Conflict with victims’ families, filmmakers
Multiple films planned about mysterious deaths of eight women
JENNINGS — Conflict is brewing between victims’ families and filmmakers over documentaries about the mysterious deaths of eight Jeff Davis Parish women whose bodies were found dumped near canals and rural roads.
Mike Dubois, the adoptive brother of Whitnei Dubois who was the fourth victim of what has become known as the Jeff Davis 8, has spent the last 10 years searching for answers in the unsolved deaths.
“I have worked hard to bring justice to our girls,” Dubois said. “I never wanted to be the focus of the story, but for over 10 years I have become their voice. There was never anybody standing next to me when I was holding my marches, doing interviews or going to jail for speaking out. I was doing this alone.”
Between 2005 and 2009, the bodies of Necole Jean Guillory, 26; Brittany Ann Gary, 17; Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, 23; Laconia Shontel “Muggy” Brown, 23; Whitnei Charlene Duboin, 26; Kristen Gary Lopez, 21; Ernestine Daniels Patterson, 29; and Lorretta Lynn Chaisson, 28, have been found. Law enforcement have said the women had connections to local sex and drug trades, with many of them knowing each other or running in the same circle of friends.
The deaths have now caught the attention of documentary filmmakers from Showtime, Entertainment One who is working with the Investigation Discovery network and YouTube Red, a paid online subscription service.
Dubois said he is excited the victims’ stories are gaining national attention, but is concerned the groups may not be working in the best interest of the victims or their families because each production company is “trying to tell one story, but going in three different directions.”
“I am concerned because we have three production companies all vying to come here,” Dubois said. “They are suppose to tell the victims’ stories and want to help us solve the crimes to bring closure to the families, but they are dividing us (victims’ families) more than we were before.
“We should be speaking to each other about it, not saying your side is better than my side. That is not going to solve these crimes or bring justice to the girls. We need to get to the bottom of the story and we need every piece of evidence and information anyone has.”
Dubois said he fears the companies are competing for interviews and having families, friends and potential suspects sign confidentiality agreements to keep them from talking to other companies. In some instances, Dubois said the companies are paying people for interviews and other information.
“These people are claiming they are wanting to help, but they are only dividing us more and trying to keep everyone under a confidentially agreement which prevents the story from getting told more. How is that helping if they are only telling part of the story?” he said.
Private investigator Kirk Menard who has investigated the cases since 2008, is also concerned about the direction the documentaries are taking. He has turned down offers to serve as a consultant and editor on the productions.
“All three companies are going in different directions and have different theories (on what happened),” Menard said. “If they really care about the girls, all three production companies would put their differences aside and go and solve the cases. At the end of the day, all three companies should want it to be about the stories of the girls and not about ratings or monetary gains.”
Having division among the groups and all three companies having different versions of the homicides is not in the best interest of anyone, Menard said.
“I would like to see all three companies come together and solve the cases, not just for ratings or monetary gain,” Menard said.
Dubois said the production companies and victims’ families should all be working together and sharing their information and stories without all the confidentiality and conflict.
“It seems like there is a big push for everybody to take credit,” Dubois said. “I have worked to keep this story alive and bring national attention to it for 10 years and now people are trying to take credit for what me and (Kirk) Menard did and push us aside.”
Dubois said the story of the Jeff Davis 8 piqued producers’ interest in 2016 with the release of author Ethan Brown’s “Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8.”
Dubois initially praised the book’s release, but now says he feels parts of the book are “wrong.” Menard said parts of the book were “sensationalized.”
Production crews have been in and around Jeff Davis Parish since the spring doing interviews and gathering information, Dubois said. He said much of what the companies are using is information he and Menard have gathered “from working the streets.”
“I started this all by myself when my little sister got murdered and I’ve brought every one along with it and it’s been one hell of a ride,” an emotional Dubois said. “I have never wanted to be the focus for this, but for over 10 years I have became their voice.”
He said one company tried to get him to sign a confidentiality agreement which would prevent him from talking about the crimes with anyone for eight years and another offered him $500 for any materials including pictures he had, which he considered a bribe. Another signed him on as a consultant and agreed to pay his expenses under the table to help get the information they wanted, then reneged when he asked for more money to get witnesses to talk.
Dubois has since parted ways with all production companies after arranging interviews with potential witnesses, suspects and police informants who he says “knew things.”
Dubois, who at 58 is a former drug dealer and drug user who has been in and out of jail, said he is not proud of things he did to get information from people but said he did it for “the girls.”
“In the 10 years I have done some crazy things, but I never gave up on my vision to bring justice for our girls,” he said. “The answers are in the streets and that’s where I had to be even if it meant hanging around the wrong people and being where I shouldn’t be.”
Dubois, who has battled health problems, gone days without eating or sleeping, and lost his family and job, said he is tired but not giving up on his crusade to find who killed his “baby sister” and the seven others.
“I’ve lost my dignity, respect and my family,” he said, fighting back tears. “I’ve lost everything, but I haven’t quit. I’m not giving up until I finish the job I started 10 years ago, whether I do it with a production company or do it myself. I am going to finish this thing or die trying.”
Dubois said he is confident the crimes will be solved.
“Yes, I think its going to be solved, but I don’t think there is going to be a conviction,” he said.
Dubois feels the evidence over the last 10 years had been tainted, while Menard is concerned that many of the key players and witnesses have either died or are in jail.
“I just want the truth to be told about what happened,” Dubois said. “Everyone talks about closure. I don’t think we will ever have it, but I want to be at peace to know what happened to my sister and hope all the other families get the peace they need.”
‘They are suppose to tell the victims’ stories and want to help us solve the crimes … but they are dividing us more than we were before.’
Brother of victim
‘We should be speaking to each other about it, not saying your side is better than my side. That is not going to solve these crimes or bring justice to the girls. We need to get to the bottom of the story and we need every piece of evidence …’
Brother of victim