Earlier this month, Medium published a very lengthy, fascinating, and engrossing piece by Ethan Brown on the Jeff Davis 8, the unsolved murders from 1995 to 2010 of 8 Louisiana women from Jeff Davis Parish, crimes that have long been connected to a serial killer. Before the piece, there was some suggestion that Nic Pizzolatto had perhaps gotten inspiration for True Detective from the Jeff Davis 8, and as a huge twist emerged in the narrative of the real-life case, the connection it has to True Detective has picked up more steam.
That twist? Essentially, that the unsolved murders of eight Louisiana prostitutes wasn’t the work of a serial killer as the police tried to suggest, but in fact the work of local law enforcement officers themselves. There’s even some suggestion that a “task force” assigned to solve the murders may have actually had a connection to murders. At the very least, it seems clear based on the piece that the investigation is steeped in corruption and a cover-up to protect certain members of the police department. (Again, if you have 20 minutes, I can’t encourage you enough to read the entire piece)
Now, of course, Pizzolatto almost certainly didn’t base True Detective on the Jeff Davis 8. For one, the series was originally set in Arkansas, and second of all, the twist in the Jeff Davis 8 case didn’t come until well after Pizzolatto had written the series. However, this very well could turn into one of those situations where fiction inadvertently echoes reality.
Why? Because the twist in the Jeff Davis 8 case seems to be exactly where True Detective is heading: Away from Reggie Ledoux and the serial killer theory, and toward a bigger conspiracy, of which Reverend Tuttle, the Spaghetti Monster, and the police department are involved. We’ve already talked about the 5 Horsemen Theory, tying together a picture of the 5 horsemen (from a Mardi Gras celebration), the beer can men, and the way that Audrey Hart staged those dolls.
But even putting aside the theories based on that imagery and looking at True Detective with a more straightforward reading — as Pizzolotto hinted at in tweeting about this Uproxx piece (nice job Andrew!) — this seems exactly where the series is going. We know that Reverend Tuttle is likely behind the death of Dora Lange and several other missing people all tied to the Wellspring school. We also know that, as soon as Rust Cohle got close to Tuttle, he was suspended. Why? Because the cops — specifically those involved in the early task force — are in on it. Like those Louisiana cops involved in the Jeff Davis 8, the True Detective cops are a corrupt bunch.
Cohle’s impetus for quitting his job was the fight he had with Martin Hart, but I think we all know that that’s exactly where he was headed anyway. He couldn’t continue to pursue this case within the police department, because they were erecting too many impediments. Why? Because the police department was involved. When they finally uncover the men behind the series of deaths, dollars to donuts says that not only is Tuttle involved, but so are at least a few members of the police department. Five members, in total. These five men, to be exact.
Pizzolatto may not have taken his inspiration from the unsolved murders of prostitutes in Louisiana, but I think the twist in True Detective is going to have an eerie parallel to the twist in Jeff Davis 8 case. That’s not ripped from the headlines; that reality being as strange as fiction.