“Jennings puts a curse on you. Either you gonna make it, or you gonna fall into that grave," a woman says at the start of the Murder In The Bayou trailer. Eight women died in or near the town of Jennings, Louisiana between 2005 and 2009. Their murders remained unsolved and one man opened up further investigation into their deaths. So, who is Ethan Brown? His investigation in the case resulted in a book and a five-part docuseries on Showtime. But, he's not law enforcement, a lawyer, or a judge.
Brown is a former "mitigation specialist for attorneys representing indigent defendants facing the death penalty in the Deep South and elsewhere," according to the bio on his official website. Basically, he advised attorneys about strategies they could use to potentially lessen their clients sentences. He's also a private investigator.
He authored three books before Murder In The Bayou was published in 2016: Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler (2005), Snitch: Informers, Cooperators and the Corruption of Justice (2007), and Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder that Rocked New Orleans (2009). All of his books provide readers with a look inside the legal system from completely different angles.
Brown is a Louisiana native, which explains the setting of his latter two books, including Murder In The Bayou. As for his interest in the murders of the "Jeff Davis 8," — as the victims at the center of Murder In The Bayou are known — that began in the summer of 2011, Brown told Uproxx. He met Kirk Menard, who had done some work on the case, and followed what seems to be a gut instinct to investigate it further.
He was working at the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center and had a newborn son. "I had accrued vacation time, some time off, and I said, 'I’ll just…'" he recalled for Uproxx. "Actually, you know, I went with nothing really in mind other than meeting people. I rode around with Kirk and met people."
One night he met a "white dude gangster" called Bowlegs who he learned was murdered the very next morning. At the crime scene, "there was no crime scene tape. There were no cops around. It was mind-blowingly strange. Now, number one it’s a murder case, obviously. Number two the guy was connected to the Jeff Davis 8."
"It’s a free-for-all at the crime scene. I just thought, “My God, what on Earth is going on in this Parish?” he said in Uproxx.
But even after the 2014 article about his investigation on the case that was published on Medium, the book was published, and now the series on Showtime, he doesn't know the answer beyond debunking the serial killer theory surrounding the case. He told Deep South Magazine in 2016 that because multiple people were indicted and charged in two of the cases, the serial killer theory doesn't hold up.
Brown's investigation and experiences in the parish made him suspect a lot of corruption surrounding the cases. As for what happened to each of the women, Brown explained his beliefs to Deep South Magazine. "...It’s a combination of this: I believe some of them were targeted to be killed, although I think that’s a minority, others were killed in sort of heat of the moment killings, like arguments or refusals of sex and then..."
It's such a complex situation that you need to watch the series for yourself and decide. One thing is for sure — Brown did his best to uncover the truth.
Murder In The Bayou premieres Friday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.