Hope Rurik, The Advertiser
LAKE ARTHUR, La. -- Authorities are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found in a ditch across from the Lake Arthur water tower Friday afternoon.
Few details were available late Friday. Lake Arthur Police Chief Cheryl Vincent said the body of the white female was discovered around 3 p.m.
“A lady was walking the levee right there, which is called the ‘tracks,’ and thought they had seen a dead body in the little ditch area right there,” Vincent said. “They had a body in the water, laying face down.”
Vincent said police had identified the victim, but were not releasing a name, pending notification of family members.
In an eerie coincidence, the discovery came the day after WWL-TV in New Orleans ran a lengthy report about the unsolved murders of eight women in Jeff Davis Parish. The bodies of those victims were all discovered near Jennings, which is about 10 miles north of Lake Arthur. The last known victim of what police have called a “common offender” was Necole Jean Guillory. Her body was found in August 2009 off of Interstate 10 in Acadia Parish.
Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff Ivy Woods and deputies from his department joined Lake Arthur police at the scene Friday evening to assist in the investigation. However, Woods said there was no immediate indication that the body discovered in Lake Arthur is connected to the unsolved Jeff Davis Parish cases.
“It don’t appear to be associated with previous murders,” Woods said.
Vincent said authorities were not yet available to release a cause of death.
The unsolved murders of eight Jennings-area women occurred between May 2005 and August 2009. In 2009, authorities held a press conference in which they announced they believed the deaths were the work of a “common offender.” A multi-agency task force has been pursuing the cases for several years, but there has been no substantial new information released about the cases within the past three years.
According to the WWL-TV report, there have been nine other unsolved murders in the area since the body of the first known victim, Loretta Lynn Chassion Lewis, was found in May 2005. That same report stated that according to the FBI, Jeff Davis Parish has a clearance rate of less than 7 percent for solving murders, compared to a national clearance rate of 64 percent.
The most recent discovery came just off of a triangular area of land at the intersection of West Sixth and Commercial streets in Lake Arthur. The street is filled with wooden, clapboard houses, which were quiet Friday night. A large ditch runs near the intersection, as does a set of railroad tracks.
In the darkness Friday, police used huge spotlights to illuminate the area. Some officers stepped carefully on the dead leaves and branches, holding flashlights and walking slowly as they searched for any traces of evidence. Yellow crime scene tape surrounded the entire perimeter.
Woods said authorities would have more information once they received autopsy results from the Calcasieu Parish crime lab.
The investigation is ongoing.