later, he went back to the body, called the law, and told them he had just found it. Which was -- this was false. Jamie put that body there if you ask me. Now, I don’t know that for a fact, but he automatically turned wide and went almost into the ditch to miss that body. He knew that body was there before he ever turned on that road.”

Trahan has vehemently denied Chad’s claims, stating that he’d seen something while on the road with Chad that evening, and swerved to miss it. He then went back later, curious about his brother-in-law’s claims that it was a human body. When he saw that it was, in fact, the body of a young woman, he realized that he had drugs in his truck, and there was no way he could call the police. So he kept going, dropped his truck off at home, got his girlfriend, and in her car returned to the spot where Whitnei’s body lay. Then, he called the police at 7:15am and told them he had just discovered her body.

Whitnei’s badly beaten body was found near the corner of Bobby road, and Earl Duhon road approximately 5 miles outside of Jennings. Investigators believed she had been dead “a couple of days,” meaning she had likely been killed the same day she was last seen. Like Loretta Chaisson and Kristen, her cause of death remains unknown to this day. Like all 3 women killed before her, the toxicology report showed high levels of drugs and alcohol in her system.

The fear level in Jennings was now at an all-time high. Parents wouldn’t let their children out of the house without them present. According to Sonya, cousin of Whitnei, “It got to a point where you didn’t trust anyone, because you didn’t know if the person sitting next to you was a serial killer.”

Just 4 days after the discovery of Whitnei’s body, police arrested 2 people in connection to the murder of Kristen Gary Lopez. On the morning of May 16th in nearby Vermilion Parish, 22-year-old Hannah Connor was arrested at her boyfriend’s home. 51-year-old Frankie Richard, Hannah’s uncle and godfather, was already in prison at the time charges were placed against him for the murder. He had been arrested 2 days prior on rape charges.

Both Hannah Conner and Frankie Richard were facing second-degree murder charges for Kristen’s death, and were also being investigated for potential involvement in the deaths of Loretta, Ernestine, and Whitnei.

In a press release, Sheriff Edwards stated that Richard had been seen “with at least 3 of the women in the days before their deaths.” During the same release, he said, “There could be more arrests made. I feel that they are imminent, actually. We are interviewing people as we speak.”

So how did police come to the conclusion that Connor and Richard were guilty? Being in the same vicinity of 3 people who’ve shown up dead isn’t exactly a crime. Sure, it’s a scoche suspicious, but as we’ve seen very recently, what with the whole dirty Laundrie situation, being suspicious isn’t enough to put you in jail. So, what happened?

Well, the woman who reported Kristen as missing was Tracee Chaisson. If that last name sounds familiar, that’s because Tracee is the cousin of Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis, the first woman to be found dead in Jennings. (Not in the history of Jennings’ existence, but in this case, obviously). Police believed that at the time Tracee reported Kristen missing, she already knew where her body was. During her initial interview with police, Tracee had told investigators that during the last 2 weeks of Kristen’s life, she and Kristen had been spending a decent amount of time partying in a motel room with Frankie Richard. At some point, he had suspected the two girls of stealing from him, and kicked them out of the room.

In her second interrogation, however, her story changed. This time, she’d said through tears that she had been present the night that Kristen was murdered. She’d seen that Richard and Conner, high on drugs, killed Kristen in a fit of rage. They’d beaten her near the Petitjean Canal, then drowned her in it. This confession paired with the fact that Kristen’s body had been found in the Petitjean Canal led to the charges placed against Richard and Conner. This new confession led Tracee Chaisson to be charged with accessory after the fact to second-degree murder.

Frankie Richard told and maintained a similar story to that of Tracee’s first interview. He’d also added that when the girls were kicked out, Kristen gave Richard a hug and asked, “Uncle Frankie, you don’t want me back in your room?” Richard said, “No, because you don’t have no respect, you want to steal everything.” Frankie Richard insists that is the last time he saw her.

According to former Jennings Daily News Reporter Scott Lewis, despite police not immediately linking the pair to any of the other murders, rumors began to circulate that Frankie Richard had killed all of the girls. That, while not necessarily helpful, did quite a bit to quell the fears of the people of Jennings.

