African-American Museum Founder Dead in Car Trunk, Say Police

July 14, 2019 Updated: July 14, 2019

An African-American museum founder was found dead in a car trunk in Louisiana in what homicide investigators have described as a “heinous act.”

Sadie Roberts-Joseph, of Baton Rouge, was found dead on July 12, but her cause of death was not revealed, reported The Associated Press. Investigators are awaiting the results of a local coroner.

“Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice,” the Baton Rouge Police Department said in a statement on Facebook.

“Ms. Sadie was a tireless advocate of peace,” the Baton Rouge Police Department posted on its Facebook page before it added: “Our detectives are working diligently to bring the person or persons responsible for this heinous act to justice.”

Louisiana state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle asked for locals to contact the police if they know anything.

“My heart is empty … as I learned last night that Ms. Sadie Roberts Joseph was found murdered!” Marcelle wrote on Facebook. “She never bothered anyone, just wanted to expand her African American Museum downtown, where she continually hosted the Juneteenth Celebration yearly. 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 founded the Odell S. Williams Now and Then African-American History Museum, which is now called the Baton Rouge African American History Museum, in 2001, The Advocate of Baton Rouge reported.

Beatrice Johnson, one of Roberts-Joseph’s 11 brothers and sisters, told AP that she lived two doors down from her sister’s home in Baton Rouge.

Johnson explained Roberts-Joseph would come by every day. Johnson said her sister came over Friday because “she had mixed some cornbread, but her oven went out, and she brought it here to put in the oven,” AP reported.

Pointing at her kitchen, Johnson said: “The bread is still there. She never came back to get it.”

In 2017, Baton Rouge’s murder rate exceeded that of many large U.S. cities, including Chicago, according to The Advocate.

“Following the lowest year for homicides in a decade, East Baton Rouge Parish rebounded in 2017 with a historic high of 106 killings, easily toppling the former record of 96 homicides in 2007,” said the report.

And in 2018, there were 87 homicides recorded in East Baton Rouge Parish, the paper reported earlier this year.

Facts About Crime in the US

Violent crime in the United States has fallen sharply over the past 25 years, according to both the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

The rate of violent crimes fell by 49 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the FBI’s UCR, which only reflects crimes reported to the police.

The violent crime rate dropped by 74 percent between 1993 and 2017, according to the BJS’s NCVS, which takes into account both crimes that have been reported to the police and those that have not.
A police car in a file photo. (Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images)
A police car in a file photo. (Mira Oberman/AFP/Getty Images)

“From 1993 to 2017, the rate of violent victimization declined 74 percent, from 79.8 to 20.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older,” the U.S. Department of Justice stated.

Both studies are based on data up to and including 2017, the most recent year for which complete figures are available.

The FBI recently released preliminary data for 2018. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January to June 2018, violent crime rates in the United States dropped by 4.3 percent compared to the same six-month period in 2017.