The Unsolved Murders of Jeff Davis Parish
February 4, 2014 11:17 AM   Subscribe

 
Interesting stuff. From the second link:
Was the Crochet killing the spark that led to the deaths of the Jeff Davis 8? It is one theory suggested by some in the parish. “The victims were being killed because they were present when Leonard Crochet was killed by the police,” one witness told task force investigators. “The girls were being killed because they had seen something they were not supposed to see.” Even Richard connected the Crochet killing to the murdered women: “Most of them girls was at a raid…when that Crochet boy got killed. Most of the girls that are dead today were there that night.”

I’ve obtained a witness list from the Louisiana State Police on the incident. It reads like a who’s who of players in the Jeff Davis 8 case, including the third victim Kristen Gary Lopez, Alvin “Bootsy” Lewis (the boyfriend of the fourth victim, Whitnei Duboisi, and the brother-in-law of the first victim, Loretta Lewis), and Harvey “Bird Dog” Burleigh, who later told Dubois’ older brother Mike that “I’m close to finding out who killed your sister” and was then found stabbed to death in his Jennings apartment. His murder, too, remains unsolved.

The slaying of witnesses appears to be a pattern in Jefferson Davis Parish. [...]
I hope the reporter has sturdy locks on his door and a good life insurance policy.
posted by languagehat at 11:56 AM on February 4, 2014 [28 favorites]


The threats/warnings get even more explicit later in the article:
Standing nearby, on the ground below, was an associate of Richard’s, a towering African-American man in his 30s wearing baggy jeans and a white T-shirt. At one point, he interrupted the conversation to warn me that the story I’m working on will likely put me in the crosshairs of local law enforcement.

“You a bold-ass little man, dog,” he said.
“Don’t get caught in Jeff Davis Parish at night.”
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 11:59 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I hope the reporter has sturdy locks on his door and a good life insurance policy.

Seriously, I was expecting that the reporter would be from some far-off place and then I get to the bottom where it says he is an investigative reporter from New Orleans. Sure it's across the state, but it isn't a particularly large state.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:03 PM on February 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Man, that's like something straight out of a James Lee Burke novel. Horrifying.
posted by Kat Allison at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well that's chilling. But the police are always our friends, right?
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:10 PM on February 4, 2014


I often shudder at these stories because insular, isolated, local paradises of unchecked corruption is the end-game of half of the politcal spectrum. God bless soulless bureaucracy and arbitrary but consistently enforced impersonal rules.
posted by jsturgill at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2014 [44 favorites]


Argh, the second link has That Formatting.
posted by Melismata at 12:28 PM on February 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I often shudder at these stories because insular, isolated, local paradises of unchecked corruption is the end-game of half of the politcal spectrum. God bless soulless bureaucracy and arbitrary but consistently enforced impersonal rules.

As a counterpoint to your one sided political damming - Chicago is solidly democratic and large and has a backlog of about seventy more police torture settlements coming down the pipeline this year, having already paid out more than $50 million, and not a single police officer was charged or named for the 20 year reign of torture other than the chief of police who only got dinged for just perjury and obstruction. Those unnamed torturers may still be on the force and most are likely drawing pensions.

These are not just small town problems and they are also not just republican creations.
posted by srboisvert at 12:29 PM on February 4, 2014 [21 favorites]


You'll note despite mentioning "half of the political spectrum" it wasn't said which half.

In view of which, your assumption that you knew which half was being blamed is intriguing.
posted by aramaic at 12:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, that's cops.
posted by kafziel at 12:37 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Federalism, socialism, oversight and accountability are discredited ideas across both American parties, on the whole. Thanks for pointing that out, srboisvert.

It probably shouldn't be the focus of discussion, to be honest, unless we're really really good about it and on our best behavior. This article is about a very particular instance of the general thing, in a particularly corrupt state, that probably deserves our particular attention in this thread.

I have (sought out and) read many small-town corruption stories, and I find the potential to consolidate all of the formal, legal levers of power in just a few hands to be a stunning and frightening reality. One judge, one sheriff or sheriff's office, and a mayor can collude together to create a little fiefdom where the rule of law is essentially suspended. In towns where this hasn't happened yet, it's just a matter of time. The mechanism is in place and the key is inserted—it just needs the right people in the right place to decide to turn it.
posted by jsturgill at 12:38 PM on February 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


Is there any chance this could be investigated by any body outside the local police force being accused? I mean seriously wtf? Is there nothing the public can do when the police are potentially too corrupt to investigate themselves? Aren't we supposed to have checks and balances in place for this kind of thing, or do they not really get used?
posted by xarnop at 12:44 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is there nothing the public can do when the police are potentially too corrupt to investigate themselves? Aren't we supposed to have checks and balances in place for this kind of thing, or do they not really get used?