However, that fear was about to come back with a vengeance. A few weeks after all charges were made, they were dropped, and all suspects released. The reasons cited for this release were conflicting reports and mishandling of evidence, which I will once again get into later.

In December of 2007, Jennings Sergeant, Jesse Ewing, was informed that 2 female inmates at the Jennings jail wanted to discuss the 4 unsolved murders. He recorded these conversations. The contents of these tapes were never made public. At least, not until private investigator Ethan Brown got a hold of them. The names of the inmates were left out for their safety.

One of the inmates spoke about the night Dubois died in May of 2007. If you’ll recall, Dubois was the woman found on a roadway, as opposed to a canal or other body of water. This inmate said that a sex worker named Tracee Chaisson had told her that she’d been present for the murder of Dubois, and that Frankie Richard and his niece Hannah Conner had killed her. This next part gets a little graphic violence-wise, so again, if you need to skip ahead, do so now. They had all been getting high, and when Dubois refused Richard’s sexual advances, he “got aggressive, he started fighting with her, and when she started fighting back he got on top of her and started punching her.” Chaisson allegedly then said that Hannah held Whitnei’s head back and drowned her. Sounds pretty similar to Tracee’s confession in regards to Kristen, does it not?

The second inmate corroborated Tracee Chaisson’s confession about Kristen, claiming that Hannah Conner herself had actually confessed to the inmate while high on crack. The second inmate had another story as well. This one involved a truck and a conspiracy.

According to inmate 2, Frankie Richard was conspiring with a top sheriff’s office investigator to destroy evidence in the Kristen Gary Lopez case. Richard had allegedly put Lopez’s body “in a barrel,” and used a truck to transport it. She then said that the truck in question was later purchased by an officer named Mr. Warren. She didn’t know his exact name, but claimed he’d purchased the truck to discard the evidence.

In the questioning of this inmate, Sergeant Ewing discovered that, according to this inmate, Sheriff’s Office Chief Criminal Investigator Warren Gary knew that the truck held DNA evidence vital to the case, knew about the murder due to a close friendship with Frankie Richard, and then purchased and cleaned the vehicle at a car wash to destroy any evidence that could be traced back to Richard.

According to public records obtained by Investigator Ethan Brown, on March 29th, 2007, Warren Gary did in fact purchase a 2006 Chevy Silverado truck from a woman named Connie Siler.

Siler was an associate of Frankie Richard and had actually been brought in for questioning recently for writing hot checks. Warren Gary purchased this truck from Siler for $8,748.90. On April 20th of that same year, he resold the truck for $15,500. That’s almost $7,000 more than he initially paid. Was this exchange a joint effort to make evidence disappear and conceal a crime? Could it have been an underhanded attempt by Gary at extortion? Maybe he could purchase the truck for below market value, and Siler’s charges would be dropped due to “lack of evidence” or some other legal precedent. Or maybe, it was all coincidence and poor decision-making. Gary was later fined $10,000 by the Louisiana Board of Ethics for this transaction. According to Sheriff Ricky Edwards, “What [Gary] did with that was wrong. Buying from an inmate, that’s what was ethically wrong.” He then went on to insist that his office “had no clue that [the truck] was even part of evidence [in the Lopez case]. That didn’t come out until way after the fact.”

According to their own reports, however, investigators knew that Siler was one of the last people to see Kristen alive. One former detective in the Jennings Sheriff’s Office said, “We knew that Connie Siler’s vehicle was probably involved.” This former detective was Paula Guillory.

It was Paula’s then-husband Terrie Guillory, the warden of the jail, who brokered the deal for the truck. It was also Terrie Guillory who provided Hannah Conner with a flimsy alibi for the night of the murder. I couldn’t find exact details about what this alibi was, but it involved her day job at a cable company. Her whereabouts that evening, however, were still unaccounted for. Because of Terrie Guillory and Warren Gary, these two members of law enforcement, a key piece of evidence in Kristen’s case was lost, and a suspect had a newly acquired alibi. These issues, paired with Conner’s refusal to turn on her uncle Richard, and Tracee Chaisson’s changing story, ultimately led to the drop in charges. Following the fine from the Board of Ethics, Warren Gary was removed from the investigation. Don’t worry though, he was promoted shortly after. To what position? Oh, no big deal. Just the guy who presides over the evidence room. Stands to reason that the guy who bought, cleaned, and sold a potential murder scene therefore eradicating any potential evidence, should be promoted to watch over and protect OTHER important evidence. Seems like sound logic to me.

