Founder Of Louisiana African American Museum Found Dead In Trunk Of Car

Baton Rouge officials ruled activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph's death a homicide on Monday.

By Jair Hilburn

The founder of Baton Rouge’s African American museum, who was beloved by her community, was found dead in the trunk of a car. 

Police officers found the body of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, on Friday and spent the weekend questioning people and looking for witnesses, but still have no leads as to who killed Roberts-Joseph according to local ABC affiliate WBRZ 2.

Roberts-Joseph’s body was found three and a half miles away from her home, according to local CBS affiliate WAFB 9.

An autopsy determined that Sadie Roberts-Joseph died from traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation. Her death was ruled a homicide, according to local CBS affiliate KNOE 8.

“It is with great sadness and respect we investigate any unexpected or traumatic death,” EBR Coroner Beau Clark said to KNOE. “When our investigation involves an innocent victim, such as Ms. Sadie Joseph, it is particularly tragic.”

Roberts-Joseph was known in the community for being the founder of The Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American History Museum and the civic organization Community Against Drugs and Violence. 

Sadie Roberts-Joseph

“I’m begging this city to stand up and say something about this murder ... We can’t live like this. We can’t take out the people who are fighting for human rights, who have marched for equality and certainly who have educated us on our history,” State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle wrote on Facebook.

Marcelle said she has spoken with Roberts-Joseph’s family members about ways to keep the museum open, and will talk with city officials about having a street named in Roberts-Joseph's honor.

“Let’s remember: It’s not enough that we talk about her infectious smile, nice demeanor or knowledge she possessed about our history; but let’s make sure that her museum is kept open and expanded for our future generations,” Marcelle said.

Roberts-Joseph hosted the town’s annual Juneteenth Celebration for 26 years, and held it at the museum when it opened in 2001.

Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome posted a photo of her and Roberts-Joseph on Instagram and expressed her condolences.

I’ve deliberately waited to comment because of the level of love and respect I had for Sadie, and because it was such shocking news,” Broome wrote. “She loved this city and its people. Her commitment to the cultural and educational fabric of our community is beyond description.”

“Ms. Sadie is a treasure to our community. She will be missed by [the Baton Rouge Police Department] and her loss will be felt in the community she served,” the Baton Rouge Police Department said in a Facebook post. “Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice.”

Anyone with information related to the case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at (252) 344-7867. Cash rewards up to $5,000 will be given to those whose information leads to the arrest and indictment of a person(s) that committed the crime.

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