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Killing of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, Baton Rouge African American History Museum Founder, Ruled Homicide

Jul 15, 2019

Photo from Sharon Weston Broome's Facebook post commemorating Roberts-Joseph. Weston Broome is on the left. Sadie Roberts-Joseph on the right.

The East Baton Rouge Parish coroner released a preliminary autopsy report Monday determining that the death of Sadie Roberts-Joseph, a prominent figure in the Baton Rouge African-American community, was a homicide.

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark said in the report that Roberts-Joseph was killed by “traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation.”

Roberts-Joseph was found dead Friday afternoon in the trunk of a car in the 2300 block of North 20th Street in North Baton Rouge, approximately three miles from her Scotlandville home.

Sgt. L’Jean McKneely, a spokesperson for the Baton Rouge Police Department, said officers were directed to “a body inside of a vehicle” by an anonymous caller on their tip line.

Police identified Roberts-Joseph as the victim Saturday morning. Authorities have not identified any suspects.

Even as Hurricane Barry made its way through Louisiana, news of her killing earned national media attention and prompted reactions of shock from City-Parish officials at the unexpected loss.

Roberts-Joseph, 75, founded Baton Rouge’s African American history museum. In 1991, she rekindled the annual celebration of Juneteenth in the city, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome remembered Roberts-Joseph as a “dear friend and mother of the community.”

“She loved this city and its people,” Weston Broome wrote Sunday. “Her commitment to the cultural and educational fabric of our community is beyond description.”

Coroner Beau Clark joined the chorus of public officials mourning “Ms. Sadie.”

“It is with great sadness and respect we investigate any unexpected or traumatic death,” Clark wrote in his report. “When our investigation involves an innocent victim, such as Ms. Sadie Joseph, it is particularly tragic.”

In a statement Saturday, the Baton Rouge Police Department praised Roberts-Joseph as a “tireless advocate of peace,” and frequent collaborator with local law enforcement through Community Against Drugs and Violence, an organization she founded.

Police are asking anyone with information on the case to call the Police Department at (225) 389-4869 or Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers at (225)344-7867.