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A Legacy of Pain
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Monday, 28 September 2009 11:32
Article Index
A Legacy of Pain
She deserved better
The fight for custody
Finally home
The rebellion
Whitnei's murder
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A note from the Editor: Introduction and Background


I have long stated I have no heroes. If I did however, they would be those who are trying to make this world a better place to be. Rebecca Chaisson and the owner of the JDP Killer Blog are just such individuals. Here is why.

Our team was recently contacted to consult on a case involving the murders of eight women in a small town in Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana. Murders that some feel are the work of a serial killer. While following up on the information provided, we have also been perusing the JDP Killer Blog, where we happened upon a poignant story that must be told.

The author of the story, also editor of the Jennings Daily News, Rebecca Chaisson has kindly granted us permission to post her article to our site. This story is but the first in a series on "The Jeff Davis Eight." Ms. Chaisson, has embarked on something that is rarely, if ever, done. She is telling the stories of these victims. She is breathing much needed life into their memories, and just perhaps, she is giving their families a way heal.

In addition to the following story, the blog owner of the JDP Killer Blog has created memorial pages for each of the victims. You can find their pages under the "Victims" tab. Please do pay them a visit. So you can hold in your mind and heart the beautiful women they were, while at the same time, remembering that some, many, perhaps all, faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yet, as long as a person is alive, there is always hope. Sadly, that hope was violently stolen from them. Moreover, when the killer murdered these young women, he not only stole their hope, he left a legacy of pain in their wake.



She deserved better

‘She deserved better’
Whitnei Dubois’ family speaks about her difficult life, tragic death
By Rebecca Chaisson, Editor
Jennings Daily News, 28 September 2009

She was thrown away like yesterday's trash, stripped of her clothes and then dumped in the middle of a dirt road in Jennings. By the time her lifeless body was found on May 12, 2007, it was decomposed beyond recognition.

Whitnei Dubois – commonly referred to as "victim number four" in the string of eight unsolved homicides in Jeff Davis Parish – had to be identified by fingerprint analysis and dental records. Her grieving family was forced to pay their respects to a closed casket.

Today, Whitnei's family wants to see her killer brought to justice, but they also want the public to know that their loved one was so much more than a "high-risk lifestyle."

In life – and in death – she deserved better.



The fight for custody

"Whitnei's family life wasn't well at all," explained Mike Dubois, the adopted brother of the 26-year-old homicide victim.

Whitnei was only six months old when her mother, Louella, abandoned her and her two older siblings, Cody and Taylor.

Mike's parents, Elery and Dorothy Dubois of Jennings, learned through a friend about the children's plight and offered to temporarily care for the baby, while Whitnei's older siblings were placed in foster homes. "Temporary" eventually turned into Whitnei's second birthday, and by that time, the Dubois family was madly in love with their wide-eyed little girl. The fact that she wasn't blood-related never mattered.

And then suddenly, it was the only thing that mattered in court.

"One day, out of the blue, her mother popped back into town," Mike further explained. "She told my dad that she wanted Whitnei back. Social Services didn't want to give her back to her biological mother, but Whitnei's mother dated an ex-cop from Jennings who knew the judge personally. He ruled that all three children be returned to their mother, despite her drug and alcohol problem."

Mike's eye welled up with tears as he remembered the moment Whitnei was ripped from his family's arms for the very first time.

"That day destroyed us all," Mike whispered. "She was ours for two years. She was our baby. When her mother came to get her, Whitnei was terrified. She didn't know who her mother was. She was screaming, hollering, crying … My parents broke down watching her … Whitnei just kept flapping her hands at them, begging for them to take her back. She didn't understand what was happening."

Whitnei left with her biological mother and wasn't seen or heard from again for two years.

Back and forth

"Then one day, the phone rang again," Mike said. "It was Whitnei's mom. She said she was in a bind and needed money. So Mom and Dad got in a car and drove straight to Stephenville, Texas. They wanted to take all three kids…"

Whitnei's mom, however, would only allow the Dubois family to take the baby.

Elery and Dorothy purchased a vehicle for Louella to use, then filled her cabinets with groceries and left behind some cash so that Taylor and Cody would be taken care of properly.

