Jeff Davis Task Force holds news conference - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Jeff Davis Task Force holds news conference

Members of the team investigating the eight deaths in Jeff Davis parish held a press conference Wednesday morning in Jennings.

The press conference was held to update the details of the investigation, and to announce an increase of the reward that is being offered.

The reward for information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of the person responsible for the murders has been increased from $35,000 to $85,000.  The reward money is being offered by the Jeff Davis Parish District Attorney's Office, the Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff's Office and the FBI.

Below is the text of the press conference from the Jeff Davis parish task force:

"The agencies comprising the Multi-Agency Investigative Team have called you here today to provide you with an update regarding where we are in the investigation, to give you facts as we have them, and to announce an increase in the reward that is being offered.  We will take no questions today and we thank you for your continued efforts to release factual information not opinions or gossip.

Representatives of each agency of the Investigative Team are here and will provide you with information regarding their involvement in this investigation.  Although all agencies are independent, each has made all of its resources available in support of other Investigative Team agencies as needed.

I would like to introduce you to;

Special Agent in Charge David Welker, FBI, New Orleans Office
Captain Barry Branton, LA State Police
Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso
Jennings Police Chief Johnny Lassiter
Acadia Parish Sheriff Wayne Melancon
Director of Investigations Mike Thompson, Louisiana Dept. of Justice
 
As you know, there are other agencies involved in this investigation that could not be here with us today.  There are also many people behind the scenes who work on this case 24/7 along with us here in Jennings.

This investigation pertains to the murders of Loretta Chaisson Lewis, Ernestine Daniels Patterson, Kristen Gary Lopez, Whitnei Dubois, Laconia "Muggy" Brown, Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, Brittney Gary, and Necole Guillory. I use the term "murder" because we are treating them all as murders unless we can prove otherwise.   As we have stated in previous releases, it is the collective opinion of all agencies involved in this investigation that these murders may have been committed by a common offender.  For that reason, the label "serial murder" is applicable; however, we have not used that label when referring to this investigation because it does not benefit us in our goals to identify and apprehend the offender, nor does it prevent further loss of life.  Labels are sometimes confusing and are subject to misinterpretation.

A number of individuals have been considered possible suspects or persons of interest in the course of this investigation.  None of these people have been ruled out completely and they continue to be on the Investigative Team's "radar". At this time, we do not have a particular suspect who we are focusing on exclusively; therefore we will continue to consider other suspects.
 
This investigation is ongoing.  Investigators have followed nearly 1,000 leads, interviewed approximately 500 people and fielded countless telephone calls providing information on these cases.  Some of the information received in the course of this investigation has lead to progress in other unrelated cases such as narcotic and burglary cases.

All available resources from our federal, state and local agencies have been continuously applied in the investigation of these murders.

The reward for information that leads to the arrest and successful prosecution of the person responsible for these murders has been increased from $35,000 to $85,000.  The reward money is being offered by the Jefferson Davis Parish District Attorney's Office, the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff's Office and the FBI.  Lamar Advertising has partnered with us to use electronic and paper billboards in SW Louisiana.

There have been more than 48,000 investigative hours logged in this case.  We are working collectively as a team with the shared and mutual goals of bringing closure for the families of Loretta, Ernestine, Kristen, Whitnei, Muggy, Shay, Brittney and Necole, and bringing the responsible party to justice.  Additionally, since November 2008, the Investigative Team has been tasked to find approximately 30 females who were reported missing.

Collectively, law enforcement has been working on these cases for over 4 years.  Investigators have covered and then re-checked leads upon entering them into the FBI's lead management system.  Investigations of this type make up less than 1% of all crimes.  They are complex, arduous and time consuming.  The Investigative Team members have worked around the clock, sometimes spending many days and nights away from their families to do so.  I want to personally thank all of the men and women who have worked extremely hard and will continue to work hard until this case is successfully resolved.  I would also like to thank the families of these men and women who support their law enforcement members.

As I previously mentioned, all of these independent agencies are joined in support of the investigation centered at the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff's Office.  We speak with one voice and will bring the offender to justice as one TEAM.  The complete facts and evidence gathered thus far are only known to law enforcement.  The integrity of this investigation must not be compromised by disclosing evidence and/or other investigative results.   

We ask that the public contact the Investigative Team with any facts, suspicions or other information about these crimes.  We want the public to understand that the Investigative Team is the ONLY appropriate recipient of such information.  We are aware of others who have represented themselves as cooperating with the Investigative Team in the investigation; such is NOT the case.  We are unable to confirm whether all information is being relayed.  Reporting case information to individuals who are not members of the Investigative Team could delay or even prevent that information from being acted upon.  This could result in irreparable harm to the investigation, and possibly in further loss of life. 

Our other partners in this investigation are you, the citizens of Jennings, Jefferson Davis Parish, and all of the surrounding towns and parishes.  We have had a tremendous response from the public and we ask for your continued support.  If you have any information on any of these cases, or that you think may be helpful to the investigation, please call.  Even if you think your information is unimportant, or that someone else has reported what you know, please contact us.  Your call may be the one that helps us to solve these cases.  Our tip-line is (337) 824-6662, our website is www.jeffdaviscrimes.net. Thank you."

Copyright 2009 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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