A man named Michael Prudhomme, who was the boyfriend and baby daddy of Terrie Guillory’s niece, actually admitted to task force investigators that he had been approached to help clean out the Silverado. Prudhomme also claimed to investigators that he’d seen “a little blood inside the truck in the front and rear seat.” An exact date of either of these statements was unavailable, unfortunately, so I’m not sure where exactly this fell on the timeline of events.

“But what about the statements from the inmates?”, you may find yourself questioning. Sergeant Ewing had been so concerned by what he’d been told, that he handed the tapes over to a private investigator named Kirk Menard. Menard then rushed copies of those tapes to the FBI’s office in nearby Lake Charles. Ewing had hoped to avoid the local sheriff’s office getting their hands on the tapes.

That… didn’t work, to say the least. The tapes ended up with the task-force that had been created to catch the killer. This task force was run, predominantly, by none other than the Jennings Sheriff’s Office. The parish district attorney charged Ewing with malfeasance in office and sexual misconduct shortly thereafter. Before I get into the sexual misconduct charge, I’d like to go into Louisiana law just a bit. And again I’d like to say, I have no formal education in this, so this is just what I could find on various law websites.

According to in regards to Louisiana law, malfeasance in office is committed when any public officer or public employee shall: A, intentionally refuse or fail to perform any duty lawfully required of him; B, intentionally perform any such duty in an unlawful manner; or C, knowingly permit any other public officer or public employee, under his authority, to intentionally refuse or fail to perform any duty lawfully required of him, or to perform any such duty in an unlawful manner. Basically, it sounds like he was charged with malfeasance in office for circumventing his employers, i.e the Jennings sheriff’s office, by giving the tape to someone out of office, and going over their heads to the FBI. All of that seems pretty reasonable to me given that the evidence directly involved the sheriff’s office and the Jennings police department. But that’s just me.

Now back to the sexual misconduct charges. One of the female inmates that had been interviewed on the tapes claimed that Ewing had touched her inappropriately during the interview. After a denial by Ewing, that specific charge was dismissed, while the malfeasance charge remained. Sergeant Jesse Ewing was forced from his job.

Now I’d like to speculate wildly for a moment. Not really that wildly given what we currently know, but it’s more fun to say. So, if the police involvement theory is to be believed, it doesn’t seem like too big a stretch to say that upon discovery of the content on the tapes, the offenders mentioned paid the inmates a visit in prison and forced them to falsely report Ewing. Whether this would have been in exchange for time off their sentence, or simply the ability to remain alive, I’m unsure. Again, it’s purely theorizing at this point and nothing more. But, if they were willing to purchase a vehicle used in the disposal of a body, would threatening inmates be that big a stretch? Just think about it.

While you think about that, I’m going to take a quick ad break, and we’ll be back to continue on with the case. There’s a LOT more. In this ad break, I’ll be giving you a list myself and some other crime podcasts have compiled of empathy-focused True Crime podcasts. So if you’re in the market for some true crime podcasts with victims at the heart of them, stay tuned.

Alright, we’re back. Did you think about it? Or find a new podcast to listen to? Maybe you bought some postcards? Ate some cereal? Perhaps your child spilled juice all over the carpet and you spent the past several moments running around frantically, all the while cursing your desire to have a white faux-fur rug, because… VIBES. I have cats and a faux fur white rug. I get it. Point being, the possibilities are endless! Just as they are with this case.

It would be another year without any more clues into who could have murdered all of these women. Another year with no arrests made. Another year of 4 families crying out for justice. Another year before the next woman went missing. Laconia Shontel, or “Muggy”, Brown was last seen by her grandmother on the evening of May 27th, 2008. Unlike the other women, it took mere hours for Laconia’s body to be found. If this name sounds familiar, that’s because Laconia was one of the women interviewed in the investigation into Ernestine’s murder. She’s the one who led police to her cousin Lawrence Nixon, and his friend Bryon Chad Jones.