Then, they returned home with 4-year-old Whitnei.

Whitnei's biological father, who was serving life in prison for murdering a police officer, willingly signed over his parental rights to the Dubois family. But without Louella's signature, the Dubois family always understood that they had no legal authority to keep the young girl if the woman changed her mind. They could lose her all over again with a simple phone call.

That phone call came approximately two years later, when Whitnei was six years old.

Louella was living in Nevada at the time, and after sporadic contact with the Dubois family, she wanted Whitnei to visit.

"Dad had a standing agreement with her – he would not keep her from seeing Whitnei," Mike explained. "So from time to time, she would ask us to put Whitnei on a non-stop flight to Nevada and she would keep her for a couple of weeks, then send her back. This would happen once – sometimes twice a year – usually during the summer."

One summer, however, Mike waited at the Dallas airport for Whitnei to return home.

"She never got off the plane," he whispered. "I tried to contact her mother, but I couldn't reach her. She fell off the map. I checked every flight, thinking it was a mistake. But we could find no record of Whitnei ever going to the airport."

Driving all night

Mike's eyes welled up with tears when he relived the phone call he made to his father from the airport that day.

"Daddy went crazy," he said. "He was devastated. Whitnei was my daddy's pride. A father isn't who made you – but who raises you, nurtures you. She was ours for two years, and then she was gone again."

The Dubois family went almost an entire year without knowing what happened to "their daughter," but Louella found herself in another bind. She called the family and invited them for a visit to their new home in Echo Bay, just outside of Las Vegas.

The family drove for 1,700 miles, only stopping for food, gas and restrooms. Elery, excited at the thought of seeing his daughter again, refused to stop for anything else.

"We kept telling him, ‘We need to stop,' and he kept saying, ‘We ain't stopping.' He was so anxious to get to her that he drove all the way – for two days."

When the family finally arrived, Elery was beside himself.

"We get there, and here comes Whitnei," Mike continued. "Her hair was knotted and matted. She was dirty, skinny, wearing rags. She was in pretty bad shape. But she was elated to see us. She kept asking, ‘Am I coming home? Am I coming home?' And all we could tell her was, ‘If your momma lets us take you.'"

Again, the Dubois' attempted to take all three children from their harsh environment, but again, Louella would only let them take Whitnei.

"You have to remember, Mike said, "Taylor was her oldest, so she was her babysitter, her cook and her housekeeper."

The Dubois family returned home with their little girl, but continued to keep their side of the agreement: Whitnei would be allowed to visit.

A couple of years and a couple of visits later, Whitnei once again never returned from a roundtrip flight to Las Vegas.

And the heartbreak for the Dubois family continued …

"Dad always did things the right way, the proper way," said Mike, "but he also knew that if he didn't cooperate, he could lose her for good."



Finally home

One year after Whitnei's third disappearance, the Dubois family received another phone call. This time, the call came from Social Services in Nevada, and the conversation finally brought Whitnei home – for good.

"Child protection seized all three kids," Mike recalled. "They were in an orphanage in Las Vegas, and the kids didn't know how to contact us. Whitnei kept saying, ‘Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw Dubois from Jenny, Louisiana' and finally, child protection called the Jennings Police Department to ask if they knew us. An officer there knew my dad and went to my dad's house with the phone number to the orphanage. It was like Christmas that day."

Elery had a fear of flying – hence the last two-day drive to Las Vegas. But when he received that phone call, no fear could keep him away from his answered prayers.

"He took the first plane out and was finally able to officially adopt Whitnei, as well as Taylor," Mike said. Their brother, meanwhile, was placed in the custody of Elery's sister.

Whitnei was 10 years old at the time; Taylor was 13.

Unfortunately, the "happily ever after" ending never came, as the damage to Whitnei had already been done.

The husbands

Louella had eight husbands that Taylor can remember, and she remembers all eight for various reasons – none of them good.

The "Texas husband" handcuffed 7-year-old Taylor to a water pipe outside as a form of punishment, but Taylor had it easy then. Her brother, 5-year-old Cody, wasn't as fortunate. He received so many beatings that today, he suffers from scar tissue and cysts on the back of his brain. Whitnei, only four years old at the time, was spared any beatings from that particular man.

