A registered sex offender has been charged with murdering Sadie Roberts-Joseph, the founder of the African American history museum in Baton Rouge, La., authorities announced Tuesday.
Ronn Jermaine Bell, 38, who was a tenant in a rental property owned by Roberts-Joseph, owed about $1,200 in back rent, but police still have not said if that was the motive.
The body of Roberts-Joseph, 75, was found Friday in the trunk of a car less than five miles from her home. The coroner’s office said she had been suffocated.
Bell, who was already in custody on a warrant for failing to register as sex offender, was arrested Tuesday. He was convicted of the 2004 rape of an 8-year-old girl and served seven years in prison, but had failed to register as required upon his release, authorities said.
Roberts-Joseph, an icon in the Baton Rouge community, in 2001 founded the Odell S. Williams Now & Then Museum of African-American History, now known as the Baton Rouge African-American History Museum.
She was revered for her charity and activism and for helping to start the annual Juneteenth celebrations in Louisiana’s capital city commemorating the ending of slavery.
“Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community,” the police department said in a statement. “Ms. Sadie is a treasure to our community, she will be missed by BRPD and her loss will be felt in the community she served.”
The NAACP’s Baton Rouge branch remembered Roberts-Joseph in a Facebook post.
“We lost a Cultural Legend Yesterday! #RIP Sadie Roberts Joseph,” the group wrote. “From reviving Juneteenth, to the Culture preserved at Her Museum, she was a trendsetter and icon in this City.”