On May 28th, 2008, Laconia’s body was found off of East Racca Road in the rural area of Jefferson Davis Parish by a police officer. Her body was still warm. The location where Laconia was found is… bizarre, to be quite frank. The gravel road where her body was found led directly to the police shooting range. Could that be a strange coincidence, a matter of convenience for the perpetrator, or a bold brag? Or --speculation again-- is it possible that the very officer who reported her body being found, is the same person who committed the crime? Laconia was clothed, but missing shoes. Like Ernestine, Laconia’s throat had also been slashed. However, unlike any of the other women, her body had been completely doused in bleach.

If any hopes that the killing spree plaguing Jennings was over still remained, they were dashed when 24-year-old Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno disappeared 3 months later on August 29th, 2008. She wouldn’t be found until September 11th, 2008 around 3p, when her body was located on the LaCour Road levee off of Louisiana Highway 1126, a few miles southeast of Jennings. Crystal was the 6th woman to be murdered in Jennings, Louisiana in a span of only 3 years.

Shortly after the discovery of Crystal’s body, a tip was called into the parish DA’s office. This tip came from a 43-year-old man named Russell Carrier. Carrier had been in the area where Crystal was discovered, and reported seeing three African-American men exiting the woods. He believed these men to be Eugene “Dog” Ivory, an associate of Frankie Richard; Ervin “Tyson” Mouton, who was named as a potential suspect in the murder of Kristen Gary Lopez according to police documents; and Ricardo “Tiger” Williams. I could find nothing in regards to a follow-up on this tip.

Just two months after Crystal was found, and 5 days before Crystal’s body was officially identified through DNA, 17-year-old Brittney Ann Gary went missing on November 2nd, 2008. Brittney Gary had ties to all six of the other murdered women, be it directly, or through her family. She was the cousin of Kristen Gary Lopez, and had also lived with Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno. Her best friend was Laconia “Muggy” Brown. Ernestine Marie Daniel Patterson worked for Kristen’s mother, Teresa. Coincidence? Unlikely. Brittney was last seen at a Family Dollar Store on Plaquemine Street, just a few blocks from her home, where she purchased prepaid minutes for her cellphone. This sighting was confirmed with video surveillance. She would never return home.

13 days later on November 15th, 2008, the body of Brittney Ann Gary was found on Keystone road about half a mile south of Louisiana 1126, between Jennings and Welsh. Once again, her body was placed in an area where it was exposed to the elements, water, and wildlife. Brittney was one of only 3 of the women whose death was officially ruled as a homicide. While the official autopsy report has never been made public, a blog post made by Brittney’s aunt on August 21st, 2009 stated that it listed her cause of death as asphyxiation.

According to a statement made by Sheriff Edwards in The Daily Advertiser on November 16th, 2008, when discussing all of the murders, he said that the women most likely died in one location and were disposed of in public places. He believed it was possible that the bodies may have decomposed at this first location to some extent, before being left at the secondary location where exposure to water, predators, and the other elements sped up the process. He then added, “I want to say that this person is forensically smart, but I don’t know for a fact.” The disposal method for most of the women, paired with the bleach involved with Laconia do somewhat hint at that.

The complexity of the crimes did cause some Southside residents to question whether someone from the Southside could even be capable of such measures. Local bar owner Ardon Jay was quoted as saying, “When there are murders here, it’s usually in a fight or a bar brawl. These people don’t know how to do the things I’m reading about.” Now of course, I don’t know any of the people of Jennings, LA. BUT, I would never put anything past anyone. People are capable of some truly horrible, gruesome things. Not to mention, it seems like somewhat standard practice to dump bodies in rivers in locations that have them. Maybe they got lucky the first time and stuck with it from there? Unfortunately, we just don’t know.

What we do know is that almost a year later, on August 16th, 2009, yet another woman disappeared. This time it was 26-year-old Necole Jean Guillory. This development, while still tragic and awful, was less of a shock than some others. Towards the end of 2008, a sex worker had warned the task force that Necole Guillory “might be the next victim.”

