Grim details on suspect in killing of civil rights activist

FAN Editor

Police in Louisiana are releasing new details about the man accused of killing a popular Baton Rouge civil rights activist. Ronn Bell, 38, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of murdering Sadie Roberts-Joseph. According to police, Bell was her tenant and owed her about $1,200 in rent.  

Both circumstantial and physical evidence led to his arrest after her body was found in the trunk of her car outside a vacant home last week. According to the arrest report, Bell admitted to being in the area where her car was abandoned and, most importantly, his DNA was found on her body.

Hundreds gathered in the Louisiana heat Tuesday at the African American history museum Sadie Roberts-Joseph founded nearly two decades ago.

Baton Rouge police credited both the community and detectives in helping find Roberts-Joseph’s accused killer. Police say Bell suffocated the 75-year-old on Friday and then placed her body in the trunk of her own car. 

According to the East Baton Rouge district attorney, Bell was previously arrested after being accused of raping an 8-year-old girl in 2004. He pleaded guilty to sexual battery and served seven years in prison. He was not on probation or parole but was under indefinite supervision as a sex offender.

“Well, we still have a lot of work to do,” said Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul. “We’re going to continue trying to follow up on more investigative leads trying to put the pieces of the puzzle.”

Roberts-Joseph’s daughter, Angela Machen, is encouraging everyone to move past their outrage. 

“For those who were and are angry, live a better life. Give of yourself to your community to make the whole better,” she said.

Friends and family say Roberts-Joseph’s memory will live on through the many people she touched.

Police are still working to confirm a clear motive, but they don’t believe Roberts-Joseph’s death was a hate crime. 

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