The separation of powers that make this hard to correct for on a federal level are part of the checks and balances. Presumably the state could march in and do a hell of a lot more, or perhaps even invite the feds in to take control of the investigation from the local community, but Louisiana is notoriously corrupt at every level and there seems to be a strong bias to never give up local control, even if local control is failing spectacularly.
posted by jsturgill at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Aren't we supposed to have checks and balances in place for this kind of thing, or do they not really get used?

A few years ago, I would have responded that you could ask poor people and minorities of various types, like the folks in this story, about checks and balances on the law enforcement and justice systems if you were prepared for a lot of bitter laughter in reply.

Increasingly, I'm observing that even melanin-hetero-normative folks from the upper middle class are discovering that Officer Friendly ain't their friend.

As Richard Pryor said, there's no justice, there's just us, with "us" being an increasingly large group.

A . for every person killed in connection to the matter discussed in the links.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there any chance this could be investigated by any body outside the local police force being accused?
The Jeff Davis 8 case is begging for a takeover by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which intervened in a now notorious New Orleans Police Department case from 2005, where cops shot and killed innocent bystanders on the Danziger Bridge in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
posted by asperity at 1:02 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


They forgot to mention in the credits that White Lightning was a documentary.
posted by localroger at 1:10 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a great article but one thing stuck out at me. The author describes people as "african-american" or "black" five times, but never refers to anyone as "white". I feel like I am expected to assume everyone is white by default, unless described otherwise. That might be reasonable if the events took place in Sweden, but in Louisiana it is absurd.

If race is relevant to the story, I would like to know who is white, not just who is black. And if race is not relevant to the story, why mention it five times?
posted by foobaz at 1:38 PM on February 4, 2014 [20 favorites]


I would think the Louisiana State Police could step in if it was warranted. I think that people should be lighting a fire under the governor about it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2014


Governor Jindal is too busy daydreaming about running for president.
posted by komara at 2:11 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


There was a dateline in 1997 about small town cops along interstate 10 in LA making a killing seizing travelers' automobiles and whatnot under asset forfeiture laws. It is pretty systemic and not restricted to Louisiana. Google on government auction pulls > 100 000 000 hits. It is good old fashioned highway robbery. They pull you over. Plant a bag of pot. Steal your car.
posted by bukvich at 2:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


That might be reasonable if the events took place in Sweden, but in Louisiana it is absurd.

A) Race is, sadly, still nearly always relevant to the story in the U.S., especially in Louisiana.

B) Jefferson Davis Parish is 80.2% white and 97.4% of the parish population is either white-alone or black-alone. In Louisiana overall, 96.1% are white or black and a goodly portion of those that aren't are mixed. You get pretty good coverage by assuming a white default and identifying African Americans.
posted by 0 at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2014


“The couple would ‘spike’ a drink and then take the girls back to the Barrys’ house…Danny Barry had a room in his trailer that had chains hanging from the ceiling and that a person could not see in or out of the room.”

The world is so damn scary.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 2:34 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I hope the reporter has sturdy locks on his door and a good life insurance policy.

As long as his door is at least one county away he doesn't need them. These people don't venture far from home. Fucking small towns, I grew up in one and I have no idea why they are romanticized the way they are.
posted by fshgrl at 2:36 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Why is there a god damned Jefferson Davis parish in America in 2014?
posted by shothotbot at 2:42 PM on February 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


bukvich - your comment scares me a bit. I got pulled over by a small town cop in Mississippi some years ago just because I had foreign (Canadian) plates. He gave us a really hard time with lots and lots of references to the marijuana we were obviously carrying (we were carrying nothing illegal at all). It gives me pause to think of where that could have gone...
posted by jpziller at 2:44 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


"There was a dateline in 1997 about small town cops along interstate 10 in LA making a killing seizing travelers' automobiles and whatnot under asset forfeiture laws."