On August 19th, 2009, the warning proved true. Necole Jean Guillory’s body was found alongside Interstate 10 in Acadia Parish near Egan between Crowley and Jennings by a road crew. She had only just been reported missing an hour prior by her mother, Barbara. Necole was the first to be discarded off of a highway, and outside of the Jeff Davis Parish. It took just one day for Sheriff Edwards to confirm Necole’s identity.

According to friends, family members, and Necole’s actions leading up to her death, Necole knew her days were numbered. According to Barbara, as Necole neared her 27th birthday, she became increasingly paranoid. Though I hate to use the word paranoid knowing what we know now, as clearly she’d been justified. But, paraphrasing here. Barbara said that Necole didn’t want to go anywhere on her own. And anytime talks of a birthday celebration arose, Necole would quickly dismiss the idea. “Momma, it doesn’t matter. I’m not gonna be here.”

If her words weren’t enough evidence she knew someone was coming for her, her actions certainly were. Necole Guillory placed her four children with relatives, as if she knew she’d no longer be around to care for them.

Barbara’s mother insists that Necole would tell her all the time that it was the police killing the girls. That was the most she ever said on the topic. She remained tight-lipped, refusing to state a name. “No momma, it’s too far gone. It’s too big. I’d rather y’all know nothing, that way nothing can happen to y’all.”

Stories like Barbara’s aren’t a singular circumstance, either. Gail Brown, sister of Laconia “Muggy” Brown said that just prior to her murder, Laconia warned her family that “she was investigating a murder with a cop. The cop gave her $500 to tell what happened.” Gail, too, is under the firm belief that an officer of the law is responsible for her sister’s death.

According to PI Ethan Brown’s investigation, the accounts of Laconia’s family members were corroborated by witness interviews held by the task force. One witness had said they’d been told by Laconia that “three police officers were going to kill her.”

If you think this all sounds like an over-the-top murder-mystery movie, you’re not wrong. The twists, turns, and potential corruption feels like something not even M. Night Shyamalan could write.

Necole Jean Guillory was the last of 8 women killed. All had ties to one another. All either used drugs or were involved in sex work. And all were human beings, who deserve the same justice as any other human being. Their lifestyles should only impact the investigation in that it helps create a suspect list. That’s it.

While Necole may have been the last of the group now referred to as the Jennings or Jeff Davis 8, her death is not the last with potential ties to the case. In the early morning hours of October 10th, 2010, a 43-year-old man by the name of Russell Anthony Carrier was struck by a train. Now you may be asking, what the h-e-double hockey sticks does that have to do with this case? Earlier in the episode, I mentioned someone. That person was Russell Carrier. He had been in the area where Crystal’s body was found prior to the discovery of her body, and recalled seeing 3 men in the woods. And this could absolutely be a tragic coincidence. In a statement made in the Oct. 12th edition of The Daily Advertiser, Jennings Police Chief Todd D’Albor said that Russell had been visiting family and “had left a local bar when, for unknown reasons, he ended up lying on the tracks.” It could be possible that, drunk, Russell decided it would be safer for him to attempt to walk back to his family’s home rather than drive, and passed out while crossing the tracks. Or maybe in a similar scenario, he tripped and hit his head, knocking him unconscious. Carrier’s body was sent to the Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office for an autopsy, but I couldn’t find that information publicly available. Nor could I find more than one newspaper article, and one online article in PDF format about Russell’s death. If Russell’s death was more than coincidence, a cover up definitely appears to have worked.

The following year, on July 8th 2011, someone else within the Jennings 8 circle was killed. Strangely enough, Investigator Ethan Brown was actually in town and had just met up with this person hours before his murder. David Paul Deshotel had been shot multiple times in the upper body in his own home around 2am that Friday morning. David had dated two of the women prior to their deaths. According to Brown, who arrived on scene during the initial investigation, the entire crime scene was absolute chaos. He alleges that “Not only had the police not secured the scene or created a perimeter, but people were wandering in and out of the house, sometimes taking items with them.” It honestly sounds like it was a Hinterkaifeck situation. All we need is someone cooking in the kitchen and moving the body. Only now we definitely know better. This isn’t the 1920s. And if you have no clue what I’m talking about, you can pop over to the Give Us Morgue podcast who just covered the Hinterkaifeck family murders. It’s a two-host podcast that’s a little more talkative, so if you prefer less of that, you can also head over to Crimelines, where Eileen and Charlie give you a no-nonsense version of the case.

