Arrest made in death investigation of African American museum founder Sadie Roberts-Joseph

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An arrest has been made in the killing of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, a Baton Rouge icon who founded an African American history museum, according to officials during a press conference on Tuesday.

Ron Jermaine Bell (WAFB)

Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul said detectives have arrested Ron Jermaine Bell in connection with the homicide. He now faces a first-degree murder charge.

While the city was bracing for Hurricane Barry, Roberts-Joseph was discovered in the trunk of a car at roughly 3:45 p.m. on July 12. The car was located about three and a half miles away from her home.

Police found the car after the dispatch received 911 calls from citizens about a body in a car that was left at a vacant home in the 2300 block of Adams Avenue.

Investigators learned that Bell was a tenant in one of Roberts-Johnson’s rental homes. They believe that he was behind several months on his rent and that he owed about $1,200.

Detectives do not believe the death was a hate crime, and are still investigating a motive.

Autopsy results released Monday revealed Roberts-Joseph had died from traumatic asphyxia, which includes suffocation. Her death was ruled a homicide.

Investigators arrested Bell on Tuesday, who was in jail on sex offender requirement. Bell is a registered sex offender and was convicted in a 2004 case involving the rape of an 8-year-old girl. Bell had pled guilty in 2007 to sexual battery under the best interest of the victim and her family. He had served the entire sentence so he was not under probation but still has to follow certain guidelines as a sex offender.

A vigil is scheduled for Tuesday, July 16 at 6 p.m. at her museum, the Odell S. Williams Now & Then Museum of African American History, located at 538 South Boulevard.

Family members of Roberts-Joseph are preparing for funeral arrangement, which is likely scheduled for this weekend.

Joseph was the founder of the non-profit, Odell S. Williams Now & Then Museum of African American History.

A looming question following her death is who will now keep up the museum the community activist worked hard to preserve. District 61 State Representative C. Denise Marcelle said in a Facebook post a memorial fund has been created to help maintain the museum. Donations can be made at any Hancock Whitney Bank under the Sadie Roberts-Joseph Memorial Fund.

Roberts-Joseph has been known as a community activist and organized the city’s Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States.

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