The death of a 75-year-old African American activist in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has been ruled a homicide, authorities said on Monday.
Sadie Roberts-Joseph, who founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African American Museum, was discovered dead in the trunk of a car after police received an anonymous tip on Friday.
Baton Rouge police Sgt. L’Jean McKneely told HuffPost on Monday that the death of Roberts-Joseph has officially been ruled a homicide and added that detectives were following up on leads. He was unsure when further information would be available.
In a preliminary report, the East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner’s Office ruled Roberts-Joseph’s cause of death as “traumatic asphyxia, including suffocation.”
“It is with great sadness and respect we investigate any unexpected or traumatic death. When our investigation involves an innocent victim, such as Ms. Sadie Joseph, it is particularly tragic,” Dr. William “Beau” Clark, the coroner, said in a statement. “Our condolences are extended to Ms. Joseph’s family and friends.”
A prominent community leader and civil rights activist, Roberts-Joseph was mourned throughout the city.
“We lost a Cultural Legend,” the NAACP Baton Rouge Branch said in a Facebook post on Saturday. “From reviving Juneteenth, to the Culture preserved at Her Museum, she was a trendsetter and icon in this City.”
Roberts-Joseph was known for her annual Juneteenth celebrations, which commemorated June 19, 1865, the day that enslaved people in Texas were informed of the Emancipation Proclamation that had officially granted them freedom two years earlier.
“I’m begging this City to stand up and say something about this murder,” Louisiana state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle (D) said in a Facebook post on Monday. “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.”