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Louisiana Police ID Suspect in the Murder of Civil Rights Activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph


Baton Rouge police announced an arrest Tuesday in the murder of 75-year-old civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph, four days after she was found dead in the trunk of a car.

Police Chief Murphy Paul identified Ronn Jermaine Bell as a suspect in the homicide; a motive is not known at this time.

Bell has been charged with first-degree murder.

Roberts-Joseph is known as a beloved activist who founded the Odell S. Williams Now & Then Museum of African American History. An autopsy revealed on Monday that the cause of her death was traumatic asphyxia, WAFB reported.

“There’s no information to lead us to believe this is a hate crime,” Chief Paul said on Tuesday.

Paul said that authorities believe the suspect was one of the victim’s tenants.

The latest reports say he was behind on rent by $1,200, but police have still not confirmed the motive for the crime.

According to the Advocate, Bell is a registered sex offender.

East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux praised the “swift” investigative work of both the Baton Rouge Police Department and the Louisiana State Police.

“I’m heartbroken that our community has lost such a kind and selfless soul in such a violent, tragic manner. I have known and loved Mrs. Sadie Roberts-Joseph for years and admire and respect her dedication to education and our community,” Gautreaux said. “I’m grateful for the swift action of the Baton Rouge Police Department and Louisiana State Police in finding her alleged killer and putting him behind bars. I will continue to pray that justice is served as her friends and family move forward in healing. She leaves behind a strong legacy of character and faith. Hate tried to silence Mrs. Sadie, but her voice will continue to ring strong for peace and love through the countless people she touched.”

[Image via ABC News screengrab]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.