As for David Paul Deshotel, police were unable to even surmise if the killer broke into the home, or was admitted. So… I’m going to grade them an E for effort there, because it’s definitely worse than an F. Though at this point, are we surprised? I’m not.

It should be noted that David was a drug dealer, and his death, too, could have been completely unrelated to the women. I just refuse to count it out. One coincidence is strange, but in a case so full of them, it seems unlikely that all would be coincidences. I’ll mention one more person in close proximity to the Jennings 8 victims that was murdered in JUST a moment.

Now, I’ll get into some of the theories of this case. I don’t know where I stand with this one, as there are so many different facets behind it all, and I couldn’t pretend to know. These theories are vast, twisting, and wild, and suffice it to say I will not be able to do them justice. I’m going to briefly scratch the surface of them, but will provide a link to the expansive write-up by Private Investigator Ethan Brown in the show notes, the blog post, and the facebook & twitter posts.

Theory 1 starts with the Jeff Davis Police Department. This one is the most migraine-inducing and is probably why it’s taken me an entire two months to get through researching and writing this episode.

This theory takes us back to April 19th of 2005. On a timeline, this is about a month before Loretta Chaisson was murdered in May of 2005. On April 19th, a “snitch” for local law enforcement informed police that there was “ongoing narcotics activity” at a house in Jennings. This informant also mentioned that two individuals who were currently on parole frequented the residence.

After a day of preparation, just after 10:20pm the next evening, a raid team composed of probation and parole agents, Jennings PD Detectives, and an investigator with the Jeff Davis Parish DA’s office descended on the home. Inside the dark home, lit only by the officers' flashlights and a lamp in the kitchen, they found a dozen individuals, all believed to be drug users.

Almost immediately after entry, Probation and Parole agent John Briggs Becton encountered Leonard Crochet. According to PI Ethan Brown’s investigation, Crochet was a prescription-pill dealer. Most information about Crochet will be coming from this one source, as other sources on Crochet were sparse. Agent Becton demanded that Crochet show his hands. What happened next can only be determined by incident reports subsequently filed by officers on scene.

According to Becton’s statement, Crochet “made a sudden movement with his hands toward his belt line.” Becton fired his 12-gauge shotgun, hitting Crochet square in the chest with a single shot. An ambulance was called to the scene by Becton. Meanwhile, police investigators found no objects within immediate proximity to Crochet that could have been construed as a weapon. No one present in the home at the time of the shooting could confirm the presence of a weapon. Becton went to trial for negligent homicide, but it was found that there was no probable cause or evidence to prove that a crime had been committed.

So what does this have to do with the 8 women murdered in Jennings Louisiana over the next 4.5 years? Well, according to a few witness statements (one given by Richard), and a witness list from the Louisiana State Police, several people either directly involved with the murders, or close to them in some way, were present at the time of Crochet’s death. These people included Kristen Gary Lopez, the boyfriend of Whitnei Dubois, the brother-in-law of Loretta Lewis, and someone named Harvey “Bird Dog” Burleigh, who once told Whitnei’s older brother that he was close to finding out who killed Whitnei, only to be found stabbed to death in his apartment. I don’t feel like it needs to be said because you could all probably guess, but his death also remains unsolved.

This makes 2 potential witnesses who were murdered, and 1 person close to some of the women. Is it possible that these occurrences were just a matter of coincidence? Of course. Do I believe that? Eeeehh. I don’t know.

