‘Murder in the Bayou’: Ethan Brown’s Question Isn’t ‘Who Did It?’ It’s ‘Why Didn’t They Solve This?’

The investigative journalist tracks the “Jeff Davis 8” murders, which remain unsolved

Murder in the Bayou

“Murder in the Bayou” — the Showtime docuseries from investigative journalist Ethan Brown and director Matthew Galkin — aired its fifth and final episode Friday. TheWrap spoke with Brown and Galkin about bringing the murder cases of eight women from Louisiana’s Jefferson Davis Parish to the small screen, and the questions that surround the still-open investigation.

Based on Brown’s best-selling novel of the same name, the series followed the murders of eight women who became known as the Jeff Davis 8: Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis, Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson, Kristen Gary Lopez, Whitnei Dubois, Laconia “Muggy” Brown, Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, Brittney Gary, and Necole Guillory. The oldest was 30; the youngest, 17.

Killed between 2005 and 2009, the similarities between the women were striking, both in life and death. All of their bodies discarded in similar ways — either dumped on the side of the road or in bodies of water — the majority were members of the same social circle of sex work, drug use, and, Brown revealed, they were all embroiled in a system of police corruption and informant culture.

Over the course of five episodes, the series delved into candid and personal interviews with the victims’ friends and family, local law enforcement, and even with one of the prime suspects at the center of the investigation: Frankie Richard.

But despite years of investigation by the local sheriff’s office, Louisiana state police, and even the FBI, all eight murders remain unsolved.

Brown has been visiting Jennings — the largest city in the parish — since 2011, two years after Guillory’s body was found. So naturally, TheWrap had to ask Brown who he thinks really did it.

“The question to me is less ‘who did it,’ and more ‘why didn’t they solve this?’” Brown told TheWrap. “The law enforcement folks out there have quite a bit of information that is quite good. I don’t find it to be vexing or impossible or something that should stump law enforcement.”

Brown was clear that he believes the murders are not the work of a serial killer, but of multiple people — and, to his knowledge, the series touches on every possible suspect.

“It’s a case where the same names come up over and over and over again. It’s not a case that has hundreds of plausible leads or suspects,” he said. “When you look at the dump sites, they’re in very specific places.”

“This is not outsider territory at all. It’s the most inside of insider territory,” he continued. “You’ve got to not only be a native to the area — you have to know specific backroads where people go to do things, like drugs. So the combination of this set of suspects that doesn’t change, and the fact that the dump sites are where they are, tells you that it’s the same group of suspects in a very familiar place. I don’t think there’s anybody outside of the set of limited people who are all from south Jennings or the Welsh area, on the outskirts.”

In the end, “Murder in the Bayou” leaves viewers with a lot of questions left unanswered. But it’s the families of the victims who bring forth the heart of the story — the desperate need for their loved ones’ murders to be solved, once and for all.

Despite the years of media frenzy that the families have gone through surrounding the case, Galkin, who directed the series and conducted the on-camera interviews, said it was surprisingly easy to convince them to speak on camera.

“It was extraordinary. I’ve never had an experience like this in my life, and I’ve been doing this for a while,” Galkin told TheWrap. “This is a population that, first of all, has rarely ever been given the platform to tell their own story. They have very few people to speak to outside of each other. So this is 15 years of pent up sadness and anger and emotion and loss, coupled with the fact that these are just incredibly charismatic people to begin with. And then add in this local flavor and color. It’s a way of telling stories, a way of talking, a way of laying out information, that has its own kind of poetry.”