Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, was found dead in the trunk of her car near her home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Friday. An autopsy confirmed that she was suffocated
A beloved community activist and founder of an African American history museum in Louisiana died from suffocation, an autopsy has revealed.
Sadie Roberts-Joseph, 75, was found dead in the trunk of her car on Friday just miles from her Baton Rouge home in what police have called a ‘heinous act’.
A coroner determined that she died from ‘traumatic asphyxia’, authorities announced Monday.
‘We’re devastated, we’re devastated that someone has actually killed her and put her in the trunk of her own car,’ the victim’s niece, Pat McCallister-Leduff, told Good Morning America.
Detectives are working to uncover details of the shocking murder by focusing on what happened in the hours leading up to it.
‘We don’t know [why] and that’s what we’re trying to figure out,’ Baton Rough Police Chief Paul Murphy said when asked about the motive.
‘There’s a time when she was last seen and a time when the body was discovered and we’re focusing on what happened between that time.’
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Roberts-Joseph’s niece Pat McCallister-Leduff told GMA on Monday: ‘We’re devastated, we’re devastated that someone has actually killed her and put her in the trunk of her own car’
The car where the victim’s corpse was found only a few miles from her home is pictured atop a tow truck. Detectives are investigating what happened in the hours leading up to her death
When asked about the motive, Baton Rough Police Chief Paul Murphy (right) told GMA’s Alex Perez: ’We don’t know and that’s what we’re trying to figure out’
One of the last people to see Roberts-Joseph was Beatrice Johnson, one of her 11 siblings who lives two doors down from her on a quiet street in Baton Rouge, according to The Advocate.
Johnson said her sister came over Friday, as she did most days, because ‘she had mixed some cornbread, but her oven went out, and she brought it here to put in the oven’.
Gesturing toward her kitchen, Johnson: ‘The bread is still there. She never came back to get it.’
In a Facebook post over the weekend, the Baton Rouge Police Department said: ’Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice.’
‘Ms Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace in the community. We had opportunities to work with her on so many levels. From assisting with her bicycle give away at the African American Museum to working with the organization she started called CADAV [Community Against Drugs and Violence].
‘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.’
Sadie Roberts-Joseph (right in 2004) founded the Baton Rouge African American Museum in 2001 and was described as a ‘tireless advocate of peace in the community’ by police
Speaking to GMA’s Perez (right) Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome (left) said: ‘I have no idea why someone would commit such a heinous act for someone who had nothing but love for this community and love for people’
Flowers are seen outside the African-American History Museum on Sunday next to a note that reads: ‘Going to miss u Ma-Me.’ The museum is on the campus of New St Luke Baptist Church
Roberts-Joseph co-founded the museum in 2001 and served as its curator up until her death
Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome expressed her sadness to GMA, saying: ‘I have no idea why someone would commit such a heinous act for someone who had nothing but love for this community and love for people.’
State Rep C Denise Marcelle wrote on Facebook: ‘My heart is empty … as I learned last night that Ms Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered! This woman was amazing and loved her history. She never bothered anyone.
‘I loved working with her and am saddened by her death…. whoever knows what happened to her, please contact the authorities and say something.’
Roberts-Joseph – known around the Louisiana capital as ‘Ms Sadie’ - was the curator of the Baton Rouge African American Museum, which she founded in 2001.
The museum sits on the campus of New St Luke Baptist Church, where Roberts-Joseph’s brother is pastor.
Each year Roberts-Joseph organized an annual Juneteenth festival at the museum to commemorate the abolition of slavery in the US.
The festival is held on June 19, marking the day in 1865 that Union soldiers delivered belated news to Texas that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all Southern slaves free. The document had been finalized more than two years earlier.
The museum features African art, exhibits on growing cotton and black inventors as well as a 1953 bus from the period of civil rights boycotts in Baton Rouge.
It also has prominent exhibits on President Barack Obama, whose presidency Roberts-Joseph cited as an inspiration to children.
‘We have to be educated about our history and other people’s history,’ Roberts-Joseph told the newspaper in 2016.
‘Across racial lines, the community can help to build a better Baton Rouge, a better state and a better nation.’
The Baton Rouge Police Department is asking that anyone with information about Roberts-Joseph’s case call detectives at 225-389-4869 or Crime Stoppers at 225-344-STOP (7867).
Roberts-Joseph (center) had a close relationship with local police, which called her ‘a treasure to our community’ and said she will be missed by the department
Roberts-Joseph founded the Odell S Williams Now & Then African American Museum in 2001
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