Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?

An explosive, true-life southern gothic story, 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. Local law enforcement officials were quick to pursue a serial killer theory, opening a floodgate of media coverage—from CNN to The New York Times. Collectively the victims became known as the “Jeff Davis 8,” and their lives, their deaths, and the ongoing investigation reveals a small southern community’s most closely guarded secrets.

As Ethan Brown suggests, these homicides were not the work of a single serial killer, but the violent fallout of Jennings’ brutal sex and drug trade, a backwoods underworld hidden in plain sight. 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 determine what happened during each victim’s final hours. Epic in scope and intensely suspenseful, 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.


Murder in the Bayou included in The New York Times Book Review’s “50 States of True Crime.

Book Riot included Murder in the Bayou in its list of “books about missing and murdered people of color that deserve more attention.”


Washington PostThe Hollywood Reporter, the Associated Press on the Showtime docu-series. In 2021, Elle Magazine named Murder In The Bayou one of the best true crime documentaries.


“Ethan Brown’s daring and dangerous exposé uncovers a murky inferno of violence and corruption in south Louisiana, where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad, and the brutal murders of eight prostitutes go unpunished, though not necessarily unsolved.”—John Berendt, author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

“A deeply reported, and disturbing, true crime story that is as puzzling as it is intriguing. Ethan Brown’s Murder in the Bayou raises as many questions as it answers, but never ceases to enrage. This is a book about power: those who wield it, and those who, tragically, fall victim to it.”—Janet Reitman, contributing editor at Rolling Stone and author of the New York Times Notable Book Inside Scientology

“By way of Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, Ethan Brown casts light on an America that many people would prefer to believe is not there. Murder in the Bayou reveals a complicated web of violence, poverty, drugs, and corruption–it’s a brave feat of reporting.”—Zachary Lazar, author of Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder

“Ethan Brown wades into the fetid political swamps of south Louisiana and emerges with a sordid yarn of sex, drugs and death. With a depraved and threatening cast of characters, Brown delivers a dogged, courageous inquiry into the murders of eight women. Even those accustomed to institutional corruption in the Pelican State will be shocked by this tale.”—Doug J. Swanson, author of Blood Aces: The Wild Ride of Benny Binion, the Texas Gangster Who Created Vegas Poker

“Investigating what appeared to be a string of unsolved sex-murders that began in 2005, journalist Ethan Brown eventually uncovered a snakepit of small-town corruption in the bayou parish of Jefferson Davis, Louisiana. With its large cast of lost, doomed, and sinister characters, its dense atmosphere of menace and dread, and, at its center, a dogged reporter pursuing a mystery with the fearlessness of a pulp-fiction private eye, Brown’s MURDER IN THE BAYOU is a stunning work of real-life Southern noir.”

-Harold Schechter, author of The Serial Killer Files

“A shocking, disturbing book. It’s already gone off like a bomb in Louisiana….(Ethan) put his life on the line for this book.”–Ryan Holiday, bestselling author of The Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy.

“Brown is a man on a mission, and his aim, which rings loud and clear, is to bring attention to the interstate drug traffic that cuts unimpeded through Jefferson Davis Parish and expose the decades of police corruption and incompetence that keeps this traffic moving.”–The New York Times (Murder in the Bayou is discussed here, too, on the Inside The New York Times Book Review podcast).

“Brown’s writing is clear and approachable . . . Compulsively readable true crime provoking questions about policing, poverty, and the ritualized brutality of the rural South.”–Kirkus

“This a must-read for true-crime fans.”–Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“A real-life Southern Gothic story, Murder in the Bayou uncovers what became one of the most suspenseful and mysterious investigations of the decade.”–Deep South Magazine 

“10 True Crime Books That Will Keep You Up All Night Long”—Bustle

“Homicide, addiction, dirty cops, sex traded for money and dope, and layer upon layer of dark, small-town secrets that went back years, all on the seamy margins of a seemingly sleepy little burg deep in Cajun country — the story has all the elements of a sordid Southern Gothic, something dreamed up in the night by a writer like Louisiana crime novelist James Lee Burke.”–The New Orleans Advocate

Murder in the Bayou featured in Newsweek coverage of prominent, unsolved serial killing cases.