This is the same place where that happened: Jefferson Parish. It seems law enforcement there has been corrupt in many different ways, over many years.

I think the author of the second article is right. Your Justice Department should take over and do a fresh investigation, using investigators from far away who have no ties to the victims or the suspects.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:18 PM on February 4, 2014


the same place where that happened: Jefferson Parish

Jefferson Parish is a suburb of New Orleans. This is Jefferson Davis Parish, named for metafilter's favorite President of the Confederate States of America.

To be clear, both incidents involve the Davis version; not that Jefferson Parish is free of notoriety, it is not quite evil on this scale.
posted by localroger at 3:30 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry, localroger. I didn't realize that Jefferson Parish and Jefferson Davis Parish were two different locations. But yeah, the place where they were shaking down motorists in 1997 is also the place where all the murders happened. That must be quite a highway.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:36 PM on February 4, 2014


That must be quite a highway.

It's the main drag between both Baton Rouge and New Orleans and the major population centers of Texas, particularly Houston. It's also very heavily traveled by people going further, since I-10 runs basically from Florida through California through the entire gulf Coast and Las Vegas.

The Dateline report was a piece of work, as they got one trooper trying to carry through the scam on their star reporter in his honey car even as he explained to the dumb shit that they were being filmed by the camera crew in the next car.
posted by localroger at 4:21 PM on February 4, 2014


I know someone involved with investigating the Ciudad Juarez murders. This individual wasn't able to go public with the information, because none of the informants was willing to go on the record, but had been told by many insiders that the reason that this had continued undiminished for so many years was because the murders were done recreationally by members of the police forces on both sides of the border - a "torture club", in other words.

So this isn't a surprise to me. It makes me really sad, though.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:54 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Between this and the Alaska rape thread I need to scrub my brain so much.

What is it about our society that breaks people in such fundamental ways? I mean I think we're always going to have some level of murderously antisocial behaviour among us, but in that case I'm thinking like serial killers, who seem to just have different wiring (along, often, with childhood trauma).

This kind of thing just.. I don't know.

Gonna be spending some time here for a while. I realize that's burying my head in the sand but what else can be done, seriously?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:57 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


> It's a great article but one thing stuck out at me. The author describes people as "african-american" or "black" five times, but never refers to anyone as "white".

That struck me as distracting and odd as well, especially since the descriptions were otherwise so vivid. It just makes me overthink and speculate what else is not being said about race-based subtext. Knowing the racial makeup of the parish doesn't help, as far as I'm concerned.

That nitpick aside, that's a brave reporter, and I hope that some justice gets done.
posted by desuetude at 5:02 PM on February 4, 2014


> What is it about our society that breaks people in such fundamental ways?
> I realize that's burying my head in the sand but what else can be done, seriously?

Stay away from history at all costs. Not that this isn't deeply fucked up and we shouldn't be outraged, the idea that "our society" is abnormally broken relatively speaking is quaint.
posted by kjs3 at 5:59 PM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


The author describes people as "african-american" or "black" five times, but never refers to anyone as "white".

To understand this you have to understand something of the dynamics of the slave trade.

Western Louisiana was at the very edge of the Confederacy, and the landscape was either swampy or not as well irrigated as land closer to the Mississippi, so it did not lend itself to the creation of as many large plantations and the resulting brisk slave trade. As a result, even today the black population of those Acadian parishes is not large, unlike places closer to the river and other more fertile or populous areas of the deep South where more freed slaves settled and their descendants are much more numerous today.

The result of this is that, in southwestern Louisiana, referring to a random unknown person as "white" is about as necessary as referring to a random unknown resident of Haiti as "black." Since there are no large historic ports, despite the presence of I-10 sending so much traffic whizzing past today there also isn't a history of immigration to the area (beyond the original Cajun French colonization, which occurred mostly because nobody else wanted to live there). So in that part of Louisiana it is notably exceptional to be black.

This is in definite contrast to most of the rest of the South, where a randomly chosen person stands a good chance of being white, black, or hispanic nowadays.

The article merely reflects the way you would refer to people in that part of the world. Being white is the default, and being anything else is worth mention to clarify the inevitable mistaken assumption.
posted by localroger at 6:28 PM on February 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


This sort of stuff makes me so angry. There is literally almost nothing that can be done about it, and with people's fetish for "law and order" as long as you only target "others" and "furriners" you can get away with it indefinitely.

