Ronn Bell and Sadie Roberts-Joseph

Ronn Bell, left, and Sadie Roberts-Joseph, right

A Baton Rouge man accused in the July 2019 slaying of local civil rights activist Sadie Roberts-Joseph has been given a March 14 trial date.

Ronn Jermaine Bell, 40, is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Roberts-Joseph, 75. He's also charged in the case with failing to register as a sex offender. 

Roberts-Joseph was found July 12, 2019, in the trunk of her car behind an abandoned house in the 2300 block of North 20th Street. Police said she had been suffocated. Bell's DNA was found on her body, an arrest report states.

Bell was a tenant in one of Roberts-Joseph's properties and had fallen about $1,200 behind on his rent, police have said. Bell acknowledged that during an interview with detectives, but said Roberts-Joseph agreed he could remain in the house as long as he paid her something, police said.

Video evidence shows Bell near where Roberts-Joseph's car was found — about three miles from her Scotlandville home, police stated. That home is down the street from the house Bell was renting.

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Bell later admitted to detectives that he had been in the location where the car was dumped, but said he was not inside the vehicle and had not seen Roberts-Joseph for several days before her death, police said.

A search warrant indicated bleach was poured over her body in an apparent attempt to destroy evidence. Detectives later found two empty bleach bottles inside Bell's home.

Roberts-Joseph was best known for founding the Odell S. Williams African-American Museum in downtown Baton Rouge in 2001 and organizing an annual Juneteenth festival celebrating the end of slavery in this country.

Bell faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if found guilty of second-degree murder. State District Judge Kelly Balfour, who is presiding over the case, set the trial date on Thursday, court records show.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at