“Explosive”–The Huffington Post

“Brown fills in their (the victims’) stories with care, drawing on deep sources in Jefferson Davis Parish and a trove of public records he obtained over four years.”–Pacific Standard Magazine

“Far truer than True Detective, the investigative journalist’s fourth book is part murder case, part corruption exposé, and part Louisiana noir…Brown lifts the veil on a likely cover-up and a town where justice is a dirty joke.”–New York Magazine

“New Orleans writer Ethan Brown…takes us on a walk on the wild side…telling terrible truths along the way”–Susan Larson, WWNO’s “The Reading Life”

“It sounds like the plot of True Detective, but when the details are laid out all at once, as they are in Ethan Brown’s mesmerizing new starts to make the hit HBO show seem downright restrained” –Rolling Stone

“Brown does an incredible job of humanizing the victims and exposing corruption.”–Southern Living, which named Murder in the Bayou one of “The Best Books of 2016 by Southern Authors.”

“It took tremendous courage for the author to go into Jennings. I’m amazed he came out in one piece.”–New Orleans Magazine

“Brown…has bravely shone a light on these infamous crimes.”–Acadiana Lifestyle

Murder in the Bayou named one of the best true crime books of 2016 by The Line Up; sex work blog Tits and Sass included Murder in the Bayou in its list of 2016′s Best Investigative Reporting on Sex Work

Murder in the Bayou was published on September 13, 2016 and can be purchased here.

Shake the Devil Off: The True Story of the Murder That Rocked New Orleans

A charismatic young soldier meets a tragic end in this moving and mesmerizing account of the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and no-safety-net America.



“Ethan Brown examines a notorious murder case, rescues it from the talons of tabloid journalists, and comes up with something much more than a true crime book. Shake the Devil Off is a gripping suspense story, an indictment of the military’s treatment of our soldiers in and out of war, and a celebration of the resilience and worth of a great American city.”—George Pelecanos, New York Times bestselling author of The Turnaround and Hell to Pay

“Looking more deeply at that from which the rest of us turned in horror, Ethan Brown has transformed an ugly and disturbing shard of the post-Katrina anguish. In this book, that which was lurid and sensational becomes, chapter by chapter, something genuinely sad and reflective, something that now has true meaning for New Orleans and for all of us.”—David Simon, author of Homicide and The Corner

“Ethan Brown establishes himself as a prodigious reporter and masterful storyteller in Shake the Devil Off, a chilling portrait of a broken hero failed by the system.”—Evan Wright, author of the New York Times bestseller Generation Kill
“A ‘coming home’ story that rivals any written about veterans of the war in Iraq, and a true crime account that raises the bar for the genre. Measured, thoroughly reported, and written with true empathy.”—Nate Blakeslee, author of Tulia

“Every military general and every VA leader should carefully read this book to understand how hubris and incompetence in government often leads to massive pain, suffering, and preventable death.  Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki should put Shake the Devil Off at the top of their reading list as a superbly written account of how everything could and did go wrong for a soldier and his family during and after war.”—Paul Sullivan, Executive Director of Veterans for Common Sense

“Heartbreaking.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Drawing the parallel between Katrina’s aftermath and Bowen’s unraveling psyche, Brown creates a riveting portrait of a gruesome crime while detailing the heart of a city in distress. A grim murder-suicide story delivered with skill and verve.”—Kirkus

“A nicely crafted shocker.”—Booklist

“A powerful indictment of our ineffective political establishment and seemingly unfeeling military bureacracy…Shake the Devil Off is essential reading for those willing to face the awful truths about New Orleans—our nation’s most misunderstood city—and the trials its residents still face every day.”—The Washington Post

“Ultimately, the value of this provocative…book lies in its careful examination of a tragic crime; the author has also made a significant contribution to the literature about the Iraq war. Shake the Devil Off can best be read as a follow-up to Dexter Filkins’s perfect book, The Forever War. If Filkins taught us about the war over there, Brown has brought the war home, and for that he deserves much credit.”—The New York Times

“Editors’ Choice”—The New York Times Book Review, September 20, 2009. The “Editors’ Choice” list can be read here.