Regardless of my beliefs, several witnesses, including Frankie Richard believe the women were all murdered because they either saw or knew something about that night that they shouldn’t have. There has been a long-standing rumor in Jennings that someone, if not multiple people, on the local police force have been working in tandem with the criminal element in the small town. Just think back to that interview with the inmates. She’d flat-out blamed Chief Investigator Warren Gary of colluding with Frankie Richard to cover up the murder of Kristen Gary Lopez. Several members of known drug circles have been arrested numerous times, but some kind of fall-through on behalf of the police department causes charges to be dropped.

Take for instance Paula Guillory. Paula is a former detective in the sheriff’s office, and former wife to Terrie Guillory. Brief refresh here. Terrie Guillory was the jail warden who brokered the sale of Connie Siler’s truck to Warren Gary. Terrie is also the cousin of Necole Guillory. I bring up Paula because in 2009, Paula participated in a raid on Frankie Richard’s home during an investigation into a drug and theft ring. This ring was believed to have been run by Richard, his mother, and Teresa Gary (mother of Brittney Gary). When turning over the evidence from the raid, nearly $4,000 was missing. She denies that she had anything to do with the missing money, and says she immediately told her supervisors when she discovered the discrepancy. Warren Gary was also involved in cataloguing the evidence. Despite her willingness to submit to a polygraph test, she was quickly fired by Sheriff Edwards.

Due to the loss of evidence, and the broken chain of custody, all charges against those involved with the theft ring were dismissed. Of course, it’s also possible that Frankie Richard is the criminal who was colluding with police. If that were the case, the earlier mentioned claim from Chad Richard that Jamie Trahan had known about the body of Whitnei Dubois before coming across it on the road that evening, and that he had placed her body there for Frankie Richard could have some plausibility.

Theory 2 comes from none other than Frankie Richard himself. This one is similar to the first in that it centers around police involvement. According to Private Investigator Ethan Brown, Frankie Richard has a propensity for being able to explain away any bad fact and create different theories in regards to the slain women. Perhaps his favorite alternative suspect is deceased deputy Danny Barry. In November of 2008, the Jennings 8 Task Force was hard at work, interrogating witness after witness. In at least 3 of these interviews, Deputy Danny Barry was named as a suspect. One witness said “Danny Barry would ride around on the south side with his wife, and they would try to pick up girls… [Barry’s vehicle was] a small blue sports car… Barry would drop off his wife, Natalie, and she would get the girls. The couple would ‘spike’ a drink and then take the girls back to the Barrys’ house.”

Another witness described a room in Barry’s trailer. This room was said to have had chains hanging from the ceiling, and no visibility in or out of that room. Of Danny Barry, Frankie Richard said, “All these girls or most of these girls was found within a three-mile radius of Danny Barry’s house. Since he been dead, nobody died. All these motherfuckers in the sheriff’s department are some crooked sons of bitches.”

Barry was questioned only once on February 25th, 2009. No questions were raised in regards to the allegations against him, and no follow-up has been made. Danny Barry died in 2010 at the age of 63. If this theory is to be believed, any possibility of the truth died with him.

Theory 3 comes from Ethan Brown’s statement that most if not all of the Jennings women were informants for the local police department. Is it possible that all of these women snitched on the wrong person? And obviously I don’t mean wrong as in false, but rather in the old adage “snitches get stitches” kind of way. I won’t be putting any names out there because aside from those already mentioned, I really don’t have many.

Then, there’s Frankie Richard, which brings us to theory number 5. Frankie Richard was responsible for the deaths of, if not all, some of the Jennings 8 women. To start, we must first learn about who Frankie Richard was. Richard was a self-confessed pimp and drug dealer. He was also a suspect in several homicides. According to several people from Jennings, Richard was known as the guy who you relied on to “take care of” things. And not in the “hey, I’m going out of town, can you water my plants?” kind of way. He was the light shit on fire to destroy the evidence guy. (That’s just an example, I don’t know for a fact that he ever lit anything on fire to hide evidence.) According to Chief Deputy Cris Ivey, “Frankie at one time seemed to be involved in harming people if they need, you know, to be harmed. He would do it for a fee. He’s a… He’s a person that we had dealings with a lot in law enforcement.” Frankie said himself in interviews that he knew all of them. Partied with them.

