According to Baton Rouge police, a popular civil rights activist found dead in the trunk of her car last weekend was killed by a tenant at one of her properties, possibly in a dispute involving $1,200 worth of overdue rent. 

Police identified Sadie Roberts-Joseph's killer as Ronn Jermaine Bell, 38, who police said was already in custody before a Tuesday news conference to announce they had solved the case. What we know about Bell:

  • According the The Advocate's archives, Bell had pleaded guilty in 2007 to the sexual battery of a 9-year-old girl just before he was to stand trial for aggravated rape. He had faced a mandatory life prison term if he had been convicted, but his plea bargain mandated only a seven-year term, according to his attorney at the time.  Prosecutors said the crime had occurred about 2½ years before Bell's trial.  The girl had told police she didn't tell anyone immediately because she didn't think anyone would believe her. She said she changed her mind after "hearing other children talk about how it was wrong for people to do those types of things."
  • The most recent address for Bell in a database of sex offenders shows his home was about six-tenths of a mile from Roberts-Joseph's. Her body was found about 3 miles away along North 20th Street.
  • Online records show that he has a tattoo of "Narissa" on his left arm and "Ronn" on his right shoulder.

Roberts-Joseph founded the Baton Rouge African American history museum. According to autopsy results released Monday, she died from "traumatic asphyxia" which could be the result of strangulation.

Police said at their news conference Tuesday they do not believe her death was a hate crime. The said Bell rented property from Roberts-Joseph and was several months behind in his payments.

Police discovered Roberts-Joseph's body in the trunk of her car Friday afternoon.


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She died from "traumatic asphyxia" which could be the result of strangulation, according to East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark, but the coroner's report didn't specify exactly how she was killed.

Roberts-Joseph was known for organizing an annual Juneteenth festival commemorating June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers delivered belated news of President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to Texas.