With that said, the Texas husband was a walk in the park. Life was good then.

Louella's Las Vegas husband, "Smokie," was better at torture.

"It was worse for Cody," Taylor remembered. "Smokie broke a leather belt over him; broke a ping pong paddle over him; put his fingertips to a stove and burned him when he was caught stealing from a store. Because we were girls, we were just sent to our rooms."

One day, Cody – quickly forming a temper of his own – chased Taylor down the road with a butcher knife. When "Smokie" caught up to the young boy, he took the knife from Cody, grabbed his wrists and sliced them open to teach him a lesson.

"Me and Whitnei would huddle in the closet and cry," remembered Taylor. "We could hear our brother screaming, but we couldn't do anything to stop it."

Taylor, meanwhile, was the life of the party. During her parents' drunken stupor, she would get yanked out of her bed at 2 a.m. to "entertain" the crowd.

Life was still easier then.

A few husbands later, in walked the devil, and life wasn't so easy anymore.

The Devil

"Jerry was an ex-golden glove boxer, and he was insane," Taylor said. "We referred to him as ‘the devil' and he creeped me out instantly."

At first, Louella's latest boyfriend would only pinch and grab here and there, and didn't care if the children's mother was watching when he made his inappropriate advances.

"Then, when Mom would pass out at night from the drugs, he'd start coming into my room," Taylor continued. "He'd come in there every night. I remember sleeping next to a little window, and I'd look at the moon and say a little prayer to God and to my real dad."

Taylor's biological father, whom she would regularly visit just as Whitnei would visit the Dubois family, had passed away earlier in the year. She wasn't allowed to attend his funeral because Louella was scared that Taylor's step-mom would refuse to send her back.

Taylor eventually told her mother about Jerry's nightly visits and prayers for those visits to stop.

"You're lying because you are jealous and you're just trying to come between me and Jerry," her mother frankly told her. She would later say the same thing to 8-year-old Cody and 7-year-old Whitnei.

Taylor still remembers the first time "the unthinkable" happened to her baby sister.

"The three of us were outside, cutting the grass with scissors and steak knives, when Whitnei went inside for something to drink," Taylor noted. "That's when it happened. I didn't find out about it until the counselor talked to us."

Life under the devil's roof continued for a year, until one night, someone touched the heater.

"They came in that night from the bar, and they were really messed up," Taylor said. "He came into our room, hollering that someone touched the heater. I smarted off to him that we didn't touch it. Whitnei was awake and crying because he was screaming at me. He jerked Cody out of bed, but Whitnei and Cody ran into the bathroom to hide."

The next thing Taylor remembers is the ex-boxer's blow to the left side of her face – a total knockout.

"When I woke up, there were piles of clothes on me and a chair that he had broke over my head," she said. "The cops were there. The neighbors probably called them. Mom was sitting at one side of the table with handcuffs on; he was in cuffs at the other end."

Taylor's eye was swollen shut, and she looked in the mirror and cried to her baby sister: "I'm so ugly," Taylor told Whitnei, who replied, "But you're still beautiful to me."

Those were strong words coming from a frightened 7-year-old little sister.

The three kids were sent to a children's home, but after a restraining order was filed against Jerry, the kids were returned to their mother approximately one week after the violent episode.

Then, approximately one week after being returned to the care of Louella, she brought home "a big surprise."

The surprise was Little Debbie cakes – delivered by the devil himself. Taylor rolled her eyes at the gift, and quickly took another blow to her still-swollen face.

The next day, an infuriated Taylor called 911 and told on her mother and the man she considered murdering in his sleep.

The children returned to the orphanage, where a counselor learned of their nightmares at home. While the children were undergoing counseling, Louella was walking down the aisle with Jerry.

Even still, the system gave Louella one more opportunity to regain custody of her kids.

"The judge told her to choose between the kids and the new husband," Taylor remembered, "and she chose the devil."

Louella's love affair with Jerry wouldn't last for long, however. He was eventually convicted for committing sex crimes against the children.