Going back to the witness tapes that were suppressed and ultimately led to the downfall of Jesse Ewing’s career, Frankie Richard was allegedly close friends with Chief Criminal Investigator Warren Gary. Warren had allegedly cleansed the truck he’d purchased of any potential evidence in order to help his dear friend, Frankie Richard, get away with the murder of Kristen Gary Lopez.

From the very beginning, rumors were already circulating that Richard had been responsible for the murders. Even prior to his arrest. Up until the day of his death, Richard was the subject of fear and anger in the town of Jennings. Richard, 64, died on March 22nd 2020.

Now we’re brought to theory number 6, that the murders weren’t all committed by a serial killer. And perhaps, they weren’t even all killed for the same reason. Perhaps after the first few murders weren’t solved, people in the area realized that these women were, in their minds, easy targets. And the “disposal” of their bodies seemed to work for them. If the first few weren’t solved, why would the next one? Or the one after that?

Think about it. Some of the women’s deaths were ruled as asphyxiation, while 2 of their deaths were from their throats being slashed open. And others were too decomposed for their cause of deaths to be determined. The consistency of drugs and/or alcohol in their systems doesn’t necessarily have to be an indicator of their killers or how they died when you consider the lifestyles they led.

Brittany Jones, Whitnei Dubois’ niece strongly believes that more than one person committed the murders. After all, with the causes of death being different, and the victims varying in both race and age, it doesn’t necessarily fit the MO of a serial killer. And in a small town of around 10,000 residents, perhaps too much of an emphasis is being placed on the connections between all of the victims. Everyone knows everyone in towns that size. Plus, if they live the same lifestyle, the chances of them being connected in some way increases exponentially.

Somewhat piggybacking off of theory 6 comes theory 7. Byron Chad Jones was responsible for the death of Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson. Recall that the night of her murder Byron had allegedly been at Ernestine’s home while his friend Lawrence Nixon sat outside. Then, the 2 men allegedly returned to Lawrence’s home where his wife Lucenda observed them carrying a bloody trash bag. And, according to Lucenda, Nixon actually confessed their guilt to her.

Now granted, marital disputes are absolutely a thing, and false claims have been made before. However, according to several reports, Byron had a rap sheet full of violent offences. And while I couldn’t find examples of those, I did find something particularly horrifying and eerily similar to what happened to Ernestine. In 2010, Byron Chad Jones was arrested for allegedly stabbing a woman in the mouth. Could it have possibly been a failed attempt at cutting her throat? He was arrested after neighbors who witnessed the argument and stabbing called police. They charged Jones with attempted second degree murder. I could find no information on whether or not Byron was convicted for this crime.

Again I will say, there are a lot more ins and outs to this case and the various factions that make it so complicated. Unfortunately, with my current capacity, this was the best I could do. Again, I will be including links to Private Investigator Ethan Brown’s write up on the case, as well as a write up about why he felt afraid for his life while investigating in Jennings in the twitter, facebook, and blog posts.

Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis was 28 at the time of her death. She was a mother of 2 sons, who she loved more than anything in the world. She’s survived by her husband, her 2 children, her father, and her two brothers.

Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson was 30 at the time of her death, and a mother of 4. She’s survived by her husband, two sons, two daughters, her parents, three brothers, six sisters, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother.

Kristen Gary Lopez was just 21 at the time of her death. Less information was readily available, but she had many friends, and is missed dearly by all of them.

Whitnei Charlene Dubois was 26 at the time of her death, and left behind a young daughter.

LaConia Shontel “Muggy” Brown was 23 years old, and a mother of one. She is survived by her mother, two sisters, a brother, and her grandmother.

Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno was 24 years old, and left behind a daughter. She loved to fish, sing, and listen to music. She enjoyed spending time with friends, but most of all loved to spend time with her daughter.

Brittney Ann Gary was the youngest, at only 17 years old. She loved to swim, listen to music, and be with friends and family. She’s survived by her parents, a brother, 2 sisters, and numerous other relatives.

Necole Jean Guillory was 26 at the time of her death, and had four children. She enjoyed listening to music and loved being outdoors. She’s survived by her 4 children, her parents, her boyfriend, her 3 sisters, and other family members.