Sheriff’s Office responds to “Negative” news coverage

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Towards the end of January, KLFY News Ten set out to the town of Jennings, to speak with detectives and families still haunted by the infamous and unsolved “Jeff Davis 8″ (JD 8). Eight women murdered; their bodies discovered between 2005 to 2009. Loretta Chaisson Lewis, 28, Ernestine Patterson, 30,  Kristen Lopez, 21; Whitnei Dubois, 26; Laconia “Muggy” Brown, 23; Crystal Benoit Zeno, 24; Brittney Gary, 17; and Necole Guillory, 26 are reported to be victims of a possible serial killer. During one visit, KLFY News Ten sat down with Jeff Davis Sheriff Ivy Woods and three members of the sheriff's task force assigned to investigate the deaths.  Detectives helped a News Ten reporter reach out to families of the victims. However, a news article had family members closing the doors to any more media coverage and detectives looking for answers.

A New Orleans news media outlet released a shocking article, referencing a 109 page document they received, which” detailed dozens of interviews in which witnesses suggest police involvement” and misconduct that could have led to this investigation becoming a cold case. In the 24 hours that followed the Jeff Davis Sheriff Department scrambled to understand where the report came from, as did other news media outlets.

Sheriff Woods firmly stated, “The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office or anyone within the task force did not hand over any report pertaining to the investigation of the eight murders.”

Detective Chris Ivery who heads the Jeff Davis Sheriff's Office Task Force, agreed and added that multiple news organizations, including KLFY called wanted copies of the 109 page report referenced in the article.        

“My response to that was I'd like to have a copy of it too,” Ivey said.

The article referenced true crime author and investigative journalist Ethan Brown, who reportedly heavily researched the document. The article references incidents with a Jefferson Davis Deputy was fired from the department for mishandling evidence. The article also referred to former Jennings Police Chief Johnny Lassiter, who served during the time period of the killings. Lassiter entered a plea for two counts of malfeasance in office, after being arrested on charges of theft, obstruction of justice and injuring public records after an audit of the department's evidence room found several items were missing, including drugs.

Ivey, who has worked the Jennings murders since his time as a lieutenant with the state police in 2010, said, “If you go back and take each incident and look at them separately they have absolutely nothing to do with the investigation by our multi-agency task force on the eight victims. All those officers were disciplined and let go from the department.”

Woods stated that the article leads to the assumption that the department is corrupt and swiftly added that it would be nearly impossible to hide evidence or deceive any of the other agencies involved in the investigation, including the Attorney General, FBI, and state police. 

The most damaging information includes information about a truck, sold by a Jeff Davis Deputy. The article states “the disappearance of the truck would prove to be a major blow in a case with almost no physical evidence.”       Ivey explained, a tip was received that one of the victim's may have ridden in the truck, “We don't know if there was any evidence in that truck prior to them selling it. Did that stop us from being able to solve any of these cases? No.”

Following the release of the article, Ivey and Woods said the next few days lead to them responding the media, public outcries. On top of reacting to an article they said they never knew was going to be released, Ivey added that anyone with information is now more likely to be uncomfortable with coming forward.

“If they feel like we are not trustworthy or capable of handling the job then they may be reluctant to give us information,” Ivey said.

Add to it, Ivey said, the families of the victims. “They were calling. Some of them actually came to the office, upset and wanting to know when this stuff was going to stop.”

The discovery of a deceased female body, coincidentally, the day after the article was released, would leave family members reliving an all too familiar feeling. The body of 27-year-old Lacie Fontenot was found in Lake Arthur, was discovered. Although later ruled to be unrelated to the JD 8, Ivey said anytime a body is found, emotions and memories of their own personal hello come flooding back.

“They relive the situation all over again.”

Detectives with the task force said this is still an open and active investigation. Profiles of the eight women are still located on the jdpso.org website under the tab titled “hot cases.” Ivey said, “We would like to call them (family members) and tell them we have some good news but we haven't been able to do that yet.”

An $85,000 dollar reward is still being offered for information leading to arrest(s).

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