Once in the care of the Dubois family, Louella called to "check in" from time to time. Still residing in Las Vegas, she flew to Jennings in 2007 to attend Whitnei's funeral. Louella's own lifestyle caught up to her earlier this month, when she drank herself to death.



The rebellion

Brittney Jones, Mike Dubois' daughter, was only seven years old when the adoption occurred, so although Whitnei and Taylor were technically aunts to Brittney, all three girls were raised as sisters.

Despite being three years younger than Whitnei, Brittney said the two were at the same maturity level.

"Whitnei developed a lot slower than other girls," Brittney said. "She was always timid around guys. In high school, she had every personality change, from purple hair to black hair to a preppy phase to grunge. She was trying to find her identity."

At the age of 16, Whitnei's rebellion against "Maw-Maw and Paw-Paw Dubois" officially began.

"They were strict on us, and they always kept a close eye on what we were doing," said Brittney. "Whitnei didn't like it. She was very outspoken, and she knew how to make them eat out of her hand. She was their baby. All of us always gave Whitnei everything she wanted."

At the age of 17, Whitnei decided to run away from home after an argument with her paw-paw. She stayed with friends, who introduced her to her very first pain pill. The pill made Whitnei feel "normal" rather than scared, alone and confused. The drugs dulled the nightmares of her childhood. Long story short, the pills made her happy.

She returned home a few weeks later, but she didn't return home the same.

Whitnei soon convinced her parents to let her drop out of school at the age of 17 – still a sophomore.

"They gave in and let her," Brittney said. "After that, her circle of friends changed. When she turned 18, she moved out and got a job at a fast food restaurant. At that point, her drug use was still just recreational."

But a year or so later, Whitnei met a boyfriend who could support her new-found habit. The couple eventually moved in together, and several years later, were eventually arrested together after police raided their home for illegal narcotics.

"While Whitnei was in jail, she found out she was pregnant and they released her," Brittney said.

Thrilled about becoming a mother, Whitnei promised to be the mother she never had. She said she would stop using. In fact, she moved back in with the Dubois family and prepared for what was destined to become the happiest moment of her life – the birth of her daughter.

Due to a rough labor, however, Whitnei underwent a C-section, and later developed a staph infection.

"That's when the doctors put her on some really serious pain pills," Brittney noted, "pills much stronger than anything she had ever taken. These were pills you can't get refills for. And Whitnei was loving it."

The descent

Whitnei promised she would never do drugs in the home because she didn't want to subject her little girl to that – and she didn't. But she didn't have to, as she had so many loving family members on standby to babysit. Evidently, Whitnei couldn't see that she was continuing the vicious cycle; and if she saw it, she couldn't do anything to stop it. She eventually lost custody of her own daughter, and her life spiraled downhill from there, as her boyfriend – the father of her child – was released from jail.

"Once he was released, she continued to follow him," said Brittney. "They had a very physical relationship; they were both physical. At some point, she stayed at the battered women's shelter, but they threw her out because she kept seeing him. Everyone was fed up with it. We knew she wasn't going to stop. That's when she began to distance herself. That's when she really began using."

The thought of her sister using cocaine was incomprehensible to Brittney. Whitnei made fun of crackheads. But then, Brittney noticed that her sister was rapidly losing weight.

One evening, Whitnei telephoned her sister and pleaded for someone to help her kick the habit.

"She admitted to me she was using and came to me for help," said Brittney. "I picked her up and brought her home with me. She bathed, and she had staples in her head from getting in a fight with her boyfriend and others – an incident that happened a month before that. But she had never taken out the staples. I found some of them in the tub, which was filthy. She laid on the sofa … I realized then that she was on pills, and she fell asleep."

Brittney called the coroner for help, who told her to call the ambulance and ask them to take her to the hospital; they could admit her to a rehab facility from there.

"I told her the ambulance was on the way and she jumped up ready to fight," Brittney continued. "I tried to talk to her. The ambulance got there and convinced her to at least go to the hospital with them so they could take the staples out. Her family went there to meet her, but they had already taken her to jail."