At the most benign possible exposure to this, I was pulled over for speeding in a tiny town here in WA once, and when I asked about contesting the ticket, was told outright that "the judge is my brother, you're welcome to come try, of course."
posted by maxwelton at 6:29 PM on February 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Back in the early nineties my wife was stopped by a cop on a lonely road in Mississippi late one night as she was making her way from our home in Arkansas to her oldest son's wedding in Florida. The pig wanted a blowjob from her. She was able to talk her way out of the situation and was ultimately allowed to go on her way unmolested. But you just know that it wasn't the first time that badge-bearing piece of human trash had done such a thing.

Why people put any trust at all in cops is a mystery to me. They're just a special class of criminal, as far as I'm concerned. I understand that someone must deal with the aftermath of things like horrible highway accidents and murders. It's not going to be the likes of me that's going to be doing that, and I respect those who do, but they're given far too much unaccountable power over us citizens, and we are given very little in the way of recourse to deal with it.

The cop in this case happened to be black, but there's a point at which pure human rottenness goes well beyond race.

Nothing in this article is a surprise. Nothing.
posted by metagnathous at 7:33 PM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


It was 1969 in San Jose, CA. I was in my early 20s, divorced, with a 3-year-old child. At that time, being a divorcee carried a strong stigma - you had been with a man and were now without one, therefore you needed one and here I am! (I know, but it's true - I was actually told this more than once). Seriously - some apartments wouldn't even rent to divorcees. Hard to believe now, isn't it?

Anyway, I'd just moved a few days before from one part of town to another. My mother lived in Cupertino and we'd agreed to meet in downtown San Jose at a piano lounge for a drink or two and visit - this was so out of character for both of us it seems crazy now to be typing it. We had our nice evening and then headed for home. I'd had two drinks at most, but I was buzzed. I drove up onto the freeway and headed for home and then, oops, suddenly there was my turnoff - the new one, way earlier than the old one. No one in the right lane, so I whipped over there and took the off ramp - and got stopped by police. I was so flustered, I pulled over immediately - in an unsafe spot, really. There were two policemen and both came up to my car. They made me get out and walk a straight line - and of course they knew I'd been drinking, though I felt stone-cold sober at that point. All I could think about was my daughter, who was with a great babysitter, but I was terrified that if I got arrested for drunk driving, the state would take my daughter away - after all, divorcees/single mothers were lousy parents, etc.

Finally, the cops asked me to come back and sit in the police car, which I did - in the front seat, where they told me to. They started talking and got real nice and friendly - told me how pretty I was, how nice my legs were, etc. - and then told me that they were off duty in half an hour and wanted to know if I'd go for a drink with them.

To prove how sober I was, I did a fine job of weaseling my way out of the invitation by telling them that my babysitter's husband would be home from work in just a few minutes and she wasn't supposed to have kids around that late at night, so I absolutely HAD to get there and pick her up right away. They tried to come up with a different babysitter, but I managed to get loose and go home.

Doesn't sound like much compared to women being stopped for blow jobs and rape, but it left a pothole in my gut that will always be there. I know the power these guys have and they used to scare the heck out of me, much more than a random rapist or escaped felon or terrorist - I don't trust them one little bit. Now, however, I don't have a little child at home to worry about. I don't drive, either, but I do get around all over town on a scooter and I'm no longer afraid of them for my own sake - I've been in more than one scrap with them over the last few years. Still, for the ones I love, my advice is to be very, very careful.
posted by aryma at 10:36 PM on February 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


What is it about our society that breaks people in such fundamental ways? I mean I think we're always going to have some level of murderously antisocial behaviour among us

What is it about modern society, that we think slavery is bad and should not happen, that sex and marriage are matters of personal choice and require informed consent, that justice should be open and transparent and fair and available to all, and that one's path through life should not (at least in principle) be constrained by class, colour, creed or caste?

From a historical perspective this is rather unusual.

Perhaps the more interesting question is why large parts of the world are not like the article.
posted by emilyw at 2:39 AM on February 5, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have no idea why they are romanticized the way they are.

Because the same thing that allows nightmare courts to reign is the same thing that allows towns to "give a good talking-to to the Jones boy rather than bringing him in" Impartial and impersonal justice does try to remove some of the worst excesses, but it also removes the best highs.
posted by corb at 12:20 PM on February 5, 2014


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