New York Times Bestseller
A Southern Living Book of the Year
“Part murder case, part corruption exposé, and part Louisiana noir” (New York magazine), Murder in the Bayou chronicles the twists and turns of a high-stakes investigation into the murders of eight women in a troubled Louisiana parish.
Between 2005 and 2009, the bodies of eight women were discovered around the murky canals and crawfish ponds of Jennings, Louisiana, a bayou town of 10,000 in the heart of the Jefferson Davis parish. The women came to be known as the Jeff Davis 8, and local law enforcement officials were quick to pursue a serial killer theory, opening a floodgate of media coverage and stirring a wave of panic across Jennings’ class-divided neighborhoods. The Jeff Davis 8 had been among society’s most vulnerable—impoverished, abused, and mired with mental illness. They engaged in sex work as a means of survival. And their underworld activity frequently occurred at a decrepit no-tell motel called the Boudreaux Inn.
As the cases went unsolved, the community began to look inward. Rumors of police corruption and evidence tampering, of collusion between street and shield, cast the serial killer theory into doubt. But what was really going on in the humid rooms of the Boudreaux Inn? Why were crimes going unsolved and police officers being indicted? What had the eight women known? And could anything be done do stop the bloodshed?
Mixing muckraking research and immersive journalism over the course of a five-year investigation, Ethan Brown reviewed thousands of pages of previously unseen homicide files to posit what happened during each victim’s final hours. “Brown is a man on a mission...he gives the victims more respectful attention than they probably got in real life” (The New York Times). Murder in the Bayou is the story of an American town buckling under the dark forces of poverty, race, and class division—and a lightning rod for justice for the daughters it lost. “A must-read for true-crime fans” (Publishers Weekly, starred review).
Brown (Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans) has crafted a gripping narrative that will revive curiosity about eight unsolved murders that had at one time been front-page news in the New York Times. Between 2005 and 2009, eight women, all sex workers, were found murdered in Louisiana's Jefferson Davis Parish, most of their bodies too decomposed to determine the cause of death. Brown makes a convincing case that Loretta Chaisson and the other seven women were not the prey of a serial killer; instead, he asserts, the victims, who were all snitches about the local drug trade, were killed because they knew too much. The first sign that there was something amiss with the official inquiry was a counterintuitive one. After the corpse of 28-year-old Chaisson was recovered from the Grand Marais Canal, her husband wondered why he was never considered a suspect. Her friends and family were also unsettled by deputy sheriff Terrie Guillory's visit to her home before the discovery of Chaisson's body; he stated that she was believed by the authorities to be missing, even though no one close to her had reported concerns to the police or sheriff's office. Brown's spare but effective prose and measured analysis of the evidence makes this a must-read for true-crime fans.