Instead of being admitted to a rehab facility, Whitnei was taken to jail on charges of forging stolen checks and cashing them. Police had outstanding warrants for her arrest. She was incarcerated for approximately one month, but after her release from jail, she returned to her sister's home and asked for help in straightening up her life.

"She came home," Brittney whispered. "She admitted to all of the using and asked me to bring her to an interview for a job … it was nice hanging out with Whitnei again. I really enjoyed the time with her and I was naïve enough to think it would all work out – but it didn't."

Whitnei met a new boyfriend who was involved in drugs, as well. In her final days, the two had an argument and he threw her out, said Brittney.

"She took off and started bouncing from home to home," she continued. "And then I heard the news that they had found another body …"



Whitnei's murder

"I never expected Whitnei to become one of those girls," Brittney cried when she started discussing her sister's murder. "I had just given her a ride a week before she was found. I was excited for her because she and her new boyfriend were moving to a new home. She had gained some weight, and they were both trying to stay clean. They wanted to make a life for themselves. She wanted her daughter back. She was expecting her ‘happily ever after.'"

But when Brittney learned that another body had been dumped down an isolated road in Jeff Davis Parish, she had a gut feeling. A friend telephoned her to say that the description given on the news matched a description of Whitnei. Brittney immediately began calling friends and family members to find out who had seen her last.

"I was on the phone with Maw-Maw when she said, ‘I have to go. The police are here.' That's when I knew for sure," Brittney said. "I drove to her house and saw the coroner's truck. I walked inside and my grandma was crying. That's when I hit the floor."

After police questioned Brittney, she called her sister, Taylor, who still hadn't heard the news.

"That was horrible," Brittney said of their conversation over the phone. "She didn't believe it until she got to Jennings. Then, she broke down when we got to the police station. She had a panic attack."

While it was difficult to share such horrible news with Taylor, Brittney's toughest audience would ultimately be Whitnei's 5-year-old daughter.

"The next morning was Mother's Day," Brittney broke down in tears. "(She) had made her mommy a card at school and was looking for her mom because she wanted to give it to her. (She) sat on my lap and all I could tell her was that her mother went to Heaven to meet Jesus. She was smiling at first, but when I told her about her mom, her face changed. She understood what death was, and she started crying. All I could tell her was that Jesus needed her momma. I told her that ‘Nanny' would be there for her now, no matter what."

Ten minutes later, the 5-year-old girl wiped away her tears and ran to the vehicle to grab her homemade Mother's Day card.

"She brought it to me and said, ‘Nanny, I want you to have this,'" Brittney continued as she began to sob. "I told her to keep it, and she could bring it to the funeral home. (She) read the card in front of everyone at the funeral and then put it on top of the casket. It was so hard to explain to her why the casket had to be closed. She kept asking me, ‘Why can't I see my momma?'"

Looking for closure

Whitnei Dubois was number four of eight in the string of unsolved homicides in Jeff Davis Parish. Police are still searching for a potential serial killer who keeps dumping the bodies of young women who live a certain "high-risk" lifestyle. Four more have been murdered since Whitnei's body was found on May 12, 2007.

Every time another body is found, the Dubois family is forced to relive the experience. All they are asking for now is closure.

"If someone knows something, please do some soul-searching," Brittney said. "Look into the eyes of these girls and the eyes of their children. See the pain that this has caused. Know that we can't move on until this stops. Every time another girl is found, we all go through this all over again."

Brittney also has a message for the general public, who only knows Whitnei as "victim number four," as well as the victim of a "high-risk" lifestyle: "Some of these girls had issues," she said. "Please take that into account and see them as people – as individuals – and not as drug addicts and prostitutes. Whitnei had a family who loved her. She has a daughter who will live the rest of her life without her mother. We are all hurting without her."

Whitnei Dubois enjoyed listening to music; absolutely adored her daughter; was tough on the outside despite her vulnerabilities from within; had a beautiful smile; and left a lasting impression on all those who knew and loved her. That's the Whitnei that her family remembers.

"I miss my sister," Brittney cried. "I know how hard she had it. I've heard the stories. It breaks my heart that she had to live like that her entire life, and then, she had to die the same way."


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