Why are so many women vanishing from small towns?Back to Discuss »
At a glance, Chillicothe, Ohio epitomizes the charm often associated with quintessential small town America. It was not until recently that the close-knit community was catapulted into the national spotlight after six young women went missing or were found dead in the past year and a half. There have been speculations that all of the victims knew each other, with details of their interconnected lives revealing a dark subculture threatening to dismantle this small town. Some fear there’s a serial killer on the loose.
The mystery currently plaguing the residents of Chillicothe is not the first of its kind. In fact, many details of the investigation featured on the Investigation Discovery show The Vanishing Women are startlingly similar to a series of unsolved murders in Jefferson Davis Parish – a case known as The Jeff Davis 8.
Located in southwestern Louisiana, Jefferson Davis Parish is home to approximately 30,000 people. Many travelers pass through the area; the Union Pacific Railroad is in the city center and Interstate 10 runs east to west through the middle of the parish. There are rice farms and rolling countryside views, but today the town remains haunted by inexplicable disappearances. Between the years 2005 and 2009, the bodies of eight women, all between the ages of 17 and 30, were discovered in nearby swamps and canals.
The victims ran in the same circle, in fact, some of the women were even related. Lynn Lewis was the first victim; she was discovered floating in a river on May 20, 2005. Six other women were found dead before the final victim, Necole Guillory, was found discarded off of Interstate 10 in 2009.
The Jeff Davis 8
Upon closer examination, the similarities between Chillicothe and Jefferson Davis Parish began long before a single woman went missing. Both were once considered quaint towns with promising futures – areas where people could put down roots, start a business, and raise a family.
Initially, law enforcement believed the Jeff Davis 8 killings to be the work of a serial killer, but many of the bodies were so heavily decomposed it was unclear if they could be classified as murders. In 2008, Sheriff Edwards, of the Jefferson Davis Parish, created a task force dedicated to the case which included state police, the FBI, and law enforcement officials from nearby parishes. As the investigation dragged on, more questions remained unanswered, and rumors that the victims were law enforcement informants began circulating through the community.
During 2009, in response to allegations of law enforcement misconduct, every investigator working the Jeff Davis 8 case received DNA testing, but the office has not publicly commented on the results of those tests. Today, many people familiar with the Jeff Davis 8 question the serial killer theory. The cases remain unsolved.
The Highway of Tears
Jefferson Davis Parish is not the only small town with similarities to Chillicothe. After years of investigation, the residents and authorities of Vanderhoof, British Columbia are left wondering How can so many women disappear from the same place and who is responsible? Over the past four decades at least 18 women have disappeared from the remote stretches of British Columbia’s Highway 16, though many people involved with the case believe the number is even higher.
The villages along the northern section of Highway 16, between Prince George and Prince Rupert, are characterized by high unemployment rates and poverty. Between these towns are large stretches of forest where so many bodies of young women have been discovered that the area is commonly referred to as the The Highway of Tears. When driving around the sharp mountains turns there are yellow warning signs discouraging women from hitchhiking along the route.
Writer and investigative journalist David Paulides spent years researching missing person cases to better understand how people go missing – seeming to vanish into thin air – and why many details overlap between missing persons cases. Paulides is especially interested in “cluster disappearances,” a term used to describe groups of people disappearing from the same area under mysterious circumstances. Paulides findings reveal large groups of people tend to vanish where there are vast areas of open land, most notably within National Parks, at an alarming rate. His research suggests there are “cluster disappearances” all over the country, for example, the entire state of Pennsylvania is a missing persons cluster. But why?
As for the six women who went missing or turned up dead Chillicothe, Ohio – the investigation continues. Follow along as the story unfolds.
The Vanishing Women – All New Mondays @ 10/9c on Investigation Discovery