“Critics’ Pick”—The Washington Post. The “Critics’ Pick” List for the week ending September 27, 2009 can be read here.

“A shattering portrait of a city on a violent edge.”
—The New Orleans Times-Picayune

“Gripping and honest.”—Amy Wilentz, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

“Journalist Ethan Brown delves straight into the darkness with Shake the Devil Off. Billed by the publisher as a true crime story, it is that—and more…Brown has given us a unique portrait of tenacious New Orleans, pre and post Katrina, and a reflective—though utterly chilling—account of how veterans of the Iraq war are suffering from mental degredation and a lack of support.”

“[Shake the Devil off] won’t let us forget about our veterans and about New Orleans.”—The Dallas Morning News

“Ethan Brown has done a great job bringing this pitiless story into a readable form.”—The Globe and Mail

“Where many saw only a lurid murder story, Brown looked deep into the heart and mind of this troubled killer. What emerges is a picture of a specific place and a specific person that holds universal implications for the psychological state of an entire generation of soldiers and survivors.”—The Rumpus

“Brown…delves into the lives of Bowen and Hall, their relationship with each other, New Orleans, and the unique little world of the French Quarter—almost another character in the book. Brown clearly is fascinated by our little corner of the world. He also demonstrates a deep understanding about how New Orleans is…Brown speculates over why Bowen ‘snapped,’ offering severe, untreated PTSD as a possible explanation…But Brown goes further and does a lot of investigative work about PTSD, its effects on young military men returning from battle, and how the U.S. government has not addressed the problems these soldiers face when they return home. While the crime was horrifying, our government’s failure to address the mental issues that precipitate from serving in battle are even more so. Two young lives were lost in a terrible way, he contends, but many others were affected by the crime and the PTSD that may have precipitated it. And Shake the Devil Off shows that there could be more Bowens and Halls all over the U.S. if the problem isn’t addressed.”
Offbeat Magazine

Shake the Devil Off now in paperback. Purchase the book here.


Snitch: Informations Cooperators, and the Corruption of Justice

A chilling investigative look behind the scenes at a criminal justice system corrupted by its use of cooperators, and into the complex meaning of the “Stop Snitching” movement.


“Brown’s evidence is overwhelming”—Legal Times

Snitch is one of “ten books on race that should be more widely read.”—The Root

“Must reading for anyone concerned about the future of ‘law and order’ in America”—Brown University Economics Professor Glenn Loury

“Just-the-facts reporting that shows how and why the War on Drugs has destroyed the very black communities it was designed to help.”—John McWhorter, author of New York Times bestseller Winning the Race

The Economist cited Snitch in a significant feature on prosecutors and informants, here


Queens Reigns Supreme: Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip Hop Hustler

Based on police wiretaps and exclusive interviews with drug kingpins and hip-hop insiders, this is the untold story of how the streets and housing projects of southeast Queens took over the rap industry.


“If somebody doesn’t get shot because of this book, I will be fucking amazed.”—Chuck Klosterman

“One of the first reliable accounts [of the crack era]…the fact that Brown was able to publish so thorough an account is itself notable”—The Village Voice

“A vigorous account of an American subculture that’s colorful, influential and, given the body count, tragic.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I can say without reservation that it is a classic of hip-hop journalism and a major feat of investigative reporting.”—Jeff Chang, author of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation

“New York journalist Brown, who covers pop music, drug issues, and crime, resifts the evidence in the city’s rapper/gang wars, thoroughly exploring the connections between the big-money rap music industry and the big-money criminal enterprise of drug dealing. So doing, he makes a valuable contribution to the burgeoning literature on the violence of such heroes of the ‘hood as Lorenzo “Fat Cat” Nichols, Gerald “Prince” Miller, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, and Thomas “Tony Montana” Mickens as well as the rappers who glorified and shared with them a glitzy, murderous urban pleasure-dome existence.”—Booklist

“Hard headed and impeccable.”—The Boston Phoenix